I’ll be sending you occasional updates on our interim work here at First Unitarian, beginning with this very broad overview of the search process for your next Senior Minister.
When this transitional time draws to a close, one important goal you have as a congregation is to “call” your next senior minister. Among us Unitarian Universalists, only congregations can extend a call to a senior minister, and for First Unitarian that call can only be made by a vote by you, the congregation itself.
A lot of work and care comes before the congregation votes, though. First a congregation elects a “search committee.” The search process for a minister centers around that search committee. Search committees take about 10 months to do their work, which begins when they are elected by a congregation or by its board. Then as the search process begins, our national association of congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), becomes a very important partner in the search, beginning with a training by the UUA for the search committee.
Most search committees are trained in June or July – usually about 10 months in advance of a congregation calling a minister. In August, these search committees then begin a survey of the congregation to understand how to best present it to interested ministers. This survey work, finished by the end of September, is the basis for a congregational portfolio the search committee creates for interested ministers. The portfolio is finished by November. In January and February search committees begin interviewing interested ministers, and around the end of March they make an offer to a minister they believe is an excellent match for their congregation (sometimes a search committee makes an offer to co-ministers who will share the position of Senior Minister, like First Unitarian’s previous co-ministers, Rev. Scott Tayler and Rev. Kaaren Anderson).
If the minister accepts a search committee’s offer, that minister becomes the congregation’s “Ministerial Candidate.” The ministerial candidate then meets with the people of the congregation during the eight days we call “candidating week.” This last, large step in the search process leads up to a special meeting of the congregation, often in May, at which its members vote on whether or not to call that candidate as their next minister.
There are hundreds of significant details within each of these steps. And it’s a significant commitment of time for a member of a congregation to serve on a search committee (about 10 hours a week, mostly evenings and weekends, for about 10 months). It’s an invaluable service to a congregation. And serving on a search committee is a powerful personal experience.
Before this search process can begin, though, the search committee must be elected. Next week I will send an update on how First Unitarian’s Nominating Committee will be creating a slate of nominees for your Senior Minister Search Committee and how they will be elected.