Informal Half-Year Report from Rev. Alex

Dear Seattle Westsiders,

You’ll be getting a half year ‘state of the congregation’ meeting this coming Sunday after service. I won’t be able to be with you. I will be on the Oregon coast with Debra and family while we celebrate her birthday. I’ll be on vacation next week but will lead Wednesday meditation group and some prior scheduled meetings.

We know how difficult transitions in life can be. It’s very challenging to change ministers and have a long look at how the congregation looks and feels. Anxiety is always present during transition times. There’s always worry about finances, whether the minister will like us (impossible not to), and will we like the minister?

Last year sounds like it was a hard year. That’s not surprising since you were still discerning how Westside would be after Peg’s presence for so long. You said goodbye to Peg and welcomed Beatrice to Westside. You and she did important work last year that had to be accomplished so as to prepare for this year. Then Betsy left at the end of last church year and now Cynthia is your DRE.

These changes haven’t swayed you from your central purpose of being a loving and supportive congregation. Chaplain Mark and the pastoral associates team led by John Britt have provided excellent pastoral presence for many of you as well as support after Peg’s husband Wayne died in October. The Transition Team led by Liz Bucklew has helped to smooth changes this year and remains an invaluable resource for me as interim minister. The Worship Council bid a fond farewell to Chaplain Mark as he retired from his long tenure of leadership of the group.

The search committee led by Paula vanHaagen is hard at work interviewing potential candidates for you to meet in late April. The committee has done very important work and I have no doubt you’ll find an excellent candidate.

The Board of Trustees led by President Tracy Burrows has worked on several board goals that address transition issues like policy, bylaws, stewardship and much more. The core staff – Shannon, Bert and Cynthia – have all worked very hard to keep Westside moving forward with communications, the RE program and music. I am performing the annual staff assessments this month with all three of them as we prepare for the budget.

Laura White has brilliantly led the Membership Team this year and Westside has a goodly number of new members so far. How do new members become integrated into the congregation? Oftentimes covenant and affinity groups can help this process and Patti McCall has done a lot this year to create more covenant groups.

Is everything just fine and no problem? Well, not totally. There’s still concern about finances and various building issues like the furnace and lack of accessibility. And then there’s national politics seeping into Westside’s mission. Black Lives Matter is still largely a sign on the church wall. The marches last weekend after the Inauguration on Friday were an important start but political and cultural change will take years of hard work. That’s a challenge for us in our busy lives but religious communities can focus on social justice programs if there’s a steady focus rather than trying to work with too many causes at the same time.

Personally, my hope for Westside is that it avoids the temptation to be a place for liberal voices while ignoring the other voices in America who voted differently than most of us did in November. A safe haven for liberal religion – yes; a refuge for people who need a safe place to be authentically themselves while honoring the Principles and relational covenant of Westside – yes.

What I have told potential candidates for the settled ministry position here is that Westside is vibrant, healthy, and ready to move forward into the next chapter of Unitarian Universalism in North America.

Let’s hope the next six months are as fruitful and calm as the first six months were here. Calm and clarity are huge values to have in a time of rocky change. I hope we can continue to exude those attributes the rest of this year.

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