Statement from Greg Nichols, President of the Board of Trustees | First Unitarian Church, Des Moines

It is my duty as President of the Board of Trustees to announce today that the board and Rev. Amy Petrie Shaw concur in the decision that their call to serve as our Senior Minister will end July 31, 2022.
Rev. Shaw was called in 2019 to a senior minister position, one which under UUA guidelines for churches of our size call for a full-time associate or assistant minister alongside the senior minister. Our financial resources within the operating budget, primarily funded by member pledges, could not sustain that second position and it was ended shortly after Rev. Shaw arrived. They were very clear with the Board that would, if sustained over time, limit their ability to meet all our collective expectations…and was likely not sustainable for them personally for an extended period.

In recent months, board leadership and Rev. Shaw have discussed the future prospect of addressing our ability to support a second ministerial position as we move into planning and implementing more robust programming than we have provided through the pandemic. Our shared conclusion is that obtaining the financial resources to fill such a position is not on the horizon at present, and therefore it was in our mutual interest to make a change…or time to push the reset button…for both the senior minister and the congregation.

On behalf of the board, I want to thank Rev. Shaw for their service to this congregation. They barely had their feet on the ground before we went into pandemic mode and yet were able to help us get up and running with virtual Sunday services, and transitions to multiplatform delivery of other programs and services that will serve members with difficulties attending in person for years to come. Their engagement and support for some of our new ventures such as the Music and Arts event, and the Trans Fest are also important and sustainable additions to our congregational life activities. Their knowledge and teaching skills, particularly relating to multiple faith traditions and rituals have provided great learning opportunities for us all, whether in a class setting or Sunday and holiday services. Thank you, Rev. Amy, for all those and other contributions unspoken in my comments today. So, what lies ahead? We will have Rev. Shaw in the pulpit for the last time on June 12. They will be working with the board on transition issues, and engaging with the UUA GA through much of June, then taking most of July as accrued personal leave and study time. 

Meanwhile, the board will continue work already begun this week to seek ministerial options for the coming church year through the UUA processes where interim ministers can be found. The nationwide interim process has been underway for some time already and we will be playing catch up in seeking an individual to assist us in the transitional year we have ahead. We will be providing more details on this in the days and weeks ahead as they become known to us.

To be candid this also means that instead of work on long term planning, programming and oversight issues we will necessarily be spending a great deal of time on this immediate need. I ask the congregation to be patient and understanding that this matter must take precedence in our work just now, important as other issues for the longer term clearly are.

This also highlights the need, once we resolve the interim minister question, to determine how best to address the presenting issue of our size and our expectations exceeding our collective commitment to provide the resources needed to staff at recommended levels. But that will be down the road from what we need to do right now.

It will be an interesting year. Let’s embark on it in a spirit of covenantal relations, human understanding, and a shared desire to move forward…together.  

–Greg Nichols