I have some wonderful news to share with you this week. The Governing Board, The Faith Development Committee Chairs, Reverend Tim, and a new committee being piloted this year called the Director of Faith Development (DFD) Relations Committee worked closely together over the past few months to research and craft an offer to Anne Principe as our permanent DFD. I am very pleased to inform you that Anne has accepted our offer.
There are few people I have met in my life with as much integrity, insight and professionalism as Anne. As the Governing Board President of a church that is completing the transition from a Pastoral to a Program church, I can scarcely imagine a better person to serve as our next DFD, primarily because Anne is a systemic thinker. She understands that, like pulling on one section of a hanging mobile, making a change to one area of a church in transition translates to motion throughout the whole system before equilibrium can again be reached. As we continue our conversations about how we will inhabit our identity as a Program Church, and particularly as we explore in more depth our evolving Faith Development Program, I am thrilled to know that Anne will be here helping to guide and lead us along the path.
Our process to arrive at this decision was that of a Program Church. The Governing Board is entrusted with the power to hire (and fire) staff members and Reverend Tim, as our chief of staff, is responsible for leading our staff team. Under typical hiring circumstances, the board empowers a search committee to conduct interviews with qualified candidates and recommend a candidate for the board to hire. In this case, we strongly felt that we already had a qualified candidate in house and that a search wasn’t necessary. At the outset of our process, Reverend Tim was emphatically in support of hiring Anne, as was I and the entire board, inclining us toward an immediate decision. However we recognized the opportunity to gather first-hand, in-house feedback from a wider subset of people who had worked closely with Anne to more fully inform our decision. We also acknowledged our temptation to solicit feedback from every congregant, ensuring that all voices have been heard and all viewpoints considered. However, our size and structure no longer allow for this luxury. We are simply too big. As a Program church, it is vital that we empower each other to make decisions and trust one another to act in the best interest of our church.
The board empowered a subset group, comprised of Reverend Tim, Matt Wilson and myself, to gather wider feedback and, assuming that it was favorable, to negotiate an offer with Anne. We first reached out to the Faith Development Committee Chairs, Tricia Schwartz and Sherri Cook, who gave us their ringing endorsement. We also asked them to provide for us a list of FD parents and lay leaders whose feedback would comprise a representative sampling of the full spectrum of feedback. We reached out to these individuals and received overwhelmingly favorable feedback. Additionally, we worked closely with the DFD Relations Committee, a pilot committee formed by the Governing Board this year to test out an emerging best practice used by an increasing number of UU Congregations to have a committee of congregants available to meet regularly with the DFD to serve as their listening and sounding board, and to offer input, suggestions and feedback during the year.
This committee's pilot year has allowed us to determine the parameters around which a permanent committee would function. The committee will present their findings to the board at our June meeting for our consideration of making this a permanent committee. The pilot DFD Relations committee, comprised of George Marinakas, Junelle Barras and Blair Howell, was unanimously in favor of our offer and worked closely with us during the negotiation process.
As you know, Anne is currently serving as our Interim DFD. Her position will transition to our permanent DFD on July 1st of this year. The reason for this is that the interim work in which Anne was originally tasked is extremely important to finish. What that means in practical terms is that while Anne will be collecting our ideas for the evolution of our Faith Development Program, she won't begin to enact them until the beginning of our next church year. In the next couple of weeks I’ll share in more detail the specific interim work that Anne will be completing before the end of the year which encompasses both our Faith Development program for our children and youth and our Long Range Plan (‘Living our Future’) goal #4: Mixing Our Ages – “by strengthening our intergenerational activities to build our sense of connectedness across the ages”.
Before Anne takes up residence as our permanent DFD, there are two areas that need board attention. One is the development of Anne's job description. The latest version that we have available, and upon which the interim job description was based, is woefully outdated for a Program church. That presents us with a wonderful opportunity to craft a new job description that reflects the church that we are today and the role that we wish for our DFD to serve. The other area is the Roles, Relationships, Responsibilities (RRR) document that the Faith Development Committee, Reverend Tim and the Board developed last year which defines the boundaries and interface between the DFD and other key positions including the Minister, the Board and the Faith Development Committee. We need to add the DFD Relations Committee into this document and ensure that the document reflects the changing role of the DFD in a Program Church and our changing idea of our Faith Development Ministry.
And what are our ideas for our changing Faith Development Ministry? What does a Faith Development Program typically look like in a Program Church? What do we want our Faith Development Program, led by Anne, to look like? How can our Faith Development Ministry best support our children’s faith discovery and our collective “sense of connectedness across the ages”? These are exciting and engaging questions for us all to ponder. In the coming months, while the interim work is being completed, we will begin to sketch out opportunities for congegational engagement with these questions informed by the interim year’s learning. When Reverend Tim returns from sabbatical in May, we will have the opportunity to incorporate his input into Anne’s job description, the RRR document and the congregational visioning plans.
I invite you to extend your personal welcome to Anne as she becomes a part of our church family. I would also love to hear your ideas, questions and suggestions about our process moving forward. Meg Soens, our Acting Minister, is also here for you to receive your feedback about our changing church identity and our evolving program.
In moving forward with our mission,