In October, 2021, the Committee on Ministry sponsored a series of small group meetings focusing on the future of professional ministry in our Fellowship. The Committee found tremendous support for professional ministry and in particular our current part-time minister. There is a great deal of concern for his increasing workload and fear of his burnout; there is also much apprehension about the future with regard to succession.
While it is recognized that there is a need to supplement the current professional ministry, there is worry about how to fund it. Generosity has always been at the heart of our fellowship. We have a long history of committing approximately 50% of our annual income to local NGO’s. While this has increased greatly (doubling in the past 5 years!) there is fear that additional costs associated with a Minister in Residence (MIR) would not allow the 50% funding to continue. At the same time there is recognition that the fellowship has doubled in membership and pledging units over that same time period, with much of that increase attributed to professional ministry.
Ideally, we on the COM feel the solution to the increased workload and additional needs of professional ministry would be best handled through a MIR program, and we think that the need is becoming more urgent. Burnout and loss of the current part-time minister is a serious concern. A MIR would not only help with current needs, but give the fellowship an opportunity to work with someone who could be seen as a possible successor. We have attached a draft proposal based on our work to date, incorporating the input from those that attended the small groups.
While we see much support for a MIR program, we also see that there is further work to be done to create a healthy environment for professional ministry and further growth of the UUFSMA. Growth and change are difficult in any organization and this process has brought forth what we see as, while predictable, a strong resistance to change. For real conversation to take place, we must adhere to our UU principles — this issue must be addressed immediately and directly.
Respectfully submitted, Cathy Canepa, Bill Dalsimer, Bonney McDowell, Christie McGue
Committee on Ministry Proposal
The Minister In Residence (MIR) program is designed to attract a UU minister to UUFSMA for a period of 1-2 years, to assist and complement our part-time minister with an expanding agenda of responsibilities and programs. The person would be expected to leave at the end of the contract period.
Although the MIR program is not designed to be used as a succession plan, it could prove to be an opportunity for the Fellowship to work with someone who may be compatible with our members on a more permanent basis.
The MIR may focus on the following new projects depending on the expertise and interests of the person selected: • Expand bi-cultural inclusion with an emphasis on drawing Mexicans into the Fellowship while exposing Fellowship members to Mexican culture and the greater Mexican community. • Undertake one or more projects targeting subgroups for whom UUFSMA might have particular appeal, such as families with children, LGBTQ individuals, or Mexicans recently deported from the US. • Expand connections and reciprocal relationships and programs with other UU congregations in Mexico, the US, and Canada. • Establish a small group ministry program which is a successful part of many US congregations, drawing both new and old members into closer community. • Teach classes (UU101 and/or more advanced courses) • Expand personal outreach to NGOs we support • Expand the Fellowship’s childrens program • Participate in Sunday services
Our current minister will continue with his workload of delivering Sunday sermons, recruiting visiting ministers, providing pastoral care, and working with Fellowship committees.
The ideal candidate would be an experienced UU minister on sabbatical, moving between congregations, at or near retirement, or a minister seeking a new life experience. The candidate will be fluent in Spanish, may be bi-cultural, and be comfortable and willing to experience the rich Mexican culture and the challenges of living in another country. The successful candidate will report to the UUFSMA Board of Directors and will work collaboratively with our minister as well as the lay leaders and committees of the Fellowship. The current ratio of lay vs. minister led services would remain close to the same.
UUFSMA will provide housing for the MIR as well as a modest and fair stipend, and possibly other benefits as needed. The estimated cost of housing is $0 -1200 USD per month. The estimated cost of yearly stipend is estimated to be $35,000-45,000 USD, based on information gathered from the UUA.
Funding for the MIR program has been researched, with these possible pathways forward: • Outside funding sources (UUA and related grant-making entities) • Specific donations and bequests from individuals • Donation of housing from members • A grant of funds from our reserves • Annual budget appropriations
Gifts and grants which are specifically designated for the MIR project would be kept separate from the regular budget process. Already, there have been individuals who have committed to making generous gifts which will cover a substantial part of the program’s costs for 2 years.
At least four UUA grant sources have been identified for possible funding opportunities. Formal proposals to those entities cannot be made unless the Fellowship votes to adopt the MIR program. Initial conversations with these groups have been positive. If the Fellowship wants to continue to have a professional ministry,it will have to face the reality that a minister must be paid appropriately and find the funds to do so. Currently the Fellowship is paying our part time minister $15,000 per year, which is considerably below fair guidelines established by the UUA. Our current minister’s tenure with the Fellowship has produced a considerable expansion of both membership and income. The MIR program would give us a time-limited opportunity to see if further expansion of professional ministry will produce additional growth in membership and income, as well as provide needed services to our members and outreach to a wider community. Addendum: A Brief History of the Development of the Minister in Residence (MIR) Project In 2018 the UUFSMA Board initiated a strategic planning process with a member survey dealing with ministry and other issues. Most members (80%) participated in this process through surveys and focus groups, giving members a direct way to contribute. They discussed what the Fellowship means to its members and how it might grow, including multicultural focus, program expansion, pastoral care, religious education for children and adults, etc.
In 2020 the Board appointed an Envisioning Our Future Committee (Envisioning Committee) of active members reflecting diverse interests and demographics of the Fellowship.
Based on the data from earlier focus groups, the Envisioning Committee was directed to dream of our future, to present the outline of some plans and ideas, and to suggest a timeline prioritizing our next steps, including items for immediate, mid- and long-term consideration. This process resulted in the Envisioning Report.
The Envisioning Report was distributed to all members of the Fellowship in the March 2021 invitation to the Annual Membership Meeting and was summarized in the meeting by the committee chair, Jurgen Ahlers. The report identified immediate areas of consideration, one being the creation of a Committee on Ministry and another the creation of a Minister in Residence Program.
The Board established a Committee on Ministry (COM) in early 2021 and tasked it with the creation of a Minister in Residence Program. There was no blueprint other than: … the establishment of a Minister in Residence Program to attract a consulting minister to work with Rev. Tom Rosiello for a period of 6 months – 2 years. Possible expertise areas of such a consulting minister would include children’s religious education, small group ministry, Sunday service planning, pastoral care, adult education, and community work ... plus other talents to support organizational growth. Desirable qualities of a consulting minister might ideally include bilingual and bicultural experience. (Taken from the Envisioning our Future)
Time constraints do not allow our current part-time minister to bring professional attention to many areas identified as needs by the Fellowship. The Committee on Ministry felt a MIR could focus on these areas. It quickly became evident that a MIR could also be a way to develop a possible pathway of ministerial succession.
The Committee looked at a number of different options relating to additional ministry: an intern or student minister; a second part-time minister; a traditional interim minister when Rev. Tom retires; or the expansion of the guest minister program, with visiting UU ministers for 2-3 months at a time. For various reasons we rejected these ideas as unworkable (additional costs as well as long term commitments, additional workload for the current minister, limited availability of visiting UU ministers, etc).
The Committee explored ways to fund a MIR program and made initial contacts for outside funding. While it was clearly too early in the process to talk about formal proposals, we found that there were at least four UU-related places where we could possibly receive funding, where a MIR program would fit within their guidelines for submitting a request.
The Committee felt strongly that a Minister in Residence Program would be the best solution to our needs. The benefits would be: • the MIR could focus on specific areas that the Fellowship identified as desirable and that Rev. Tom is unable to meet; •the position would be limited to 1 or 2 years; •the program could prepare the Fellowship for a transition by giving members a good look at a possible replacement for Rev. Tom; •this approach to additional professional ministry could open the door to grants or gifts not necessarily available with other options. The Committee realized that it could not continue developing a program or looking for funding until there was “buy in” from the fellowship. We developed four questions to help put “meat on the bones” of any possible MIR program based on the Fellowship’s needs and desires. Small group meetings were held in September with 50 members in attendance. Some additional input was supplied in response to a follow-up questionnaire. The comments of the small groups were distributed to all members in early October, 2021.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Miguel de Allende Apdo 798, San Miguel de Allende 37700 Guanajuato, Mexico