In another week, I will be the former Minister at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island. It’s a real transition for me as I prepare to leave and have culled out my books and files, leaving articles and documents for those in leadership and ministry who will follow me. I have said good-bye to some of you at my last service on June 16th and others at the Farewell Potluck the other week. Now the congregation has welcomed its new Interim Minister, the Rev. Darrell Berger and his wife at a Meet and Greet on Friday.
These past five years have enriched my life in countless ways. We have worked on many areas of shared ministry together including interfaith activities and partnerships, social justice, welcoming and hospitality, transgender rights and issues, Marriage Equality and Small Group Ministry. We have seen some changes in staff members and embraced new staff members. We’ve voted on changes to the bylaws. We’ve considered a Covenant of Right Relations. We have seen so many changes in New York: passage of marriage equality after we were one of the few boroughs and congregations holding a marriage equality interfaith rally. We have been active in immigration reform and held a number of forums and worship services on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
In my last three sermons, I spoke about the needs I saw for the congregation going forth: 1. continuing your understanding of what it means to be a Welcoming Congregation to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning people and to people of all ages and families of all kinds in the Religious Exploration program, 2. Make Welcoming and Hospitality the center point of this congregation—cultivate a congregation of appreciation and gratitude for you have so much to be thankful for and so much potential to transform UCSI into a congregation of Radical Hospitality and 3. I challenged you to consider what the congregation might be like if you call a Minister of Color if someone applies for the position. You already have selected an openly gay young adult Minister and a woman. How might a minister of color speak to your vision and mission of who you are and what is most important?
I take my leave of you with a host of precious memories and an enduring love for you all. As I said at my farewell potluck, one of my core beliefs is that we make connections with one another and those connections continue long after we are not actively involved in one another’s lives. All of the changes we have wrought in one another; all the care and compassion we have built together, morphs and continues in an ongoing way.
The Board, Rev. Darrell Berger and myself have agreed to a Covenant after I depart. In this covenant, it stresses that Rev. Berger is your minister once I leave. I will only have communication with a few people in leadership around my new ministry with Sandy Recovery, a position I started on June 1st. Rev. Berger has agreed that I can do non-member weddings and rites of passage and that I can continue my work on Staten Island in the community. However, the Covenant states very clearly that if any conflicts arise within these parameters, he has only to communicate that to me and I will stop participation in those areas as well. Once a Unitarian Universalist parish minister leaves a parish, they cease contact with the congregation for the welfare of the congregation. Please know that though we will not see one another at church, you are always in my heart and memories.
I see in Rev. Berger a very effective minister. He has your best interests at heart. He wants to see you succeed and transform yourselves as you take on huge changes going from a full time minister to a part time minister. You can do this together with his help. He has great boundaries and a very clear understanding of what a part time interim minister is all about. You can trust him and learn from one another what will help you to move forward.
In love and gratitude,