Back in June, our Adult Programming Coordinator, Martha Kniseley, retired from our staff. We mourned then, and now, the loss of a staff member who played an integral role in creating and then coordinating our current model for offering Adult Religious Education and Spiritual Development. It is a model that has served us well for years now, allowing us to offer an engaging array of opportunities for continued learning and growth.
In addition, though we’ve longed to ignore the reality, our Director of Religious Education for Children and Youth, Kathleen Carpenter, will retire in December. Kathleen has played a formative role in the lives of our children, youth, and families and been a beloved presence of professional leadership in our congregation for over two decades.
Given these significant changes to our UUCC staff, you may be wondering about our plans for the future. The way forward will continue to unfold. For now, we are excited to share with you what we know thus far.
We are looking for a Director of Lifespan Religious Education to begin work with us toward the start of the 2022-2023 congregational year.
A growing number of our peer congregations, (Unitarian Universalist congregations with more than 500 members), are turning to a Lifespan Religious Education/Faith Development model in which the Director is charged with coordinating the creation of meaningful programming for all ages. One of the benefits of this model that excites us is a greater sense of cohesion between the experience of children, youth and adults in our congregation.
We are looking first, for an Interim Director of Lifespan Religious Education to begin work with us as early as January 2021.
As one of the initial steps in considering our options for the future, our Ministers, Jay Leach and Eve Stevens, met with a Unitarian Universalist Religious Educationconsultant who suggested that, given the length of Martha and Kathleen’s tenures and the depth of their impact on our congregation, bringing an Interim Lifespan Religious Education professional onto our staff seemed like an important first step in our planning.
Interims are specifically trained to help congregations engage meaningfully first with the feelings of loss resulting from transition and then with the possibilities that are created by change.
An Interim will help oversee our efforts to keep our Children, Youth, and Adult programming running, help us assess our own history and current programming utilizing their more objective, outside perspective, lead us in imagining what a different way of doing things might look like, and help prepare the way for a long-term Director of Lifespan Religious Education.
An Interim’s ability to both support and challenge us is aided by the fact that their role is temporary. An interim cannot be considered for our new position; rather, they contract with a congregation for a fixed period aware that their work is intended as preparatory for a new addition to our professional staff.
You can read more about the objectives of Interim Religious Education work here: https://www.uua.org/careers/re/interim.
After speaking with the consultant, Eve and Jay met with first the Chairs of the Adult Religious Education and Spiritual Development (ARE/SD) Team and the Children and Youth Religious Education (CYRE) Team to ask for their reaction to the idea of moving toward a Director of Lifespan Religious Education as well as the idea of hiring an Interim to help us prepare for a more long-term hire. Both responded very enthusiastically to this recommendation.
Jay and Eve then met respectively with the ARE/SD and CYRE Teams for more conversation. Both of these Teams supported this recommended approach.
Eve and Jay then reached out to committed representatives of our ARE/SD, CYRE, and Family Ministry programs to form the Search Group for an Interim Lifespan Religious Educator, wanting to bring together people who care deeply about our congregation’s present and future, and who have participated in and offered continuing support in each of these areas of programming.
We are delighted to introduce our Interim Lifespan Religious Educator Search Group!
The result of this process is an insightful, compassionate, committed group of members who bring a range of experiences that span years of participation in our congregation.
The members joining Jay and Eve in the search process are:
- Julie Smith, representing Adult Religious Education and Spiritual Development,
- Melissa Schropp, representing Children and Youth Religious Education, and
- Craig Harbold, representing Family Ministry.
Please join us in offering expressions of excitement and gratitude to these members who will help us navigate the search and hiring process ahead!
As you might imagine, a number of unknowns remain.
- When will we return to in-person activities and how does this affect our process and plans where religious education is concerned?
- Will we be able to hire an Interim to work in-person in Charlotte starting in January? Or will they join us remotely for a few months before relocating?
- We will be conducting our search for an Interim out of sync with the typical search timeline for Unitarian Universalist professionals. Will this affect the pool of candidates we’re hoping will apply?
- How will someone navigate the oversight responsibilities for our whole religious education program while also guiding us to reflect on our past and plan for our future?
- What changes will occur immediately simply because of this new approach?
- How will we prepare for and conduct a national search for a religious education professional in the coming months?
As always, we welcome your input. We’ll continue keeping you informed as we move through this process. Thanks to our generously pledging and contributing members who are helping to create the prospects for a robust and vital future for our religious education programming in the coming months and years.