Welcome, Beth!

At the board meeting in August we did something a little different. In fact, we did something we haven’t done for twelve years—we welcomed a new minister to the church (yes, it’s been 12 years since Mike joined us!). Beth Chronister started her new position as our part-time “ministerial resident” (I’ll get to why we’re calling her that in a minute) on August 12 . The board hosted a start-up event for her at our meeting on the 14th. Rev. Nancy Bowen from the Mountain Desert District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) facilitated, and we were joined by staff and members of Connections Ministry, Personnel Committee, Committee on Ministry, and Leadership Development.

The purpose of this start-up event was in part to orient Beth to the church and the way we do things. But more importantly, I think, the evening created the space and time for Beth, staff members, and church lay leadership to discuss our expectations around this new position. Nancy asked us good, hard questions: What authority does Beth have in the church? How do we expect her to spend her time with us? The discussion ranged from her duties in pastoral care to whether she can buy office supplies (which may seem trivial, but I know how important it’s been to me in jobs to know how to run the copier!). We had a broad representation of church leadership and the discussion was lively and thoughtful.

We spent a good deal of time discussing our expectations around how Beth would allocate her time. Negotiating how to spend the scant 20 to 25 hours a week she has as a part-time employee is crucial. We will all need to work to set boundaries—Beth so she can have a life outside First Unitarian, and the congregation so we have realistic expectations around what one person can do in 20 hours a week. That we adequately pay her for the time she works is a justice issue that I believe we need to honor. The group sketched out a plan for Beth’s part-time ministry that seemed reasonable to everyone in the group. Now we’ll see how the plan works in action!

All this is not to say you can’t talk to Beth or ask her to do things! Her primary duties are in the areas of pastoral care, Connections Ministry (membership, welcoming new people, etc.), and adult religious education (now called ‘adult faith development’). A lot of what she’ll be doing in the next few months is getting to know us and giving us a chance to get to know her. I imagine you’ll see a lot of her at church events, worship services, and the like. By all means, seek her out and get to know her! I know she’s excited to meet all of you.

Concerning the title “ministerial resident”: Beth has completed all her coursework, internships and other pieces that she needs to do to become a full-fledged minister. However, she has not gone before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA, which is the final capstone to becoming a minister. She’ll be doing that in December. All of this is perfectly kosher with the UUA, but until she goes before the committee and they grant her official minister status, we’ll refer to her as our “ministerial resident.” It might seem like a technicality, but it will make things go more smoothly for Beth in the credentialing process.  

I’m very excited to see how our community grows and develops with the addition of Beth’s energy and warmth. We are a new congregation now, just as we are with each new member. Time to celebrate!