by MARY MCKENNA Convener of Council
At the beginning of February, Council and the Search Committee held a workshop to reflect and learn from our first efforts to find our next minister. We were privileged to have Simon Bland, the new Ministry and Congregational Support Officer join us to share his knowledge and experience. It was helpful to consider all our options, and wrestle with some of the complexities of considering a certain amount of interest from American ministers. We knew there could be Visa complications, but had not fully appreciated the onerous demands of this process including the costs and the requirements on us and on potential applicants. We had also not fully understood that there are interviews, training and a probationary period required by the GA as part of their acceptance onto the roll for British Unitarian Congregations. We can appoint a minister who is not on the GA roll, but the salary we offer is enhanced by the Speed Trust, which is granted only to ministers on the GA roll. In the light of both these complications Council and the Search Committee agreed, that in future, only applicants who are on the GA roll, or are in the process of being accepted on the roll, will be considered, and we will not accept applicants that require a Visa, as we are not a sponsoring agency.
In making this decision we are aware that we will need to put energy and effort into attracting interest from a qualified minister, probably from within the UK, or from a ministerial student in training. We will be renewing our promotion and advertising of our vacancy within the next few weeks. Through Simon Bland’s encouragement, we felt much more confident about our ability to attract a new minister, and felt much more supported by our active link with the wider movement.
The Search Committee has undertaken a very demanding responsibility on all our behalf, and Council expressed its confidence and gratitude to them. All five members of our Search Committee are busy people, Jon Bagust, Roger Hartley, Jill Woolman, Kris Calder and Margery Mackay. Despite all the demands on them they are committed to continuing with this task. As before, their role is to focus their energy on advertising and promoting interest from possible applicants. They have then to interview potential applicants, obtain references and make recommendation to Council on a preferred candidate. Council has agreed that together with the Search Committee, we will study any recommendations before inviting an applicant to come and lead a service of worship. As in the past, it will be the Members of our Community who make the final decision on the appointment of the next minister. There will be a confidential ballot at a Special General Meeting.
While we have a plan for going forward, we are unable to outline our timescales at this point, as this will be dependent on the response to our advertising and there may be constraints on potential applicants. What we do know is that all recruitment processes take months, not weeks, and it will be some time before we have a new minister in post. We hope to update progress at the AGM in early May. Meanwhile, Lesley Hartley is compiling an interesting programme of services led by our own members and guest ministers. By spreading the load, we are continuing to thrive, confident in our belief that we will find the right minister to lead us in the next stage of our development.