Community Development and Leadership
My leadership style is collaborative. I meet with staff weekly to enhance communication, strengthen our team, and ensure all programs are fully supported. I plan worship months in advance and meet with the music and religious education staff regularly to ensure we have the highest quality worship experience possible. I work closely with the board and chair people so they feel supported with administration, as well as emotionally and spiritually grounded in their ministries.
Yet, there are times when I need to use my authority and power to influence change. I step into a stronger leadership role in partnership with the board. I believe our congregational polity holds both the called minister and the elected board accountable to the members. The board and I, therefore, work in close partnership holding the mission and vision of the institution as our highest goals.
With my leadership style I have had two successful ministries over 22 years. In both my settlements, I followed negotiated resignations due to ministerial misconduct. In both ministries, I focused on rebuilding clergy trust through pastoral care and supporting lay leaders. I believe it was helpful that I was the first woman senior minister in both churches, and I brought a totally different energy than my predecessors.
In my first ministry we became a Welcoming Congregation, developed mission and vision statements, and strengthened our public presence in a small, rural city of Western Pennsylvania. Together we grew the church 35% by developing strong religious education programs and consistent high-quality worship. My regret with this church was not being able to strengthen the social justice program.
In my second ministry, we also developed mission and vision statements, as well as a strategic plan. We renovated the main building, 1.3 million-dollar project, doubled the endowment, and eliminated all debt, by proactively creating a healthy stewardship program. With staff support, we have a wonderful visionary religious education program, and dedicated choir and music program. With outstanding lay leaders, we have a strong social justice program, pastoral care team and membership crew. My regret with this church is not being able to grow in numbers. The membership has held at around 340 for 40 years, yet there is a strong desire to grow because we all believe Unitarian Universalism has an important message of Universal Love.
It is important to note, that I am not looking to leave my current ministry, it is a healthy ministry. However, my husband and I want to be closer to family, and we need to move in order to achieve our heart’s desire.
In this current world pandemic, political turmoil, economic peril, heightened racial awareness, and climate crisis, ministry has gotten particularly stressful as I tend to the pain and anxiety of my community. For many people, there is an inclination to do more, to over function in a futile attempt to fix the problems. Rushing to provide more programs, workshops or activities will not ease our pain or fear.
The reality is these massive social, political and economic problems cannot be fixed with technical changes. We are experiencing a high level of fear and loss of comfort, which includes for white people, the recognition that many people of color in our country, do not have, nor for many, never have had comfort.
Instead of over functioning, the best option is to slow down, to pause and give serious consideration to our capacity for energy and attention. Our bodies can only handle so much anxiety. And it is crucial that we not adapt to this heightened fear. It is not healthy or normal to carry excessive hormone and brain reaction to fear. To help bring down this stress reaction, there are two things we all should do; pay attention to our breath, and talk to at least one other person every day about our heart’s joys and sorrows.
We are in this crisis for the long haul. I tell my members: “Whatever happens over the next year, we will be together in community, even if it is virtual. It is more important than ever to hold each other’s hearts in our own. Whatever your beliefs, imagine our chapel filled to capacity, we are all singing Spirit of Life, come unto me …. Now let your heart fill with the spirit of life and love. Breath … “