Minister’s Reflections – January 2021

Greetings, all!

December went by in a flash! Here we are now, at the end of January! Many things remain the same: the COVID-19 pandemic, economic struggles, climate change, and racial injustice. And yet, some things have changed: we have a new national president, which, in my opinion, is crucial to our survival, and we also have a new staff member.

I’m thrilled that Shana Barth has stepped forward to take on the role of part-time Online RE Coordinator during our search for a new director of religious education. With the departure of Heather Cleland-Host as our DRE, this reminds me to say a few words about staff members’ boundaries and responsibilities. 

“Best practice” among UU congregations is to not hire congregants as staff because it confuses people’s boundaries. (The truth is, it can be difficult to find folks willing to relocate for part-time work, so we sometimes do it anyway.) It is crucial that congregant staff members (and all congregants) be mindful that their relationship must change. 

For example, if a staff member is invited to a social event, rather than say “yes” or “no” because it’s their personal preference, they need to consider whether it’s appropriate for a staff member to do so. Might it imply favoritism toward certain congregants? Might it, in the long run, interfere with performing their professional duties? As long as members are employed, the values, mission, and vision of the congregation need to take precedence over personal relationships. In all things UUFoM, staff members first represent the organization and report to the minister as head of staff. 

I have discussed this with our staff members, and they do understand and are navigating these areas carefully. Please allow staff members time to discern what’s needed in any given circumstance. If you would like to read more about this, former UUFoM minister (now Regional Lead and Congregational Life Consultant with the MidAmerica Region) Rev. David Pyle wrote this article.

January’s worship theme has been “imagination” and February’s is “beloved community.” I look forward to exploring these themes with you.

Blessings, Rev. Eric

P.S.: Please remember, during post-worship service breakout rooms, that our covenant applies even there. Please remember to give everyone a chance to speak.