Rev. Denise Cawley and Rev. Suzelle Lynch want to thank everyone for asking about how they are working together as UUCW transitions toward Rev. Suzelle’s retirement and the time beyond. They have important thoughts to share!
Our UU faith teaches us to employ covenant to help us with the HOW of things. How will we be with one another? How will we solve disagreements? What is our hope and vision for how we will attend to all the matters in our church is something a covenanting process can help us articulate.
COVENANTS ARE ASPIRATIONAL
Because both of us are members of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), we already had a covenant with one another as colleagues. But we recognized that we needed a fuller covenant that would describe our aspirations for our unique shared work at UUCW. Here are some words from the covenant that we have created as your co-ministers: “We recognize as valid and valued our different styles of ministry, our different ministry gifts and limitations, and our individual calls to ministry. As Rev. Suzelle moves toward retirement on January 31, 2022, and Rev. Denise continues in full-time contract ministry with UU Church West we commit ourselves to the interdependent goals of a good ending of Rev. Suzelle’s ministry with UUCW and the thriving of Rev. Denise’s continuing ministry with UUCW.”
COVENANTS ADDRESS POWER IN THE ROOM
As partners in ministry at UUCW, we knew it was important that our covenant speak directly to the power differentials between Rev. Suzelle and Rev. Denise. Therefore, part of our covenant reads: “We recognize the power differentials between us. Rev. Suzelle has been the called senior minister of UUCW for more than 17 years and holds identities privileged by race, class, and sexual orientation. Rev. Denise was UUCW’s Assistant Minister, holds multiple marginalized identities and serves as minister via a contract with the Board of Trustees. We hold each other as equal partners in this ministry and will strive for clarity of roles and responsibilities as Rev. Suzelle releases leadership of ministry areas and tasks to Rev. Denise over the weeks leading up to January 31, 2022. An open and frank discussion on these issues and decisions is expected; in all cases, we will ask ourselves what is best for the congregation.”
ANTI-RACIST, ANTI-OPPRESSIVE LEADERSHIP
Our covenant also includes anti-racist, anti-oppressive commitments: “We covenant to gently and continually call one another into fidelity to our commitment to a ministry that is anti-racist and anti-oppressive, recognizing that the governance systems of UUCW were modeled after and within patriarchal, white supremacy culture systems. We recognize that employing anti-racist, anti-oppressive collaborative leadership is key to the health of the congregational system and takes the focus off individuals.”
COVENANT TO ADDRESS DISAGREEMENT
You can read our full covenant HERE. As you read, you will see that we also included a procedure for disagreements but also a way for us to get help along the way. We have a minister-coach with expertise in family systems theory and congregational systems with whom we consult. This coach also helps us remain alert to the ways the power differentials between us may be affecting our ministry transition.
We offer this to you as an example of how covenanting works, as well as to share with you how we are proceeding as the baton of ministry is passed from Rev. Suzelle to Rev. Denise. Rev. Denise has already assisted in a process to assess staff, update job descriptions and ensure the staff has a review before January 31. Rev. Suzelle has stepped down from her roles with the Stewardship and Worship Teams and Rev. Denise has stepped up.
Our UUCW staff and the Board of Trustees each have a covenant, and some of our committees and teams have covenants as well. In our time of transition, covenanting can be very helpful in creating trust and a mutual understanding of mission or vision. Watch for more information about covenanting from your Board of Trustees in the months ahead.