President-Elect, Vanessa Shaughnessy’s Address from 2020 Annual Meeting

My Dear Westside, it’s an honor to be your next board president! I’m humbled by the work of my predecessors, and deeply grateful for lasts year’s board navigating us through a time of so much upheaval, while still moving forward with increased transparency, connection, and deepened commitment to justice. It’s amazing to me what they’ve accomplished.

We’ve been without a called minister for almost exactly 5 years, and there have been times that have tested us deeply. But I’m incredibly proud of the ways this congregation has grown. We are at the threshold of a new beginning, and we’ve built a stronger foundation that will help us as we grow into the future.

My intention is to keep our forward momentum as we embark on the next phase in the life of this congregation. I expect that we will continue to prioritize equity, transparency, accountability, and relationship; we will continue the work towards renewing our commitment to right relations, both in maintaining right relations and returning to right relations when we falter; and we will be persistent in the essential work of anti-racism, internally, in community, and in the world.

As we go forward, I want you to know how much I value each and every one of you. If you’re one of the people who’s been here forever—I’m thankful for your dedication, hard work, and resilience. We literally would not be here without you. If you joined in the last few years—the depth and perspective you’ve brought inspires me and enriches us all, and I appreciate your willingness to invest in our collective future. I am so grateful to be in community with all of you.

I also want to apologize to the folks who asked me if they could nominate me this year, and I said no, it wasn’t my year, maybe next year. That was a true answer when you asked me. But since then, things in my life shifted dramatically. For the last couple of years, I’ve been working in non-profit legal aid, helping people avoid homelessness. But recently and unexpectedly, the funding for my job got cut, and I’ve had to come to terms with moving on from something that I really love that has been deeply fulfilling.

In the early stages of processing that loss, I woke up one morning realizing that this is exactly the right time for me to take on this level of leadership here. I see so much promise and so much value in this congregation and where we’re going, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to step into this role. I also know that I will be challenged to grow, and to those of you who have offered your encouragement and support—thank you, I will be calling on you to share your wisdom.

Of course, this will continue to be a year of transition in this congregation and likely difficulty in the world. It’s honestly been hard to even prepare my thoughts for this, because it’s impossible to know what will feel right, even a day or two in the future. There was a long time when I badly craved certainty, a certainty I thought we’d have soon. But the universe has been clear in its insistence that I let that go and learn to embrace the unfolding as it comes.

During these times, my heart is often heavy. The bubbly enthusiasm I had when I first made this commitment feels out of place with the realities of the last few weeks, but I know it will surface again when we need it to. I’m very, almost inexplicably, hopeful about our future.

I don’t know what this year will hold, but I intend to navigate it responsively and in collaboration. As we move forward, I want the flow of honest communication to guide us. I want to hear your worries, thoughts, injuries, and inspirations. I don’t expect it to be an easy year. But I have tremendous faith in this community, our new called minister, and our ability to navigate it together.

Print your tickets