by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
What was happening in the life of our church 25 years ago? By reviewing a few months of Board of Trustees meetings held in the spring of 1998, we might reflect on the issues that Heritage UU Church faced a quarter century ago. During that time period, Dave Spinney served as President of the board. Other members who served during that term were Jim Crocker-Lakness, Sam Gamble, Julie Kane, Barb Lyon, Pat Murray, Tom Rockenfeld, Dawson Smith and Rod Vivian.
To refresh your memory, in case you put 1998 well behind you, here are some of the leaders in pop culture that year. “ER” was the #1 television show. “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin won the Grammy for best song. Titanic won the Oscar for best movie. In May of that year, You Belong to Me, by Mary Higgins Clark, was the top selling book of fiction and Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom, was the top-selling non-fiction book.
These may have provided diversions for our church as they looked ahead to the new millennium. The most important issue facing Heritage concerned the announcement that minister Elinor Artman wished to retire in the near future. The board saw the need for action in that regard on two fronts. First, a search committee would have to be assembled to begin the process of hiring a new minister. To that end, a retreat was scheduled for October 3rd to discuss the creation of a search committee. This effort was led by Peg Feder. Secondly, it was recommended that the church bylaws be amended regarding the search process. These amendments were to be recommended to the membership at the annual meeting in April. At that annual meeting, four changes to the ministerial search process were discussed.
(1) The first change transferred the responsibility for securing a new minister from the Board of Trustees to a separate search committee. In the church’s past, the search for a new minister had always been conducted by the Board of Trustees. It was believed that the board was involved in too many other aspects of running the church to commit to finding a new minister, a process that could take between 12 and 18 months. Instead, it was proposed that a seven-member ad hoc committee would conduct the search, five of those committee persons being chosen by the membership and two appointed by the board.
(2) A change was recommended that instead of a 75% approval of a candidate, a vote of 95% approval would be required.
(3) The third recommendation was to change language regarding the dismissal of a minister. The change would require that a 51% negative vote of the congregation had to be obtained to dismiss a minister.
(4) It was also suggested that a change be made regarding the responsibility of the minister to adhere to the church constitution and the UU Ministers Association Guidelines.
The first and fourth recommendations were approved at the Annual Meeting but items 2 and 3 were tabled for further discussion. A vote would be taken at the next annual meeting but the discussions carried far beyond that date.
In addition to these issues related to the search for a new minister, the finance committee offered its new budget projections for the 1998-99 fiscal year. It included a raise in the minister’s salary to ensure that Heritage would be competitive during the search process.
While the board was wrestling with the issue of a search for a new minister, other items were, of course, on their agenda. Jim Crocker-Lakness announced that Reverend Artman had been accorded the Anne Miller Award for Excellence in Religious Education for the Ohio Valley District.
New candidates for the board had to be nominated for the ensuing year. Those nominated were Peg Feder, Jill Frank and Jerry Howard.
It was also agreed that Sam Feder and Tim Kloth were to be the joint recipients of the Heritage Award.
Much time was spent in discussing the need to re-organize the committee structure in the church. Among the issues were: 1) attaining commitments from chairpersons and members to participation for a set length of time; 2) training sessions for committee members; 3) team building strategies for these committees.
It was also reported that the membership of the church had reached 134 with 122 of those members having voting rights.
As a postlude, the issues regarding the hiring process were finally resolved and a seven-member search committee was created. The members of that committee were: Cindy Berryman-Fink, Chairperson; John Simpson; Joan Stoffregen; Tamara Smith; Bob Booth; Kathy Nalepa; and, Jim Crocker-Lakness. The committee worked diligently and offered Reverend Bill Gupton as their first choice. He was accepted by a vote of 84 yes and 1 no and was installed as our minister in April 2002, a full four years after the Board of Trustees initiated the search process.