|The Search Committee did most of its work via Zoom|
After working together for many months, the Executive Conference Minister Search Committee has selected a candidate to recommend to the SNEUCC Board of Directors. This has been a process that was made unique by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic but one that was so obviously led by the workings of the Holy Spirit.
The Search Committee met for the first time via Zoom in December 2019 and then again in January in person for the only time at Newman Congregational Church in Rumford, Rhode Island. These meetings provided a time of community building and organization of the work to be done. The Rev. Lee Albertson, the United Church of Christ’s Conference Minister Search Coordinator flew in from Iowa to help the committee kick off its work.
Since the duties of the Executive Conference Minister as defined by the SNEUCC Board in the job description are fundamentally different from what has traditionally been expected for Conference Ministers in the UCC, most notably that ordination was not being required, the help of a search consultant firm, SIMA Partners, was engaged to seek lay candidates. In addition, Rick Heltne of SIMA created an assessment of critical leadership requirements tailored for this position. The assessment was based on interviews that Rick did with members of the search committee, some members of the Board of Directors, several local church pastors and the three Bridge Conference Ministers.
The Committee received 11 candidates who were interested in being considered for the job, 10 ordained in the UCC and one lay person. While the profiles were being received and reviewed by all members of the Committee, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, eliminating the possibility for an in-person meetings going forward. But, with the help of the most tech-savvy Search Committee member, Brittany LaFleur, an online process for storing candidate materials and Search Committee members’ reactions to the materials was created. This way, all members of the committee were able to share their thoughts with one another in real time.
Of the 11 candidates, five were chosen to go on to an interview. When one withdrew, we went forward with 4 candidates. All interviews were conducted via Zoom and the result of this first set of interviews, it was decided that 3 candidates would go forward to the SIMA assessment. When the Committee met with Rick to discuss the results of the assessments, the Committee’s reactions to the interviews were reinforced by the assessment results. This combined interview/assessment process left the Committee with 2 candidates.
The next step would be another round of interviews but before this set, the committee engaged in a mock interview. The mock candidate, Conference Minister Rev. Gordon Rankin provided excellent feedback that motivated the Committee to design a very creative final set of interviews. A set of three interviews for each candidate were held in one week, making for a marathon of interviews. Those interviews were intended to address that fact that the Committee would not be able to have the candidates travel to New England to meet in person with the committee and share some informal and well as formal time. So, these interviews were intended to provide a way for the Committee to interact with the candidates in ways other than the standard interview questions and answers. Here are the instructions that each of the two remaining candidates had for the meetings with the Committee.
Part 1: Mock Leadership Retreat
Imagine you have convened your first annual leadership retreat with a subgroup of the search committee playing the role of key board members. We invite you to lead a 45-minute mini-retreat to get to know us personally, to help us get to know you personally, and to help us start to strategize the implementation of SNEUCC’s vision. We can end this session with some time for debrief, fellowship, and any general questions you have about the non-businessy side of discerning this new role.
Part 2: Mock Press Conference
Connecticut and Massachusetts legislatures have both just passed Police Accountability bills that have created backlash from Police Unions for reforms like chipping away at Qualified Immunity. We invite you to hold a 20-minute mock press conference (including time for Q&A) with a subgroup of the Search Committee playing the role of the press. We can end this session with some time for debrief, fellowship, and any general questions you have about the public-facing side of discerning this new role.
Part 3: Dialogue & Case Studies
With the whole Search Committee, we invite you to a time of open dialogue for roughly 60-90 minutes or more if needed. We will have some questions and mini-case-studies for you and invite you to bring whatever questions you have for us to help with your own discernment.
The result of these meetings provided the Committee with the information they needed and with the help of the Holy Spirit, a final candidate was selected for recommendation to the SNEUCC Board.
This Search Committee was made up of a diverse group of people, all Spirit-led and enthusiastic about the vision of the Conference. Each one of them felt the historic nature of the charge that with which they had been entrusted and they worked mightily hard, while still having a great deal of laughter and fun over the many months they worked together. They are:
Rev. Chontell Washington, Chair, Beneficent Church, Providence, RI
Rev. Dr. Maritza Angulo de Gonzalez, Manantial de Gracia UCC, New Britain, CT
Ms. Persephone Hall, Liberty Christian Center, Hartford, CT
Ms. Brittany LaFleur, First Congregational Church, East Hartford, CT
Rev. Dr. Mary Luti, Old South Church, Boston, MA
Rev. Jennifer Macy, First Congregational Church, Somerville, MA
Rev. Jack Perkins Davidson, Spring Glen Church, Hamden, CT
Ms. Xaniyah Sanders, First Church of Christ, Hartford, CT
Rev. Timoth Sylvia, Newman Congregational Church, Rumford, RI
The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix is Bridge Conference Minister. Kendrix, a 2013 graduate of Yale Divinity, earned that school’s Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise in pastoral leadership, the highest prize conferred on a graduating student ...