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Ministry Position Now Open

Museum_District-mapOpportunity of a Lifetime!

We are about to make UU history–  again. We are inviting a UU Minister to join our team–  at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, Texas!

Houston, Texas is the 4th largest city in the United States. It’s a blue city in a red state with an out lesbian mayor. It has every kind of sports team, arts venue, and restaurant you can think of, and it is home to the largest medical center in the world. Have a spouse who needs work? Houston’s job growth is twice that of the nation.

Position: Minister (Assistant)

This is a full-time, ongoing position with recommended benefits. $45,000 starting salary in Geographic Wage Rate Area 3 (scale of 1-7, 1 = inexpensive).

Applications are being accepted now through the UUA Ministerial Settlement System or apply directly (cover letter, 1 page resume, 3 references) to doconnell -at- (Daniel O’Connell, senior minister). Your Adventure Begins–  August 1, 2014.

What we seek: A Leader & a Partner

  • A leader in our Administrative Team (which organizes social justice, pastoral care, membership, and other ministry projects).
  • A partner in our Creative Team (which puts together the Sunday Services and Adult & Children’s faith formation).

About You–

You are a Unitarian Universalist Minister in fellowship with the UUA.

  • You have a heart for pastoral care and an obvious spiritual depth to your life.
  • You’re comfortable working both independently and collaboratively.
  • You love meeting people “where they are” and helping them live out their faith (walk their talk) by nurturing their capacity for kindness and acting for justice.
  • You write and speak well in print and in social media.
  • It’s hard to be humble when you are as great as you are, but somehow you manage.

First UU Houston: Ministry Innovators

We are an active, mid-sized congregation that is breaking new ground in Unitarian Universalism.

  1. We are the first UU church to merge with two others (July 2013), to become One church in Three locations. Our Copperfield campus has about 50 adults; our Museum District campus, about 365; our Thoreau / Stafford campus, about 70 adults. You will work primarily in and with the Museum District campus.
  2. We developed the UU Creative Team approach to Sunday services and faith formation (for adults, and for children). This is a ground-breaking, collaborative approach to ministry.
  3. We are launching (Fall of 2014, and your ministry will take a lead role in) the Houston Area UU Rapid Response Network (involving all the UU’s in the Houston Metroplex).

The Staff Team of Mutual Success

Rev. Dr. Daniel O’Connell, senior minister (and life long UU), will be your supervisor. This means there is an expectation of commitment to each other’s success: Yes, I am committed to you being successful!

Rev. Bonnie Vegiard is the half time campus minister at our Thoreau / Stafford campus. We expect to be welcoming a part time campus minister for the Copperfield campus in August.

Carol Burrus, our Religious Educator, is an integral part of both the Creative Team and the Administrative Team, and takes an entrepreneurial approach to faith formation.

Dr. Jason Oby is our part time Music Director. He, along with Bob Fazakerly, organist, runs our music program. Grace Amborski assists as Administrative Assistant for Music.

Peggy Harvey is our extraordinarily capable 25+ year Administrator. Joining her are several fairly new Administrative Assistants, 2 sextons, and a Media Technician who expertly runs our audio & video program. We have several paid child care workers.

The Adventure

Be one of our Ministers and take the lead on pastoral care. Continue to support our excellent Care Team.

Learn about, then help lead our efforts in social justice and membership. Come in with an appreciative inquiry perspective, and an entrepreneurial heart.

About 2/3 of our members & friends are involved in social justice projects in an ongoing basis. You will be the ministry lead for this work.

You will also preach at each campus during the year. The Creative Team offers all of its members constructive support to build better sermons and services.

If this is you, let us know– Carpe Diem! Apply through the UUA Ministry Settlement System and/or contact the senior minister: doconnell -at-

UUA Presidential Search: What if it were more like church?

uuapscIn a post originally put on their blog, and later published at the uuWorld site here, the UUA Presidential Search Committee (UUAPSC) updates us on their process.

Which got me to thinking…

The UUAPSC has to come up with 2 candidates for UUA President, which means an automatic contested election.

The ‘winner’ will get one six year term (Section 9.5 of UUA Bylaws). Their nominees will be posted no later than February 1, 2016.

And self-nominations (which require a lot of congregational endorsements) can be made as early as March 1, 2016. The election will be in New Orleans in June 2017.

“Small …organizational meetings and mass mailing letters ” can begin “no earlier than November 1 of the 2nd year preceding the election. So, if the election is June 2017, and 2 years preceding the election is 2015, it means

UUA presidential campaign activity can start November 1, 2015.

The Committee notes that the UUA Prez has no coherent job description, so they’re working on that. They’re thinking about campaign finance limits, diversity of candidates– in other words– all the things YOU might think about if you were on the UUAPSC.

My cursory reading of the UUA bylaws suggests that they way I’ve thought of the UUA President is all wrong.

I’ve thought of the UUA President as being elected “by the people” and essentially independent of the UUA board, which is there– more or less– to provide a reality check to the grand vision casting of the President, and to support the administration at the same time.

However, it appears the UUA board could “fire” the President, pretty much on a whim: “Section 8.5. Removal of Officers”

The President may also be removed by such a vote of the Board if it determines that such removal is in the best interests of the Association.

I doubt you could find that in any UU minister’s letter of agreement. To me, it re-frames the relationship between the UUA President and the UUA board. And then I began thinking about the difference between the board-minister relationship in a church, and the board-executive relationship at the UUA. Which led me to the next question:

What if the UUA Presidential Search Committee process were conducted like a UU church Search Committee Process?

It would be the same Committee, but they would pick ONE candidate. The candidate would do what a minister normally does– meet with constituents all week. Preach at the beginning, and right before a “confirming vote.”

Everyone would understand the President works “for” the whole Association, but is ‘supervised’ by the board of trustees.

The board of trustees would understand their role– not as an adversary, not as a ‘counter balance’ a la American politics– but that their chief role would be to make sure the President was successful in carrying out the mission, vision, and values of the Association.

The UUA President, in turn, would do what she could to make sure the UUA board was successful.

This is exactly what many UU ministers and boards pledge to each other– but I’m not so sure that is how it has worked at the UUA level.

What do you think? Would our UUA Presidential Search Process be better if there was NOT an automatic election, with a “winner” and a “loser” in the process?



Rewarding Pulpit Committees– By Sending them to Hell

hellAs I wrote previously, the Committee on Ministry model tends to contain procedures which ensures its dysfunction. What’s worse, is that this flawed system is often instituted right at the very beginning of a new parish ministry. Lay leaders were frequently told that members of the search committee should form the new Committee on Ministry. What a disastrous mistake.

Let’s look at this from a search committee member point of view.

Imagine you get selected to be on your church’s pulpit (search) committee. How exciting! You and 6 other people– some of whom you may not know very well– get to pick the next minister of your church. Other than real estate transactions– which happen far more infrequently– this is the biggest news a church can get.

A new minister means a new chapter in the historic narrative of the church. It’s probably the biggest single intentional thing a lay person can do in the history of that congregation.

For Unitarian Universalists, it’s usually a very expensive undertaking. One that will take you away from your family for long weeks. You are bound to secrecy (i.e., confidentiality). You might start with 20 interested ministers. Have phone calls with 8. Fly in 4 pre-candidates for weekend long interview, and finally– finally— pick the one candidate you hope takes your church into a bright new future for many years to come.

What greater impact can you as a lay leader have than to pick the next minister? It’s huge, it’s far ranging. It’s the most hours, days, and weeks you have spent on behalf of your present and future church.

You have bonded with your committee members. You have stretched yourself personally and spiritually. It’s exhilarating.

And your reward, when it’s all said & done?

You get to join the Committee on Ministry (CoM), also know as: the complaint committee. At first, it isn’t a problem, because everyone wants to be “nice.”

But then you hear that the sermons are too long or too short. That there is too much religious language or not enough “spirituality.” And on, and on.

And since people mostly give praise directly to the minister (which you don’t hear), but do complain to the CoM, you don’t hear as much praise of the minister you selected as you do complaints.

And everyone who complains seems to think that you can go get that minister to ‘fix’ the “minister’s” problem for them.

After a while, you grow weary of hearing dissatisfaction– however small. You leave the CoM when your term is up– and frankly– you may leave the church– now having second thoughts about the minister you helped bring to your church.

I have seen this dynamic play out once in my own career and multiple times in the careers of colleagues. It’s a strategic mistake, and it ought to stop.

When I came to Houston in 2010, I decided I wanted a different procedure to be used: a new method. It was, in fact, the very first team of leaders I assembled, because it’s that important. I read & questioned & queried colleagues & read some more. And then it happened almost by magic. Really, it happened in hindsight, but it was terrific.

And if you, dear reader, ever become a newly settled minister, I highly recommend you follow the plan I am about to unfold here–

What should happen to members of the search committee if they don’t form a Committee on Ministry? They should be elected to the board of trustees! Maybe not all at once, but certainly, bit by bit. Now, you have a minister and a board who are committed to each other in a new way– after all– THEY PICKED EACH OTHER.

Not only that, but your ex-search committee is your best source of bold, initiative taking, blue-sky-seeing, prudent-risk-takers in the whole congregation!

And by the time the search process is over, this is the most thoroughly vetted group of lay leaders in recent memory.

They will collectively tell you who would make a good board member, and who is questionable. Who completes their assignments and who doesn’t. Who is fun to be around and who needs more hand holding.

Not only that, but the search committee is heavily invested in the new minister. What does that mean? It means that they– perhaps more than anyone else– is heavily invested in the new ministers success.

One of the minister’s main jobs is to make sure the board is successful.

The minister confers monthly with the executive team (president & vice president). Make sure they have the information they need, make sure they understand the minister is there to support them– in ways pastoral, strategic, and with leadership.

And now, this new board?

One of their main jobs is to make sure the minister is successful.

Since they are working for mutual success– and the default complaint mechanism is gone– the board is not paying much attention to trivial complaints– instead focusing on how the minister and staff are accomplishing the mission.


For those of you who are settled ministers, I am curious to know what ever happened to your pulpit / search committee?