Your Senior Minister’s Goals for the Congregational Year

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

Colorful concentric circles in various colors, created by Rev. Nancy.

“What is mine to do?”

In my reflection from our August 22 worship service, printed elsewhere in this newsletter, I list this question as one of my great learnings from this pandemic era: “What is mine to do?” To which the answer has come, like a long-awaited revelation: “Not everything, after all!”

Congregational ministry is a wide-ranging job, and in the last couple of decades, it has expanded even further. I love its diversity and challenges. Each hour of the day can be filled with radically different tasks and spiritual-emotional-intellectual-physical opportunities for growth, always in relationship with you, with colleagues and partners in the wider of world of Unitarian Universalism and interfaith work, and with my own sense of Something More.

And we ministers admit: It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we must do everything, and we must do it all really, really well.

So this year I have created a bright handmade graphic to help me spotlight the areas of our work together that need my dedicated energies over the next ten months. The graphic consists of circles in different colors, set one inside the other and all joined at the bottom, so the innermost circle can shine—like a spotlight—over all the others. Each circle represents the whole of the congregational year, from August 2021 through June 2022.

You’ll see the graphic with this article. Let me describe it for you, too.


Circle 1: Healing and Adapting Our Lives

The innermost circle is a swirling purple globe—the beating heart of what I feel called to do this year. How shall we heal and adapt our lives in response to the pandemic and all the uncertainties these 18 months have laid bare? How will we work with and move through grief, trauma, change, and possibility to discover new ways of being and living—new kinds of broken-openhearted wholeness? I expect to focus on this either explicitly or implicitly in all our worship services, small-group gatherings, and leadership team meetings. It will flow like a living stream through every conversation I have this year, and it will guide everything I study.


Circle 2: Reopening and Experimenting with Hybrid Worship

The next circle with its red glowing rays represents our longed-for reopening of the sanctuary and the beginning of our experiments with multi-platform worship. My work here includes gathering the Tech and Worship Associate teams and helping them to unleash their awesome knowledge and talents. We are continuing our research on what we need and how exactly we can offer hybrid worship, and we have already taken our first baby steps by broadcasting from the sanctuary. Eventually, we’ll have volunteers who will populate and maintain our YouTube channel so that our services can be watched by folx far away as well as by those who have had to miss that Sunday morning’s offerings or who want to revisit a message that spoke deeply to them. Throughout the year, we’ll continue to experiment, and I’ll help to provide a container in which we learn to welcome and embrace change—even when it’s clunky. Let’s all remember: A sense of humor helps!


Circle 3: Supporting the Capital Campaign Process

Under the excellent leadership of Treasurer Jim Rumbaugh, Building Ministries Liaison Sue Pelmulder, and Pastoral Associate/Small-Group Ministry leader Nancy Coleman, we hope to run a Capital Campaign this year to ensure that we and generations to come at FUCSJ are fully equipped for the 21st century! My job is represented in the graphic by the green circle, the third one out. It begins with a dotted line, since my energies at the beginning of the year will focus on supporting this leadership team through its preparation stages. Then it grows into a solid green circle filled with exclamation marks, as I heartily participate in the visioning and implementing of this glorious opportunity for FUCSJ!


Circle 4: Offering Our Whole Lives (OWL), Grades 7-9

Director of Faith Formation jo mosher and I, along with volunteer facilitators Kristyn Greenwood, Jim Guffey, and Juliet Stubblebine, are well into our preparations for offering our comprehensive sexuality education program, OWL, to two sets of junior and senior youth this year. I will be leading the parents’ study group, and I so look forward to this deeper connection with our families. On the graphic, you’ll see the gold circle, the fourth one out, with its shimmery wave running from the beginning of the congregational year through mid-March, when we celebrate OWL graduation!


Circle 5: Contributing to the Wider Community

My work representing FUCSJ and Unitarian Universalism in the wider community remains central to my ministerial call, which is probably why this outer circle shows up in my favorite color—blue. This year I’ll put the spotlight on serving as Co-Chair of the Board of PACT (People Acting in Community Together), as well as encouraging, supporting, and participating in climate-change and indigenous-rights actions. But make no mistake: this work is never mine alone. It is part of our shared ministry, so we will be learning and growing and acting together … as we always do!


Continuing Roles

Of course my ongoing roles continue, even as these five spotlights bring focus for my energies. The ongoing roles include:

  • Worship prep and leadership for at least three Sundays a month, plus filling the pulpit on my Sundays off
  • Worship Associates development, in partnership with the Worship Associates Coordinator
  • Pastoral care, in partnership with our team of Pastoral Associates
  • Staff support and partnership, working with Office Manager Linda Yépiz and DFF jo mosher
  • Leadership support and partnership, working with the Board, Operations and Management Council, Membership and Connections, and so many more
  • Small Group Ministry (SGM) refreshment and expansion, working with the SGM Content Team, SGM Council, and SGM leaders
  • And more …


A Lot?

Yes, it’s a lot! That’s why this year I’ll be asking us all—myself included—to slow down, to notice what’s happening in our bodies as well as in our hearts, minds, and spirits, and to seek out what we need in order to remain healthy, flexible, and available to joy. We won’t accomplish everything, and we aren’t shooting for perfection. But we will make progress, and we will continue to learn how to Make Love Visible in all we say and do.


It’s going to be a wonderful year!