Influence from Past Ministries

Returning to issues that emerged from my initial round of interviews with lay leaders, one issue that pretty much everyone consistently agreed on, was that Rev. Arthur Vaeni’s ministry at OUUC (2001-2014) had a positive impact, on both the congregation and the community. More specifically, the story widely told to me about Rev. Vaeni is that of a spiritually deep person, strong in the pulpit, active in the community work for social justice (especially homelessness), with a steady and calming pastoral presence, and little engagement with the administrative aspects of church life – more than one of you have said that he described himself as not strong on administration. (NOTE: I have no idea how accurate or inaccurate this description of Rev. Vaeni is; I just note that it’s the commonly-told story here about him.)

But the insight I gained over my various initial meetings is this: expectations built during Rev. Vaeni’s ministry remain influential. I heard a number of people express their hopes and expectations for a future minister. These expectations, delivered in conversation and in writing, largely correlated closely with this common story about Rev. Vaeni, both on concerns shared by many congregations & those more specific to OUUC. I’m hearing that most of you are longing for a good preacher (which I hear as a hope for the next minister in many congregations), spiritually grounded (which I hear much less often elsewhere), caring (which some churches emphasize more than others), and strong on social justice (common in congregations that themselves are strong on justice work). That sounds much more like this description of Rev. Vaeni, than the descriptions I’m hearing of Revs. Melcher or Perchlik. (Given that you’ve now been served in the last 3½ years by 5 different ministers – the 3 mentioned above, plus Rev. Carol McKinley and myself – I’m struck by how the earliest of these 5 still seems to influence these expectations so strongly.)

The point where you differ widely with one another in these expectations is around administration: some of you want someone directly involved in the administration of the church. Some believe strongly that the minister should have little or no involvement in it. Tied in with these differing expectations is some confusion over how much administration (or what kinds) are called for in our current governance structure, including the extent to which the minister is expected to function as an “executive.” (The Policy Governance principles do use this term, executive; in my experience, though, that word means something somewhat different, more specific in the context of Policy Governance than what it means any many other settings.)

Not that it will answer every question or disagreement, but I once again invite all members and friends to church on Tues., Oct. 24, 7:00-8:30PM, for “Policy What? Governance at OUUC.” It will be a one-time presentation about the principles of this governance model, and how they are applied at this congregation, including both their strengths and downsides, with extensive Q&A to follow. I hope some of the related questions to this disagreement can be clarified at that session.


In faith, Eric