At the June 2021 Church Council Meeting, council voted to appoint a Search Committee to recommend a Bridge Minister of Care and Outreach to serve our congregation after Rev. Dr. Catherine Foote’s retirement, beginning in late 2021 for at least six months. The Bridge Search Committee members will be Ed Coleman (chair), Terry Moore, Margaret Stine, Carol Bryant, and Christina Purdy. The council affirmed the intention to follow this call by seeking to recommend to the congregation a candidate for a full-time, settled Minister of Care and Outreach. That search process would begin in 2022. The gift of a short-term bridge pastor is to support the natural grief as a beloved and long-tenured leader steps away, and to make room for the emergence and change that must come with any leadership transition in a church community.
The recommendation from the Future’s Task Force was to continue with the three-pastor leadership team, and to evaluate the viability of three full-time ministers with Pastor Catherine’s retirement. While the FTF didn’t predict a global pandemic and the ways our ministry and church would shift over the past 18 months, their report did provide a wonderful articulation of the vision, hopes, and dreams of this congregation. Their work informed the search process that brought us Pastor Steve, and has undergirded many decisions our church has made over the past few years including the recent restructure of staffing within Christian Formation, to increase support for our youth, children, and families and the hiring of Rev. Yolanda Norton as our Visiting Theologian.
Prior to the pandemic, there was concern about long term declining trends in pledging households and worship attendance. To say the pandemic has obscured those trends is an understatement: in fact, the pandemic has completely changed the ways we evaluate participation in worship and church life. As we step into the process of emergence (a time of transition that will last until our new settled pastor joins us), we are faithfully walking together into the unknown, listening for God’s call for UCUCC at this place and in this time.
The truth is: we’ve never known what the future will bring. We’ve learned in the past year that we can adapt to things we never thought were possible. We have a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of our staff, members, and building partners, and what we’re able to accomplish with creativity and fortitude. Our church has a solid financial foundation, deep resources of talent and treasure, and a legacy of extraordinary generosity among our members. We also know that at the present time, our church is well served by three full time clergy and the current leadership team model with new portfolios of Minister of Care and Outreach, Minster of Worship and Christian Formation, and Minister of Vision and Stewardship. The invitation is to step bolding into something new. We trust that we are walking together on God’s transformative adventure, following the path of love and justice as revealed to us by Jesus. Whatever we do next, we’ll do together as a congregation.