As promised in our discussions this weekend, the Board would like to provide more context around the mutual agreement of Rev. Christopher’s transition out of his ministry with Westside UU. We will focus on the Board of Trustees ministerial supervision process in this communication.
In the fall, the Board designated Laura Pierce and Marco Deppe as leads to work regularly with Rev. Christopher in a supervisory capacity with the goal of nurturing the health of our congregation, building collaboration, supporting effective leadership, responding to issues or concerns together and mutual respect of open communication. Supervision of our minister is a primary responsibility of the Board. Some of the topics discussed centered around defining and rebalancing job responsibilities, the RE program transition, collaboration with committees, pastoral care, communication, prioritizing, and timely task completion.
As part of our supervisory process, the Board also conducted a congregational minister evaluation aligning with the UUA Preliminary Fellowship performance standards (an annual review process required by the UUA for new ministers in their first three years of service). The survey was open to all community members and 65 WSUU members and friends participated. Although specific individual comments will not be shared due to confidentiality, the Board received the following summary feedback from this survey.
Overall, respondents shared that Rev. Christopher exhibits strengths in the areas of writing and delivering compelling sermons, planning thoughtful worship services, demonstrating deep knowledge of UU theology and history, and advocating for social justice principles. Areas for growth are learning to work collaboratively with others, effective and timely communication, consistent follow through and staff and volunteer management.
After sharing the specific results with Rev. Christopher, Laura Pierce and Marco Deppe reached out to Rev. Sarah Schurr, our regional UUA representative, for guidance in the Board’s supervisory relationship with Rev. Christopher on behalf of the congregation. She recommended that we meet with Rev. Christopher in a series of meetings facilitated by UUA regional staff (herself and Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith) with a Good Officer present to support Rev. Christopher.
This series of meetings led to a conclusion on March 3rd that Rev. Christopher would end his ministry at Westside by mutual agreement between Rev. Christopher and the Board of Trustees. As stated by our Board President on Sunday, it would be inaccurate to assume that this mutual separation is a result of opinions and feelings in areas of congregational debate such as the adoption of the 8th Principle, COVID safety decisions or actions around Disruptive Behavior policies. It would also be inaccurate to assume that personal philosophical or theological opinions held by Rev. Christopher, by Westside congregants, or by Board members, led to this transition out of ministry at Westside.
The Board is now working on the next steps of this transition. At the end of March, after Rev. Christopher’s surgery and recovery period, Laura Pierce, Marco Deppe, Rev. Christopher, his UUA Good Officer, and Rev. Sarah Schurr will reconvene to discuss the process and schedule for his departure.
As a spiritual community, it is essential to acknowledge that we are undertaking another challenging transition together. We owe Rev. Christopher gratitude. We recognize that joining us as our minister during a pandemic has been difficult and we appreciate the gifts that he has brought to us.
Importantly, this is a time to lean in to support each other and our community. Please help us make this transition with grace by forgoing side conversations ungrounded in fact. Let us hold each other tenderly and remember what we love about each other. Overall, the goal of the Board is to commit to a healthy transition process with our minister grounded in love. We will continue to update you as we plan the next steps.
In loving community,
Your Board of Trustees