Interim Minister Search

As the Board of Westminster shared in their e-blast of April 10, 2022, Rev. Ellen’s bittersweet departure in June creates a transitional time for our church. Although this is a perfectly normal part in a UU church’s life, it has been a decade since Westminster has engaged in such a ministerial transition, and it’s natural to have questions. In the hope of relieving some initial concerns, here is the first of what will be a series of answers to some frequently asked interim minister search questions:

What is an Interim Minister Search Team?

An interim minister search team is a small group of Board–appointed church members who work together to find the best interim minister candidate based on the needs of the church. To do this work, the team enters into the UUA Covenant for Congregations Seeking Interim Ministry and follows all UUA procedures for the process. The process typically takes 2-3 months, after which the team will recommend a candidate to the Board for their approval.

How do you know what to do?

The UUA has an entire Ministerial Transitions office devoted to giving guidance to churches seeking out Interim or Settled Ministers. This is because it is very common for UU Ministers to move on after an average tenure of 6-8years, so transitions like our happen frequently across the country (and the world). The Transitions office has already been in touch with both Ellen and the Search Team, and together they are all navigating the (short) interim search process.

What is the difference between an Interim Minister and a Settled Minister?

An interim minister is hired by a church board to assist the congregation in its transition from one settled minister to another. An interim minister is most often hired for a 24 month period and cannot be called as the church’s settled minister. UUA research shows a greater period of success (90%) at calling a settled minister following a 24-month interim than after a 12-month interim (58%). A settled minister is called by a congregation for a longer appointment after a lengthy search process. Most settled ministers prefer to be called to a church following a transitional ministry.

What is the process for an interim minister search?

The Interim Minister Search Team contacts the UUA to initiate the search for an interim minister. The team then submits a detailed application with accompanying documents that gives a snapshot of Westminster with an honest assessment of our strengths and challenges. The team then reviews the application packages of interested interim ministers, checks references, and conducts interviews. The team will then recommend a candidate to the Board for approval. We can expect this process to conclude by the end of June.

Why don’t we skip straight to a settled minister?

The process of finding a settled minister typically takes two years from start to finish. It provides the congregation time to re-examine its heritage, mission, leadership/organization, connections, and future with a minister who specializes in such work. The interim ministry ensures that the next settled minister isn’t called because they are exactly the same or the complete opposite as the one who left, but rather the best possible fit. This process is so valuable that most settled ministers won’t consider a position with a congregation that tries to skip the interim process. The interim ministry also provides the congregation the opportunity to work through the myriad of feelings that arise when a settled minister departs. Therefore, engaging in interim ministry is beneficial for the health of a church and to have the biggest pool of qualified settled ministers from which to choose.

Has Westminster been through this process before?

Yes, many times – there are many current members who recall having 2 interim ministers between Ellen and our previous minister, Barbara, and also between Barbara and her predecessor Fred. In both cases the church weathered the change well, probably much better for having some space and time to regroup before the next settled minister came along.

Who is on Westminster’s Interim Minister Search Team?

Westminster’s Interim Minister Search Team consists of Judy Adourian (former President); Doug Alexander (current President); Kamila Barzykowski (current Secretary and President-Elect) and Amy Prisco (former Program Council Coordinator). Judy was also on an Interim Search Team in 2004, in fact.

When will the search for the Settled Minister begin?

The UUA advises that we wait to assemble a Settled Minister Search Committee until after the Interim Minister has begun their term. The Nominating Committee will be putting forth candidates for this committee to the board, which will then vote on them. This will all take place after August 1, 2022 – most likely in the fall when members return.

How can I help?

You can help by contacting the Interim Minister Search Team at ministersearch@westminsteruu.org with any of your thoughts, questions or concerns. You can follow the team’s progress by reading our e-blast updates. And most importantly, you can welcome our interim minister on August 1st with the warm hospitality Westminster is known for.