Sometime last Spring, I was playing doubles tennis at David Stoll’s house with him and two other lawyers I formerly practiced with. After I got home from our match, I realized that I had left my sunglasses at Dave’s house. So I texted Dave and asked him if he could bring my sunglasses to the firm so that I could pick them up. Dave said “Sure.” The next day, I stopped into the firm and went to the office they still kindly keep for me to use. On the desk were a pair of sunglasses, but they were in a nice case. I told Dave that maybe he’d grabbed the wrong sunglasses because mine weren’t in a case. Dave said, “Oh no, their yours. Sorry to confuse you. I had an extra case so I’m donating it to you. Dad always told me to leave things better than I found them.”
I think that’s great life advice: “Leave things better than you found them.” And I hope all of us will do that with respect to this church.
As many know, I will be retiring either as of August 31, 2020, or August 31, 2021. I expect to decide which sometime before September, 2019. This is not an easy decision for me, mostly because I have never felt more called, challenged, or fulfilled than I have and do as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise, Arizona. I will always care deeply about this church, the only one I ever expect to serve as a minister. And I very much want it to continue to thrive.
As we look toward the church’s future without me, I believe it will continue its tradition of dedicated, able lay leadership. Members who care about the church as much as I do will lead it into its bright next phase. Some of them are active now. Some we may not know of yet.
I have been talking with the Nominating Committee about my vision for leadership here. I think leaders emerge when they are needed. And leadership is something that can be nurtured and grow. What we are looking for first are people for whom Unitarian Universalism and this church are important; who want to support this church, grow with it, be active in its congregational life. The Nominating Committee initially is identifying leaders with these characteristics.
We all have different talents and gifts to bring to volunteer service. One may be terrific at being a host on Sunday morning, or helping to maintain our building and grounds, but not have as much interest or ability to serve in another capacity, for example as an officer or trustee. The lay preachers and worship leaders and musicians we have are wonderful. But not everyone is called to do that. What the church will need, especially during its transition to a new settled minister, are all of its lay leaders, with their different interests and abilities. So, after the Nominating Committee identifies congregational leaders in general, it will work to match interests and abilities with specific roles. If members are asked to serve, I hope and believe they will if they can.
Although there will be some sadness on both sides when I leave, I also want you to be excited about your next minister. And we need not be anxious. There are extensive, great resources from the UUA available to the church as it looks toward this time of transition. Those include our Regional Congregational Life Staff and written materials like the “Transitions Handbook”. We are starting early so that we will be well prepared.
There will be many opportunities to serve the church in the next couple of years especially, including on the Board, on current committees, on the search committee for the interim minister, and on the search committee for your next settled minister after that. Sometime next fall, probably by October, the Board and I are planning to ask all church members and friends to complete a new interest-and-service survey. The goal is to allow those members who are interested in serving the church in a particular way to express that to the Nominating Committee.
In this next year or two, I want to do all I can to broaden and strengthen our congregation’s leadership pool. I have no doubt that everyone will help the Nominating Committee and me do that. It is just one more reason that I am grateful and proud to be this church’s minister.