Friends, you may always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 612-405-3318 (a cell number dedicated to church work). We can schedule a Zoom appointment when I am working remotely from St. Paul, or we can meet at church or in your home when I’m here in Des Moines., or simply talk by phone. If you’d like to meet in person during an upcoming visit, please reach out to schedule an appointment!
Please come if you have a pastoral concern (a sadness or some issue weighing on your heart), a spiritual query, a question or something you’d like me to know about congregational life (church programs, committees, or the ministry transition), or just come to introduce yourself and say hello!
May 16, 2023
A Letter from Rev. Victoria
My ministry at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines is drawing to a close, and I am writing with sadness and confident hope as you carry forward the beautiful work of this congregation: to grow your souls in community and serve the world in love.
I am grateful for the graceful luck that brought us together this year, and grateful for your forbearance with this ministry that was in so many ways far from ideal. Your congregation needs and deserves a minister who is in residence full-time, not commuting, not preaching on a screen remotely. Thank you for your patience with all this, and for welcoming me into your community.
I’ll be present with you on Sunday, June 4, when my sermon will be an “annual report” of sorts, sharing reflections on this year we’ve shared. My final Sunday service with you will be on June 11. My work here ends on June 15; please do reach out if you would like to meet on Zoom or in person, or to speak by phone, before then.
As you know, I’m sure, from past ministry transitions, the UUA and UU Ministers Association offer clear guidelines about leaving. I know that I will continue to serve you best, going forward, by stepping back entirely from contact with members and friends of the congregation. When your new Interim Minister arrives, and later, when a settled minister is called, I will be honored to sign a written covenant with each of them, assuring them my care for you is deep enough that I will respect this collegial and professional boundary. I’m sure similar covenants have been and will be in place with my beloved colleagues who have served you in the past, both as interim and settled ministers, whether in the lead role or as associates. Please know: for me, there is real grief in this, but there is also gratitude and joy, as I think of the life of your church flowing like a mighty river, from its powerful sources in 1877 through years and years to come. I will carry you in my heart, with love.
Together with the Board of Trustees and Interim Search Committee, I’m excited about the Interim Minister you’ll soon meet to companion you through the next two years. I’m working now with your staff team, lay leaders and the Board to ensure that Sunday services, pastoral care, rites of passage, and staff supervision will continue smoothly in the weeks between the end of my ministry on June 15, and the start of theirs on August 1. All will be well.
May compassion, trust and courage sojourn with us as we part. My prayer for you is one you know by heart, as I do, now, as well: Hallowed be each coming morning; calm and peaceful be each night.
With respect and gratitude, Victoria
February 3, 2023
Update from the Board of Trustees
After the board and members made suggestions, all those names were considered, and calls were made. Many who were contacted were unable to serve at this time. We are very fortunate that this Interim Search Team is comprised of long-time members and people who have had leadership roles before, as well as people currently in leadership. They are all compassionate, thoughtful, and represent many aspects of our congregation. What stands out to me is that each of these people has a strong commitment to First Unitarian, and all bring good skills to the table. They are Scott Clair, Crystal Loving, Elliott Nassif, Steve Herwig, Doug Aupperle, and Shelly Kaldenberg.
The team is taking some time to meet, get oriented, and determine their agenda and timeline. Soon after, a time will be announced when they will meet with the congregation to hear your comments and/or concerns.
January 26, 2023
Update from the Board of Trustees
The interim search process that I described in my letter last week includes two rounds of search. This means that the church in the search process posts their information in the UUA portal and there are two opportunities to have potential ministers apply to that posting.
Last year when we found ourselves in the place of needing to find an interim minister there was very little time to prepare and, in fact, we were well past the first round of applications. In the second round we received only one applicant. That applicant had offers from six different churches and we did not make the cut. In some ways we are in a similar situation this year in that we continue to be one church in many searching for an Interim from a pool that is not as large as the churches seeking.
What this means is we have to have an excellent team in place that has as much time as possible to craft a posting that is well written, as optimistic as possible, and accurately represents not just the wishes and desires of the congregation but as many cohorts of the congregation as possible in order to be fair to every member.
While it may seem we have “lots” of time this year to discuss and debate all phases of the process, the truth is it takes many weeks of reading and meeting in order to give the posting that is created the best representation of our church so we draw the interest of candidates that will serve the needs we convey.
I have asked Greg Nichols, board representative and very familiar with the Interim Search process, and Scott Clair, representative of the Right Relations team as well as experienced serving on the Interim Search team last year, to help assemble this team. They are both long-time members of the church as well as fair in their approach. I asked them to take all the recommendations submitted by church members into consideration and put together a team that can represent our entire congregation.
I ask you all to remember this is not a settled minister search and differs in that Interims are appointed by the board rather than voted on by the whole congregation. For the time remaining, I ask the congregation to trust that your board is interested in full representation, not only by asking the whole congregation for names to be considered for the team but by the opportunity you will have to speak with this team regarding what you believe are the most important talents, skills and experience relevant to our current needs.
Reba Eagles, Board of Trustees President
January 19, 2023
Update from Rev. Victoria
It is an honor for me to be serving with you this year as Transitional Contract Minister. As you move through the unexpected and uncharted waters of change, I am continually inspired by your resilience, your care for one another, and your deep dedication to First Unitarian Church.
Back in July, your Board leaders and I agreed to review my one-year contract at mid-year, and decide then whether to renew it. In consultation with the Board, and after deep reflection on my own, we have decided that my ministry here will end in June 2023, when the one-year contract expires. Although we have many months ahead, I am saddened already at the thought of leaving… and yet I am convinced it is the right decision.
The work you’ve taken on this year to reinforce the foundations of community, to grieve losses and repair divisions, to reimagine the practice of good governance and re-establish the principles of right relation, is mighty work. It requires courage and compassion, and also energy, as you continue, so brightly, to welcome new members, shape faith formation for families and children, collaborate with community partners for justice, create inspiring Sunday services, and raise the money to fund all this (and so much more). You are well-positioned to move forward with a full-time Interim Minister who will come for two years, live in Des Moines, and partner with you to refine your shared mission, strengthen what’s working well, and continue lovingly to restore your trust in each other and in your leaders. This was my recommendation to the Board when we met this past week. More information will come from them soon, as will an open invitation to share your questions, concerns and hopes for next steps.
In the meantime, I am thankful for the months that lie ahead of us. I look forward to celebrating on Sundays with you, to gathering in groups or one-to-one, and to supporting you in every way as you lead with love. Your future is so bright, radiant with hope and promise – and I am glad and grateful to travel this small part of the journey with you.
With respect and gratitude,
January 19, 2023
Update from the Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees would like to thank Reverend Victoria for the time she has spent with us and her continued commitment through the end of this contract year. She has been encouraging and has held space for us to voice our concerns, our frustrations, and our grief so we can begin the process of looking to the future. We are grateful for all she has done and will continue to do during the rest of her time with us.
Now we begin the process of searching for what serves us best at this time. The types of ministers within the UUA are Interim, Developmental and Settled and there continues to be fewer ministers available than churches searching. Because with the Interim option we have the best chance of obtaining a really good minister for our needs at this time the Board has decided our best course of action is to immediately begin the search process for an interim minister. We will be discussing this at tonight’s board meeting. Please continue reading for an understanding of how we came to this decision, predominantly based on the time factor involved in obtaining a minister, as well as the guidance and recommendation of Rev Victoria.
What we all long for is a settled minister after all the changes in the last few years. The process of settled minister search is the longest process as well as being more labor-intensive. It usually takes one and a half to two years. Our by-laws require the process for calling a minister beginning with the selection of the Ministerial Search Committee by a vote of the members of the congregation the year prior to entering the UUA search. They are then charged with creating a congregational packet that will let potential ministers know who we are and what we are looking for in a new minister. They evaluate ministers interested in us, arrange to hear a few ministers speak at neutral pulpits early the following year, and ultimately offer the position to the minister that is an excellent match for our congregation. The candidate is then announced to the congregation, and they come for a week in which they speak at two Sunday services and attend many “get to know you” meetings. Following the second Sunday, the congregation votes on whether to call the candidate. Again, the timeline for this process, which others seeking 2023 candidates have long since begun, suggesting this is not an option likely to be successful for us this year.
A Developmental Minister comes to help a congregation that has determined three to four specific goals it wants to work on before calling its next long-term minister. They are normally with a church for three to five years. Currently we have yet to come to consensus on goals that would be appropriate for us to focus on. An example of work a Developmental Minister can help with is a church that had made the decision to go from two ministers to one and wants a Developmental Minster to help them work through the impact of this change.
The process to prepare for a Developmental Minster typically starts a year or more in advance of the spring selection process, meaning we are also not well positioned at this point to attract a candidate in 2023.
That leaves us with Interim Minister. This is a minister specifically trained to work with churches short term, one to two years, and help a congregation understand its strengths and weaknesses. While it is true that we are in the middle of a one-year transition minister, the contract we have with her was for one year and was designed, in part by specific direction of
the transition team of the UUA, to help us through the period after Rev Amy left too late for us to find an interim. And while it is true that this contract could have been renewed for a second year, and Rev Victoria has been instrumental in helping us heal from the last five to seven years, she has expressed on numerous occasions her feeling that we would be better served by having someone that can move here and really be present in ways a long-distance minister cannot. The UUA search process for an interim minister typically begins early in each calendar year, and concludes in May, with the contracts beginning in August. Unlike settled ministers, the board selects an Interim, often with an advisory committee to vet candidates. Starting this process now has us well placed to be a strong presence in the first round of Interim search this year, giving us our best chance to find a candidate that really fits our needs at this time.
Our community conversations this fall have really helped us to understand who we are and what our needs continue to be. However, we will be hosting conversations in February so everyone who wishes to have input into this search can express themselves. If you want to say anything privately you are always welcome to contact Rev Victoria or the Board at email@example.com.
While I have enjoyed the time we have had with Rev Victoria and will cherish it, I also look forward to our next chapter and what we will accomplish together.
Reba Eagles, Board President