In our first month, the Transition Team held seven open listening sessions with the congregation (including one with the youth group). About 100 people came to meet Elaine and the Transition Team and learn about the two-year transition process.
At the listening sessions, attendees participated in an Appreciative Inquiry exercise where they sat down with another church member to share: their most positive experiences at First Church, what they identify as the essence of First Church, and their dreams for the future. The answers they offered are posted online at Listening Session Results.
Here is just a sampling of the words and phrases to describe what members believe is the essence — the heart — of First Church:
openness unconditional love inclusiveness
music thinkers freedom of expression
living simply community connections a gathering of good people
the youth spiritual home the minister and his/her topic
social justice reason great people coming together
acceptance spiritual freedom nonjudgmental
Attendees also shared many dreams, including:
Greater diversity in the congregation More money
Smooth transition Attracting young people
Parking lot Membership Retention
More inner city involvement “Fair Share” UUA congregation
Less expansion Continue to grow in size
Focus on spirituality, Jesus & other teachers More adult experiences
Attract young families Involve youth as members
Expansion of social justice
Transition Process Questions and Answers
Many attendees asked questions about the transition process. Elaine explained that the role of the Transition Team is to help discover important themes for our consideration during the interim and to help the congregation and Board to form an effective Senior Minister Search Committee. The Meet and Greet gatherings were the first of many opportunities to solicit feedback from members, to talk about the core identity of First Church, and to name our dreams for the future.
Next Steps – Phase II
Phase II for the Transition Team will involve reaching out to numerous committees and affinity groups at First Church to continue to gather information and answer questions. The Transition Team is also excited to invite the congregation to participate in a history project, which will launch on Tuesday November 11, with a Breaking Bread Building Community (BBBC) event. All are invited to stop in anytime between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. in the Common Room for a light supper. Attendees will be encouraged to share their memories of First Church, and the next morning, the Common Room will display the results of the project.
We continue to welcome your questions, comments and suggestions in this transition process.
On Tuesday, November 11 a Breaking Bread Building Communities (BBBC) event was held. The congregation was introduced to and invited to add events to our church timeline. The events posted will be used to create a church history and better understand our congregational identity. On January 4 the children in Religious Education will be adding their piece to the timeline as part of the First Sunday program. Children, and adults, are encouraged to continue adding events, stories, and photos. The timeline will be displayed until the middle of January. After that time the Transition Team will compile all of the information and share it with the congregation.
Over the next couple months the Transition Team will be reaching out to committees and affinity groups at First Church to continue to gather information and answer questions. We will also begin the selection process for the Ministerial Search Committee(MSC). The board will decide on our process for selecting the MSC in January and inform the congregation of the process in the February newsletter.
We continue to welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions during this transition process. Please feel free to contact Elaine or any member of the transition team. You may also use the feedback form on the church website at http://www.uumilwaukee.org/content/interim-senior-minister-transition-feedback.
At our recent meeting, the Board of Trustees had a lively discussion about how to become more visible and available to our members and friends. We felt some members would like to talk to a Board member, but were unsure of how make contact.
So, starting with our January 5, 2015 service, there will be a Board member in the Common Room after each service to meet with you to listen to your comments and concerns, ask questions or offer suggestions. That Board member will standing in the vicinity of the Membership Services Table.