Many of you have heard the news that Cathy Cartwright-Chow has decided to retire, this June, as our Director of Family Ministries. Cathy has served the families and children of First Unitarian since 2003. When she was hired, religious education classes were held in the maze of old structures that the Buchan Building replaced in 2007.
What a different religious education program she leaves. We serve almost 500 children and youth, in beautiful classrooms where dozens of adults teach and learn with our young people every week. Cathy’s legacy is a Family Ministry that is broadly embraced, broadly supported and deeply appreciated.
My intention today is not just to praise Cathy’s work. There will be opportunities to celebrate her later in the year.
I do want to share our plans to manage this critical leadership transition.
Rather than move directly into search for a person to replace Cathy, we will be taking next year to examine and reflect on our education and faith formation programs, across the lifespan. We will be looking for ways we can further focus and deepen our support for children, youth and adults. We will begin meeting with two skilled and experienced Unitarian Universalist consultants this week to help guide us. There will be opportunities for many of you to have a voice as we move through this process of discernment.
This transition therefore requires a different approach to staffing. We are opening a search for an Interim Director of Religious Education to support our families and our existing programs through the 2018-19 church year. We hope that person will be on board by the end of the current church year.
This is a different approach to staffing than we have used in recent changes. For the Music and Social Justice staff transitions we appointed “Acting” persons, who could then apply for the permanent positions. Mary Gear is now serving as “Acting” Assistant Minister with responsibility for our current adult Adult Programs and the organization of the transition of our entire education program toward Lifespan Faith Development.
For this transition in religious education leadership, we are holding open the possibility that a different staffing configuration may emerge from our reflection. We want the Interim Director to help us engage in the imaginative work without thinking ahead to what permanent role they might play.
We will be calling a Transitions Committee together to help us move through this period of change. Hiring decisions at the church are given to the Sr. Minister. But advice from our lay leaders is also critical. We will have congregant voices advising even in the selection of the Interim Director of Religious Education.
We will keep the congregation informed as we move forward into the work of this transition and look forward to the opportunity to celebrate Cathy and her achievements.