Welcome Rev. John!
Our New Senior Minister
Join us August 20th as we welcome our new Senior Minister, Rev. John Morehouse and his wife Francis, into our community with open arms and loving hearts. This will be Rev. John’s first official worship service at MLUC. We will have a special after-service Coffee Hour to celebrate this new beginning. Sign up HERE.
Our Ministerial Search is Over!
Our ministerial search is over! We are pleased to introduce our new Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. John T. Morehouse who will join us August 2023.
Rev. John is a fifth generation Unitarian Universalist who has spent his 30-year career leading ministries that transform individuals and congregations. His ministerial record speaks to his passion for mentoring others, cultivating passionate leaders, committed pastoral care, and engagement across generations. He has been serving the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport, Conn. as Senior Minister since 2015, where he has cultivated a congregational culture of innovative worship, a strong and caring lay ministry, and engagement with the larger community.
Rev. John told the search committee: “I seek a ministry with that congregation who is committed to transforming their culture and their institution into a viable and courageous force in people’s lives, especially into the world changed by the pandemic. I do my best work when I am leading and empowering leaders to break through to a new size and institutional maturity. I believe that every congregation has a visionary ministry waiting to be born.” We are excited to work together to achieve that at MLUC.
In addition to his impressive credentials, the search committee found Rev. John to be open, thoughtful, and compassionate in our interactions with him. Others confirmed these impressions, describing him as “innovative”, “a calm and steady presence”, “warm and approachable”, “exceptional in the pulpit,” and committed to “widening the circle” and giving space for diverse voices to be heard. Many told us he inspires feelings of trust, integrity, and being deeply heard and understood.
A graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School, he is currently an Adjunct Professor and Teaching Pastor there, where he has taught courses in congregational polity and actively mentors intern ministers. Before being called to Westport, he served congregations in Frederick, Md., and Palos Verdes, Calif., each for 10 years, and was a consulting minister for three years at a congregation in Leesburg, Va.
Rev. John and his wife, Francis, have five adult daughters and three grandchildren.
The search committee was unanimous in our recommendation and the Board of Trustees unanimous in its decision to bring Rev. John to MLUC. We look forward to beginning our ministry with Rev. John in August.
Board of Trustees
Ministerial Search Committee
Dear Members and Friends,
We are forging ahead in our search for a minister and want to make sure you are all informed of the process and next steps. First of all, thank you to everyone who joined us for the Q&A on Feb. 5. We appreciate your time and thoughtful questions.
For those who were unable to attend, we would like to share some background about the settled search overall, the decision going forward, and next steps.
As reported earlier, the right ministerial candidate for settled search for our congregation did not emerge out of our extensive settled search process. In meetings with the UUA, we learned that “this has been a most unusual search year”. There were 35 congregations and 54 ministers in the settled search this year and 10 of the 35 congregations either found no candidates or had only one candidate going into the next pre-candidate screening. As in other industries, the pandemic and the great resignation impacted the pool of ministers in search this year. Many experienced ministers retired early or left due to burn-out, and the opportunities for newer ministers to build experience were interrupted by the pandemic. Our pool of candidates reflected these dynamics, with many in the very early stages of their ministerial careers
With this information, the Board and the Search Committee met and discussed three options for the search moving forward:
- Go for a second round of settled search (with likely the same pool of candidates)
- Change to Developmental Search
- Extend the Interim Period
The Board voted for the second option, a developmental search. This search option offers the best chance to see a new pool of experienced candidates, and allows the congregation to get started in the near-term on five identified developmental goals (see below).
The Board asked the Search Committee to conduct the search for a developmental minister on its behalf.
What is developmental ministry?
It is an opportunity for congregations to work more specifically on key goals essential to the long term sustainability and growth of the congregation with an experienced ministry partner. The UUA limits the number of congregations that can enter into a developmental search each year. This year we are one of eight congregations in the program. One of the advantages of this smaller group is that the UUA Transition Office can be active in identifying and recruiting ministers who have the experience and skills to help each congregation meet its stated goals. Additionally, the UUA Congregational Life staff will work with and support the congregation and minister during the ministry.
The names of ministers interested in ministry with MLUC during this developmental search will be released to the search committee on March 11. The search committee will review the ministerial records and materials, and conduct interviews with candidates, references, and others as part of the discernment process. If there is a good match, the search committee will make a hiring recommendation to the Board in advance of an offer to a candidate on March 30. With a Board hire, there is no candidating week and no congregational vote to call the minister.
Ministers hired through a developmental search have specific goals and generally stay four to seven years, similar to the length of our last three settled ministries. The Board and minister can adjust the term length and goals during the course of the ministry based on progress and new learnings. A settled search will be conducted in the final year of the ministry. With this longer period of four to seven years, our congregation and minister will have more space to continue with the good work begun during our interim and make significant achievements towards the following developmental goals.
MLUC Developmental Goals
These goals have been developed by Rev. Dave and the Board with input from the Search Committee.
Culture of Inclusion – further develop a culture of trust, emotional safety, acceptance, transparency, and appropriate boundaries to become a more welcoming, open and safe congregation. Strengthen the congregation’s ability to manage conflicts in a manner consistent with our UU values. Cultivate an environment that attracts and retains young and old, families, and people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and identities.
Public Presence – extend the visibility and relationship networks of the congregation to integrate the church more into the community and foster connections, engagement and participation in programs that exemplify our UU mission and help transform the local area, the larger world, and ourselves.
Generational Transition – develop outreach and programs and procedures that attract and engage younger families and processes to support and develop a new generation taking leadership while also growing our elder ministries.
Shared Ministry – Continue to develop the model of shared ministry among ministers, Board, staff, Lay Leaders, and Congregation.
Growth Systems – Sustain robust systems (and annual cycles) for membership and fundraising.
Finally, if there is no match in the developmental search, the Board will extend the interim period, which could be served by Rev. Dave, if he is available, or a new interim minister.
We will keep you updated on the ministerial search and we welcome any additional questions. Thank you for your continued trust and support.
Board of Trustees
Ministerial Search Committee
Dear MLUC Friends,
We had hoped to be sending a much more joyful update in a few weeks, however, in the interest of transparency, we are reporting to you now that the right ministerial candidate for settled ministry in our congregation did not emerge during our extensive search process.
While we had hoped for a different result, our charge from you was to find a candidate who would be a good fit with our congregation’s needs and aspirations, and who could build a longer term ministry with us. We did not find that person.
We are now moving forward, with the support of the Board of Trustees, to pursue a transitional ministry. Transitional ministers are hired directly, this means there will not be a congregational vote to call the minister. This selection process will take place over the next two months, and the search committee will recommend a hire to the Board of Trustees. We will keep you informed on the progress of this effort.
We are grateful for the trust you have shown in choosing us for this task. We believe that the time and work spent in this process has been an investment that has helped to deepen our understanding of the needs of the congregation.
We are acutely aware that the congregation is weary of change, but we believe that by participating in a period of transitional work, we will be in the best position to reach our congregation’s ultimate goal of finding a ministry partner who will be with us for a long time.
We know you all must have questions, and we are eager to answer them to the best of our ability. We will host a Q&A session on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 11:15 a.m. in the McGinness Room or join by Zoom.
Moving forward in faith,
Your Search Committee
Barbara Colton (Chair), Deirdre Gordon, JB Hillman, Bonnie Marzolf, Julia Rosa, Alan Scholl, and Teresa Zink
Our Congregational Record is live on the UUA ministry system for all searching ministers to view! This document, a long-form resume of our church, contains a profile of our congregation, an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, answering questions about everything from our programming, facilities, organization and governance to our detailed expectations for the next minister and for our congregation.
During the month of December, ministers will review the congregational records of churches in search and make their decisions about the churches they want to explore further. We will start to hear from interested applicants on January 2.
Meanwhile, we are working on the ministerial “search packet” with additional information about our congregation that we will send to applicants in January and we are preparing for the process and discernment work ahead.
We want to thank everyone who participated in the Cottage Meetings and Focus Groups in October for taking the time to share your ideas, views, and hopes for our next minister and ministry. In group and individual meetings, you shared views on the culture and future of MLUC and this valuable insight gave us a better understanding of the different perspectives in the church that we needed to hear in order to prepare the Congregational Record for MLUC.
We are busy finalizing the Congregational Record and gathering additional photos and documents for the accompanying “search packet”.
- Cottage Meetings – the sign-ups for cottage meetings will begin in late September for sessions that will be held during the month of October. These are small group meetings for members to share thoughts about the future of the church. We have 13 sessions scheduled so watch for the sign-ups in ENotes in late September – early October.
- Focus Meetings – these are similar to cottage meetings but with a narrowed focus on the activities and experiences of particular groups. Focus meetings are also planned for October.
- Congregational Survey – thanks to all those who completed the congregational survey. The results are being compiled and we will share the results along with Cottage Meeting feedback later this Fall.
- Beyond Categorical Thinking – we hosted congregants and UUA Transitions Office Director, Keith Kron, for the 3-hour workshop on conscious and unconscious biases around identities on Sat., Sept. 17. The session helped members in attendance and on Zoom to discuss real cases of biases in UU churches. The discussions raised awareness of our own biases and hopefully will help us be more mindful in our interactions with each other and with a new minister.
The Search Process
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has set out a careful process that both congregations and ministers follow to help ensure successful pairings of ministers and congregations. For congregations, the process can be divided into roughly four steps:
- Reflecting is the first step, where as a congregation we consider who we are and our vision for the future ministry of the church.
- Sharing that vision with potential candidates, telling them who we are and the important facts about us that will guide their decision to engage with us.
- Evaluating potential candidates and selecting three or four ministers we wish to engage with more deeply.
- Candidating and Call, an in depth process where the search committee meets with and evaluates the candidates and selects one person to present to the congregation. This candidate will spend a full week serving as the minister at MLUC, and at the end, if all goes well, we vote to call them as our new settled minister at our congregational meeting on April 30th.
Our Search Committee
The congregation has entrusted us to do the important and thoughtful work of selecting a candidate to be our church’s next called Senior Minister. Our task is to find the candidate who best fits MLUC, who can best serve the growth of the church.
Our goal as a committee is to be open and transparent with you about the process as we move forward. While there is a need for us to work confidentially during the interviewing portion of the process, your early engagement and input will give us the confidence to make choices that fit with our community’s needs and hopes for the future.
We are excited to be on this journey together! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to email the search committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any member of the committee.