First Congregational Church

Camden, Maine


An open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ
   

Transition Team

Welcome to the Transition Team online repository. This space will be used to maintain our documentation as we work toward developing our new Congregational Profile as the first key step in launching a Search Committee for a new settled pastor.

Transition Team Members

Betty Bates, Charlene Orne, Debbi Hitchings, Greg Worden, John Hufnagel, Lucy Goulet, Mary Kay Felton, Rev. Deb Jenks, Roy Hitchings, Sally Fernald, Sue Hopkins, Terri McKenzie, and Vicki Fletcher

 

2016 New Local Church Profile Template
Download DOCX

Shape of Discernment Process
Download PDF

 

Our Transition Process

Goal: Mid-December to send draft of congregational profile to congregation

Goal: Mid-January to send near final congregational profile to congregation

Goal: Vote on congregational profile at Annual Meeting and launch Search Committee

Progress to Date (based on Shape of Discernment Process)

  • Document Legacy and Oral History – Complete
  • Direction for Future – completed with November 13 congregation-wide meeting
  • Organization and Administration
    • Establish financial policies – almost complete
    • Safe Church Policy – Complete
    • Personnel Policies – Complete
    • Process for review of staff, ministry, and mission – almost complete
    • By-Laws – Complete
 

Transition Discussions

November 8, 2016

Dear Friends,

Once again, on behalf of the Transition Team, I would like cordially invite you to our fourth and final congregation-wide meeting this Sunday, November 13, immediately following the service.

In the last meeting, we discussed ministry and mission goals for the next minister. Several overarching themes emerged. The first, is that we want someone to partner with us and to be a spiritual guide. We also want a minister to lead in staff development. Also, administrative duties are unavoidable but clearly not a major focus for the next minister. It was also noted that the next minister should be acutely aware of what is occurring in the community. In this way, the new minister will help us examine our own spirituality and theology and put that faith into action as we explore new outreach and mission possibilities.

That is a wonderful segue into the upcoming question, which is: How will your vision of the minister we are now seeking assist the congregation in making an impact beyond its walls?

This question really gets to the heart of putting faith into action. Our congregation has had a long history of being active within the community. We have a very special relationship with Coastal Opportunities, 63 Washington Street, and of course Heavenly Threads and so much more. We also know that there is great need in our community even now. We see a surprising amount of poverty including child poverty, hunger, and of course opiate addiction. Throughout this discernment process members of the congregation have been actively exploring how we might best use our faith and our tools and our skills and our energy to help address those in need around us. How then will the next minister support us as we go out into the community? That is what we will discuss on Sunday.

But in addition to this, I don’t want to lose sight of the notion that we are not just another nonprofit. Knox County has more nonprofit organizations than I can count. And our goal is not to be a duplicate of any one of those. Instead, we often find ourselves called to fill in the gaps. Think about the SOS room or the Shields Mission Project. But, where the nonprofits are often focused on addressing the immediate needs, perhaps we can find a way to help address longer-term, deeper needs. Perhaps we can find a way to help those who need our help today to help others tomorrow. Perhaps that is even the proper role of a faith-based organization rather than just a nonprofit.

One of the primary goals of the discernment process is to help ourselves to unlock the potential that sometimes gets hidden when we find ourselves doing the same things over and over again. And yes, I know, this can be a bit of an uneasy time but it is also time of growth. And once again I will return to the notion that the congregation is energized, excited and committed. Ours is not a church that is disappearing but rather a vibrant church looking firmly to the future. So how will the new minister help us to continue to make an impact in our individual lives and on the lives of those people in the community around us?

I hope to see you on Sunday and once again thank you for all of your participation and yes, childcare will be provided.

Faithfully,
Greg Worden

October 24, 2016

Dear Friends,

I was incredibly impressed at the level of participation in our last congregation-wide meeting. Many people stayed for as long as an hour and a half. That really is impressive. All I can say is thank you and that means we are a dedicated congregation.

What I also found interesting was that the question, How does our congregation express its faith? was instantly live as we had two people visiting from Northern Virginia. They’re looking at Camden as a possible place for them to move to and they were church shopping. So this was an outstanding opportunity for us to discuss precisely what our faith means and how the church functions as a result of that faith.

Throughout our conversation and throughout the notes that people took from the other conversations two distinctive themes emerged. The first is that we are not a dogmatic church. We appreciate different faith backgrounds, different approaches to faith, and different expressions of faith. It really is quite simply open and affirming in that phrase’s broadest meaning. The other theme that emerged was in faith in action. Our community outreach activities are really a core of who we are and what we do. That is a pure expression of our faith.

Not surprisingly, two other sub-themes emerged. One was that the children are critically important to the church and how we approach our Sunday School and youth group activities are vital to the life of the church. The other is that music is also critically important to the church as a means of celebration.

What I find exciting about this, is that this leads us directly into our Sunday, October 30th question. That question is: What ministry and mission goals do you envision our next minister working with the congregation to achieve? How we approach this question is going to be very interesting. We have to think in terms of, do we want a minister who will be a spiritual guide and partner with us? Do we want a minister who will lead us and be an effective administrator? These questions are very important because as we write the congregational profile we have the option of choosing to search for a Settled Pastor or a Dedicated-Term pastor, the latter being someone who was selected for a period of years, perhaps five years. The former is the familiar, more or less permanent, minister.

If you remember back to the 45 questions that we filled out in the survey back in the spring, the purpose of that survey was to get us thinking about what kind of a minister we really want. We are getting towards that again in question three and in the subsequent question four. And again, this also speaks to whether we want a partner or a leader. I received over 80 responses to that survey and have summed up the top 12 responses which you’ll see at the end of this letter. What’s very interesting about this is that there is a tension between two themes in the results of the survey. The first is that there are some people who say we need an administrator and a leader. There are others that indicates that we need a spiritual guide. The other interesting tension that I noticed in the results of the survey are that some people say that social justice is key to what we do and who we are. Other people are very much opposed to social justice and are quite adamant about it. So that is something very interesting for us all to think about as we approach this Sunday’s question.

The top 12 themes that emerged from the questionnaire are:

  • #1 is an effective preacher/speaker
  • #42 is a compassionate and caring person
  • #36 is accepting of people with divergent views
  • #5 is effective in planning and leading worship
  • #38 is mature and emotionally secure
  • #3 helps people develop their spiritual life
  • #15 builds a sense of fellowship among the people with whom he/she works
  • #35 encourages people to relate their faith to their daily lives
  • #28 is a person of faith
  • #37 encourages others to assume and carry out leadership
  • #10 ministers effectively to people in crisis situations
  • #13 is a good leader

Please think about these points and these questions as we prepare for Sunday, October 30 and for our final meeting on Sunday, November 13. The question for that meeting will be How will your vision of the minister we are now seeking assist the congregation in making an impact on the world?

Thank you all for your help, your dedication, your energy, and your enthusiasm in this transition process.

Faithfully,
Greg Worden

October 10, 2016

Dear Friends:

On behalf of the Transition Team I would like to cordially invite you to this Sunday’s (October 16) meeting immediately following service in which we’ll discuss the next of our four questions:

How does our congregation express its faith?

We realize that we had too many people in the Pilgrim Room in the last meeting and it was hard to hear. To remedy this we’re going to have only 4 tables in the Pilgrim Room separated into the corners. Then we’ll also plan to use the Conference Room and the Mayflower Room. That will hopefully make it easier to hear. This way you can also think ahead and plan for one of the quieter spaces if you like.

We will plan to have food and coffee and childcare will be provided. I’ll give a brief introduction to our question and Transition Team moderators will also have additional ways to keep the conversation going and we’ll take notes as well. These are included at the end of this letter so you can begin thinking about your responses.

This question is an interesting one because it really gets at the heart of our congregation. How do we express our faith? Surely part of this is through worship, the verses and Bible stories that we focus on. For instance, I can’t remember a sermon focused solely on Revelations. But it’s also our approach to our kids, the songs we sing, being Open and Affirming, our outreach activities, and more. We’re not just a Sunday place after all. As we approach this meeting we can all think deeply and broadly about what it means to be — us.

At the last meeting some groups were finished quickly and others had longer conversations. That’s the way we expect it to be at this meeting too. So if you can join us but need to keep it short that’s OK. And if you cannot join us but would like your opinions heard please grab any one of the Transition Team members or call me at (207) 542-7691 or email me.

I hope to see you there.

Faithfully,
Greg Worden

How does our congregation express its faith?

  • What books of the Bible and stories do we tend to focus on? Are there any that we avoid?
  • What core lessons does the minister preach?
  • Why is the church Open and Affirming and what does this say about our faith?
  • What is our approach to Communion and what does this say about our faith?
  • Are we dogmatic in our faith our actively questioning and learning?
  • Why are outreach activities important to us and what does this say about our faith?
  • What is our approach to children’s education and what does this say about our faith?
  • When our children leave to go to college what is it that we want them to know and feel about their own faith?
  • When asked about our church and faith how do you describe us?

October 7, 2016

Dear Friends:

There are so many things happening right now, so many things bubbling up from this committee or that or from an ad hoc group formed to explore an idea. It can feel like we're spinning out of control. What is the common theme to each of these new ideas we're exploring? Do I get a chance to voice my opinion? These are common refrains.

What is happening right now is we are in a period of creative chaos.

When we launched into this transition period we gave ourselves permission to get unstuck, to break out of old routines and to begin exploring and asking "what if". Much of it was tacit as opposed to directed. For instance, when someone mentioned the possibility of changing the chancel area of the sanctuary in a meeting some months ago, I thought to myself, don't even mention that, it won't happen. But conversations were held. People asked, "what if". Drawings were made. We're now deep in the middle of that process. In the end we may vote to keep the sanctuary the same, and that's OK if we do.

In the middle of creative chaos many ideas will be brought forth and together we'll make decisions about next steps. And this is hugely important. It may seem like too much is changing too fast but at the moment it's really about thinking through the ideas. Decisions will get made in time and priorities will be set.

But what's exciting is the spontaneity of it all. The congregation has certainly become unstuck and is now in a free flow of possibilities. And this brings me to a question. What relationship do we as the congregation want with a minister? Do we want someone to tell us what to do or do we want someone to be a partner with us and be our spiritual guide?

As you know, the Transition Team will be holding three more meetings in the next several weeks, and we'll get directly to this question. It's important for us all to be thinking about this and having those conversations before and after service, at dinner or the grocery store.

What's interesting about this, also, is the UCC has changed the format of the Congregational Profile to include 4 types of minister. The familiar Supply Minister is there and, of course, this is the fill-in minister when Pastor Deb is on vacation. There is the Intentional Interim of which Pastor Deb is an outstanding example as she guides us through the discernment process. Then there is the Settled Minister. This is the more-or-less permanent type. Finally, a new type is called the Designated-Term Minister. In this type the congregation would issue a Call for a designated period of time, such as 5 years. At the end of that period the congregation could renew the Call for another year or more. Understanding the relationship we want with our minister will guide us toward choosing a Settled or a Designated Term. This is something we all need to think about as we move forward.

One more quick note is to remember that the Congregational Profile is now meant to be a document that we will review each year at our mandated two strategic planning sessions with Cabinet per year as noted in our new bylaws. This provides us with an opportunity to remind ourselves on a regular basis where we have been, where we are going, and who we are becoming.

There is certainly a lot to think about.

Faithfully,
Greg Worden

September 25, 2016

The question we discussed: Opening ourselves to God in prayer and reflection, what do you think is God's vision for this congregation?

Dear Friends,

Let me start by saying thank you to all who attended last Sunday's Transition Team workshop. This meeting, along with the next three, are opportunities for the congregation to be as directly involved in writing the congregational profile as practicable.

Our first question was about vision (the question is above). It was intentionally similar to the last of the three questions from the small group gatherings in the spring. This was to provide a smooth flow from one phase of our discernment process to the next. We've also had several months to think about this and therefore our thoughts likely evolved or solidified. Our subsequent questions will get more granular.

Because this was a similar question to the spring many of the same themes came up again.

Focus on the Community: We are indeed a community-centered church and have a long history with programs such as Shields, Soup Lunch and close relationships with 63 Washington Street and Coastal Opportunities and more. Did you know that there have been many conversations about expanding the role of our Board of Outreach, and we're actively polling members of the broader community to review additional missions that we might be interested to undertake? Since this is an energizing and important focus for us this will be reflected in the congregational profile, readying a potential new minister for community-based missions.

Music: Music has long been an important part of worship service. Did you know we've restarted the Music Committee and the Friends of Music concert series? Yes, this was actually last year but it fed into our transition.

Youth and Sunday School: We take the education of our children and youth very seriously. We enjoy seeing them on Sunday mornings as well. Did you know we recently passed a Safe Church Policy document aimed at keeping them safe? We've also restarted Sunday School. We have a junior youth group and a senior youth group, and we are actively looking for ways to get them involved in the worship service and involved with other members of the church. The Board of Christian Education also recently presented new ideas about changing the order of service for both adults and kids that would add more class time as well as worship services, especially for the kids.

Emphasis on Worship: Here too we have had a history of worship in a variety of ways and not just on Sunday. The Board of Christian Education, as noted above, has been hard at work along with Deacons examining ways of expanding our opportunities. Deacons is even looking at changes to the sanctuary to enhance worship making communion and baptisms easier to perform. Interestingly, there is a book on my desk, given to me by the Personnel Committee, called Dancing While Standing Still by Richard Rohr, that's focused on faith through prayer mixed with faith through action. This brings us back to the focus on the community as well.

Sometimes it does feel like we're dancing while standing still, like we've been at this for months with little to show for it. I heard that comment recently. The truth is we have a tremendous amount to show. In fact, I have also recently heard that we're changing too fast. This is the joy and the challenge—and the goal—of discernment. This is a time to allow ourselves to become unstuck from "that's the way we've always done it" or "the bylaws prevent us from doing that" (we have new bylaws too!).

There are two major outcomes of this discernment process. We are writing the congregational profile which will be used as a tool to launch the search committee and also as a strategic planning tool in the future. The other major outcome is, of course, the choice of the next minister to partner with us. But the real goal is a re-invigoration of the congregation. We haven't accomplished much? Yes, we—the congregation—have.

Faithfully,
Greg Worden
Transition Team Chair

September 22, 2016

This Sunday we begin our Transition discussions again as we meet immediately following service to discuss the first of four specific questions.

We are at an exciting time in our discernment process. There’s a tremendous amount happening right now. There’s a palpable buzz.

At this point in time I thought it appropriate to help put the process into perspective.

In the organizational change management discipline there is a method called Appreciate Inquiry. Many of you are likely familiar with it. It’s a simple but powerful tool to help organizations move from a static culture or one that’s stuck in routine to become an invigorated, energetic, confident and inherently optimistic culture. Those are indeed the very adjectives the Transition Team uses when we talk about the congregation today! In the Appreciative Inquiry method the organization proceeds through four phases. Please note that I have changed the names of the phases to be more appropriate for what we are doing.

Desire – This is where we begin, with a desire to come together, to support one another in a positive atmosphere of caring and shared experience and prepare to change in whatever way God may reveal to us.

Dream – Here is where we throw off the shackles of "that’s the way we’ve always done it” and begin to wonder what if. You’ve no doubt heard the buzz of many such conversations happening right now.

Design – In this phase we take those dreams and begin to sort them out and decide what we should do and should not do. We prioritize and make concrete plans.

Deliver – Here those plans become reality.

Thinking back to the discernment process you can see the first small group gatherings in which we asked the three questions, What brought you here? What keeps you engaged? and What do you want to see in the future? were part of the Desire phase.

That last question, however, leads directly into our question for this Sunday’s congregation-wide meeting. We’ll talk about God’s vision for our congregation. We’re now moving from the Desire phase into the Dream phase.

The next three questions become more granular and make a smooth hand-off to the Design phase. We’re beginning to write the Congregational Profile already. Many presentations, plans and budgets are also being readied. Then we’ll launch the Deliver phase formally with the Annual Meeting and the start of the Search Committee.

The journey has many outcomes but it is the journey that is the most important. This is why Pastor Deb reminds us that the process "will take as long as it takes."

It's also interesting that the Congregational Profile is a new template from the UCC this year. It is designed in a way that not only helps us in this short journey but also in our longer journey. It is specifically designed to be a strategic document that we return to periodically in our annual strategic planning sessions as mandated by our new bylaws.

The four phases I’ve outlined above can and should be repeated. I realize that with so much potential change buzzing around us it can seem overwhelming at times. But that buzz is a sign of a healthy, confident and inherently optimistic congregation. Take that buzz for what it really is: excitement.

See you Sunday!

Faithfully,
Greg Worden
Transition Team Chair

September 8, 2016

After a brief hiatus over the summer the Transition Team is back at work with an exciting agenda to share with everyone.

Recently the UCC has made changes to the Local Church Profile template which is the document we will develop and use to seek a new settled pastor. While we have gathered a lot of information from you already we cordially invite you to join us for a series of discussions on the questions listed below. These questions are all taken from the UCC template. In this way you will have direct input into the development of the congregational profile.

Sunday, September 25: Opening ourselves to God in prayer and reflection, what do we think is God's vision for this congregation?

Sunday, October 16: How does our congregation express its faith?

Sunday, October 30: What ministry and mission goals do you envision our next minister working with the congregation to achieve?

Sunday, November 13: How will your vision of the minister we are now seeking assist the congregation in making an impact beyond its walls?

It's exciting to see that, through these discussions we are moving more deeply into the core of church as an institution. Numbers 1 and 2 ask us to describe the faith we share and the ways we express and utilize it in worship and in service. Numbers 3 and 4 look at how we see worship and service shifting/strengthening/evolving based on the changing culture in which our faith exists, and, as a result, how our partnership with our new minister needs to be shaped. After solid preparatory work on the "outer rings", i.e., why we attend, what attracted us initially, why we stay, etc., we're now getting to the core of the beliefs and understandings that bring us to this work in the first place. Really exciting to be getting here.

You may also recall the 45 question Leadership Expectation survey that came from the former congregational profile template. We have compiled that information and will be sharing it with you as well. That information is directly relevant to questions 3 and 4.

Please make it a priority join us for these meetings. Child care will be provided.

If you are unable to join but would like to provide feedback please feel free to contact any member of the Transition Team or Greg Worden at gworden@yahoo.com or (207) 542-7691.

 

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