Annual Report of the Interim Minister

June 3, 2017

The Rev. Jennie Barrington, Interim Minister

 

 

“When love is felt, or fear is known;

When holidays and holy days and such times come;

When anniversaries arrive by calendar or consciousness;

When seasons come, as seasons do, old and known, but somehow new;

When lives are born, or people die;

When something sacred is sensed in soil or sky,

Mark the time–  Mark the time.

Respond with thought or prayer or smile or grief,

Let nothing living slip between the fingers of the mind,

For all of these are holy things we will not, cannot, find again.” (Max Coots)

 

Dear Members and Friends,

 

The lovely responsive reading, above, is by the late UU minister, the Rev. Max Coots. In it, he describes, as if from a higher, broader perspective, all that we have been through together, as a congregation, in the past year. And, to him, those shared experiences of ours are holy, sacred things that we “will not, cannot, find again.” I agree. It has been my honor, as your Interim Minister, to companion you through a year of life events, some of which have gladdened our hearts, and some of which have left us shaken and saddened by grief. I am very grateful for how well we have done together in partnering, communicating, and collaborating so that so many of those experiences could be as rich and helpful as possible. Even as I look back on some experiences that we could have shared more fully, I feel that you were doing the best you could do.

 

Our shared experiences have included funerals; child dedications; attending to the pastoral care needs of members and friends (with the compassionate care of your Pastoral Care Associates Team: Ann Johnson, Sandy Chubon, Linda Brennison, Joan Watterson, Keitha Whitaker, and Cheryl Soehl); joining hands with other religious people and social justice organizations; saying goodbye to some staff or volunteers, and welcoming in new staff and new members; fundraising that exceeded people’s expectations, including a wildly successful Capital Campaign; planning for renovations to the building; presenting programs through Adult Religious Education and Social Action to educate others, and ourselves, including our focus on institutional racism and standing against gun violence. To their great credit, your search committee (Co-Chairs: David Crockett and Ann Johnson; Buzzie Kelly, Brian Dudick, Linda Brennison, Rebecca Drennan, and Rod Brown) remained hardworking, thoughtful, and unruffled till the end, culminating in what I have confidence will be a happy and successful vote-to-call your new settled minister. In worship services, we marked anniversaries such as September 11, 2016, and the historic floods of October of 2015. And we honored Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, Evolution Weekend, Easter Sunday, Earth Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the “bridging” of our children and youth. There were several worship services which were multigenerational, or in which the children had a part, and enjoyably so. I have especially appreciated my time spent listening to, collaborating with, and worshipping with UUCC’s children and youth, and their fun and hardworking volunteers, led by our Director of CYRE, Stephanie Palmer-Smith, and our Youth Advisor, Morgan Hanes. I am deeply grateful for all of our staff: our Administrator, Andrea Dudick; our Bookkeeper, Ginny Verne; our Custodian, Bill Dolley; and the gentleman who does such a beautiful job keeping our grounds, Mr. Santiago. And I am deeply grateful for all of our chairs of our standing committees and Ad Hoc committees, and for our board members led by its Executive Committee: Phil Turner, President; Richard Culler, Vice President and President-Elect; Sandy Chubon, Secretary; and Bob Whitaker, Treasurer. And it was inspiring in ways I will never forget to collaboratively break new ground in fundraising with the leader of your Capital Campaign, Pat Mohr, and the Chair of your Finance Committee, Joe Long.

 

I have loved ministering among you at special gatherings at the church and in your homes; at committee meetings and September Set; for the Blessing of the Animals; at CYRE events like the Chili Cook-Off; and at the Cabaret to benefit our Partner Church.

 

The hardest thing, for me, this past year, centers around the Presidential Election. A few months before, I began saying that, if Trump won, I would delay my vacation plans, write pastoral remarks, and deliver them on November 13th. It continues to pain my heart that that’s how that week in the life of our nation unfolded. In some ways, I think that we have been grieving ever since that week. People’s emotions have jumped around like popcorn, from anger to fear to depression, to encouragement and inspiration at signs of resistance to policies that are motivated by self-interest. We, in our nation, our city, and our congregation, have been through a lot this year–  a lot of heartache. Please know that I have engaged in radical self-care to tend to my spiritual and emotional needs, from conversations with colleagues and loved-ones, to the commentaries I have read and listened to, to the music and poetry I have contemplated, as well as attention to my physical well-being. And please know how helpful UUCC has been for me to experience.

 

There are many other ways a minister of a Program Size congregation such as yours spends her or his time. I have worked with the ad hoc committee on building renovations and the ad hoc committee on Governance, Structure, and Bylaws. I supervise the staff. I provide pastoral counseling and spiritual guidance. I have appreciated the opportunities I’ve had to represent UUCC and UUism in the wider community, through social justice events, inter-faith gatherings, and a clergy theological book group. I wish I had been able to do more to be a public face of UUism in the wider community on evenings and weekends. Perhaps the workload of an Interim Minister has more tasks that are administrative, or in-house. In any event, during my time serving you, on weekends I have often felt like UUCC could use another “Mini-Me.”  I also oversee the Minister’s Discretionary Fund. I meet with a Transitions Team (Kevin Meredith, Ann Johnson, Pat Mohr, Buzzie Kelly, and Nancie Shillington-Perez)  -five marvelous, wise, and always-helpful long-time members- to assess how the overall ministry of the church is going. I have helped UUCC and its search committee avail themselves of several excellent UUA consultants, regarding our search, and our congregational health. And I have availed myself of the knowledge and experience of those consultants, too, in addition to that of many other UU ministers and professionals. I attend UU clergy gatherings when my schedule allows, including an annual UU ministers’ study group. I have also mentored our student minister, Pippin Whitaker, a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

 

What with the successful Capital Campaign, and a pledge drive that exceeded last year’s pledges, and the upcoming Candidating Week, and the excellent start-up of the building renovation plans, and the noticeable increase in members, visitors, and attendance in CYRE, UUCC is definitely on an upward trajectory.

 

As I’m sure you have heard me say, one of the biggest things I learned from living in the Carolinas is that this rainforest-y climate does not agree with me. So my next interim ministry will be in the North, specifically in Chicago. But a more important thing I learned is how genuinely endearing the people are in your congregation, city, and state. I will not forget how engaging, insightful, funny, and passionate about social justice you are. I will keep you all in my heart, all my days. Thank you for our time together. It truly has been a sacred time.

 

With care and cheer,

Rev. Jennie

“It’s a privilege to be here.”