Time to Celebrate!

At 12:50 PM on Sunday, May 10, 2020, if you had your windows open, you may have heard a lot of cheering and fanfare – and a huge, collective sigh of relief – from First U member homes after voting unanimously to call Rev. Hillary Collins-Gilpatrick into shared ministry at our beloved church!

The only thing missing from this joyful occasion was our ability to be together, in community, to celebrate and to welcome her.

We are so looking forward to creating our future together with Rev. Hillary, and to the day, whenever that may be, when we can welcome her in person.

What’s next? Well, as excited as we all are, please remember that Rev. Hillary’s time with us does not begin until August, as she completes her current obligations and plans her eventual move to Maine, along with Alexis and Smokey, whom we also welcome with open hearts.

Rev. Frieda Gillespie, who has guided us through the past two transitional years, remains our Interim Minister through July. Now that the Candidating Period is over, she will resume her role in worship services. Please continue to reach out to Rev. Frieda with any pastoral needs. We’re planning a celebration to thank her for her work with us – details to come.

A final shout out to the fabulous work of the Search Committee and to all who helped pull off the Candidating Period during a pandemic! Perhaps the stars were aligned just right, but the incredible hard work of the Search Committee truly paved the way for us to find just the right match. Well done!

In peace and friendship, and with great hope,

Joanna Landsman
President, Board of Trustees

Rev. Hillary’s Interests in Continuing Education & Approach to Social Justice

Rev. Hillary’s Professional Experiences & Approach to RE

Rev. Hillary’s UU Theology & Path to Ministry

Ministerial Agreement

The Ministerial Agreement between First Universalist Church and Rev. Hillary Collins-Gilpatrick is deep and broad, very unlike two-page letters of past ministerial engagements. Read a one-page summary of the Agreement below or dive into the longer, formal Agreement, also below.

If you would like to attend a meeting to review the Ministerial Agreement, please join in on the online discussion on Tuesday, May 5, 5:30-6:00 pm (and please scroll down to see a schedule of all of the open meetings during candidating weeks).

Candidating Weeks Schedule

Our candidating weeks are happening Monday, April 27th – Sunday, May 10th. During that time, there will be four ways to become acquainted via Zoom and phone calls.

  1. On May 3rd and 10th Hillary will provide Sunday Worship and Time for All Ages. The format will be decided as the days progress. All you need to do is keep an eye on your email. 
  2. Throughout these two weeks she will meet with church leadership – every council, committee and ongoing project – as well as with staff and our youth groups. 
  3. Individuals may have a private pastoral conversation (on ZOOM or phone call) with Hillary on May 7th or 8th. From May 3rd to 10th, Hillary will be our on-call pastor for emergencies as well. (Rev. Frieda will be available before and after that week.)
  4. Hillary will be at a number of informal events open to everyone. Please make note of the following dates and come to all that you can.

If you would like to receive information about how to attend the open, informal events, how to schedule a one-on-one call with Rev. Hillary, or to get other updates, please subscribe to our e-newsletter, Channels.

Introducing Our Ministerial Candidate…

“Greetings, First U! My name is Hillary Collins-Gilpatrick, and I come to First U from the White Mountain School in northern New Hampshire, where I serve as the school Chaplain, Religious Studies Faculty, and Farm & Forest Manager. Prior to my time working in the North Country, I served as a Director and Minister of Lifespan Religious Education in large and mid-size churches in the Boston and Washington DC areas. I received my MDiv from Harvard Divinity School with a focus in Buddhist Philosophy, and my BA from Smith College where I studied American Religious History. Prior to
pursuing the ministerial path, I was a high school teacher and also worked in youth centers and justice-seeking non-profits throughout New England.

A native Mainer, I have a great love for the outdoors and over a decade’s experience working on organic farms. While I appreciate, study, and respect all faiths, my personal beliefs are rooted primarily in Buddhism, a religion I have practiced since childhood. In my free time, I enjoy playing music, inventing recipes, watercolor painting, and going on gallivants with my greyhound, Smokey Jo, and my long-term partner, Alexis. I am very excited and curious to meet the congregation and begin discussing all the possibilities of a ministry at First U.”

Update: Search Reflections, Installment 2 – April 2020

Update: Ministerial Candidate Confirmed! – April 2020

Despite the ongoing disruptions as we work collectively to flatten the curve, this is still an exciting time at First U. In this week’s Channels, published this coming Friday, the Search Committee will introduce our candidate minister with a short introductory “Hello!” from the candidate. The Search Committee is very pleased to have found a best match among the pool of many outstanding candidates. With the candidate, we are finalizing the last bits of preliminary work that must be completed before presenting the candidate to the congregation.

Today we offer a short video of Dorothy McAloney, Dal Holtrop, and Christy Hayashida sharing their experience as members of the search team. See the link below. On Wednesday Anne Turner, Jamie Brookes, Steve Thomas, and Ben Tupper will share their thoughts in a similar video (look for it on the church website).

Following Friday’s announcement in Channels, Search Committee members will host the Sunday virtual coffee hour at noon. At that time the search team can join with you to celebrate and answer questions you may have. Traditionally, the congregation and candidate minister would convene a Candidating Week during which the candidate and minister would get to know one another before culminating the week with a congregational vote to call the minister. Of course, it will be different this year as we have to do all of that virtually. The candidate, search committee and board are working together to navigate the technical and scheduling challenges before us, but we are confident we can make it work. More information about virtual Candidating Week will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, please enjoy today’s reflections on the search and look for a similar edition on Wednesday. Then sit by your in-box on Friday and eagerly await your next newsy edition of the weekly Channels.

Update: Despite COVID-19, The Search Continues – March 2020

Despite the Corona Virus your Search Committee is still at work. You may have noticed that your Search Committee has been missing from church lately. We spent 4 weekends hosting ministerial candidates, eating meals with them, conducting lengthy interviews, showing them the church and surrounding area, plus experiencing their preaching at a southern Maine UU church. These weekends were enjoyable and fruitful, and we were blessed to navigate those weekends without challenges from illness or weather.

The committee continues to meet. We are sorting through a significant amount of information, checking references, rank ordering the candidates, and following UUA procedures. We expect to contact the best match candidate in early April.

Once we choose the top candidate and if the candidate chooses us we shall invite the candidate to come to Candidating week with us. We can not announce the name of the candidate until the candidate has negotiated specifics of their contract, authorized a criminal background check and notified their congregation. At this point we can release the name of the candidate.

With the church, state and country suggesting social distancing and small gatherings Candidating Week may need to be conducted differently than we have been planning. The UUA may have creative suggestions as to how to do Candidating Week. Please stay tuned while we figure out how to best introduce the candidate to the congregation.

Update: Neck Deep in the Search Process – February 2020

We search committee members have waded in up to our necks as we enter into the portion of the search devoted to what are called “pre-candidate” visits. During these visits we get to know candidates by socializing over meals, conducting formal two-way interviews, and observing each other in action. It is very much a two-sided discernment with each party faithfully trying to find the answer to the question, “is this a good match?”

Update: Navigating the Search Process – January 2020

We are right in the thick of things now, and, just as the days lengthen, we can see some light ahead of us.  We can’t provide you with any details about candidates without breaking our convenant with each other and with the UUA.  But we are pleased to share with you with a description of our process – it’s about how we operate and why we chose do things that way. You can access the description by viewing the PDF below.

Update: Consensus Decision Making – December 2019

For the past month, the Search Committee has been researching different group decision making methods to help us discuss and choose ministerial candidates. Of the many available methods we have decided, in accordance with UUA guidelines, that the consensus method will be the most effective in calling a best-match minister for our congregation.

Consensus is characterized by all perspectives being heard, explored and deliberated. Consensus is reached when no participants hold strong concerns that are based on the group’s stated purpose. Consensus decisions are preferred when the decision will affect many people, the impact will be deep, and the decision will last a long time. As important as the decision method is, so is the way in which the group discusses candidates. So within the consensus method, the Search Committee will follow a codes of conduct list, use structured discussion methods, and utilize roadblock guidelines as needed. This will ensure all views are thoroughly heard and explored in the challenging task of calling a minister.

Update: Search Circle Summary – December 2019

Update: Big Milestone! & Next Steps – December 2019

We are celebrating a big milestone! December 1st was the deadline for our profile to go live on the UU website so that candidates can read all about us. We’ve completed this important phase of the process, and will be sharing much of that information on our church web page, where our congregants can access it as well. For the next month, we will be working to prepare for our next task, which is evaluating those candidates who indicate that they are interested in being considered by us. We will receive those names on January 1, and will begin the process of choosing who to interview.

Update: Congregational Survey Results – October 2019

Congregants who are interested in looking at the results of the survey which was completed earlier this fall may access the information here. There are descriptions which summarize the responses, as well as much of the raw data.

The Search Committee On the Lookout for a New Settled Minister – October 2019

Update: The Successful Search (Sermon) – September 2019

Update: Congregational Survey – September 2019

One of the first steps for the church is the Congregational Survey, which is essential for a successful search. This is an opportunity for each of us to step forward to share our views and aspirations for our church community. The survey is now ready for your input. This is open for all members and friends, no matter what your age. Multiple people from the same household can each complete the survey, and no identifying information is retained. The results will be tabulated and compiled electronically, then shared with the congregation and with prospective candidates to give them an overall picture of who we are and what we are looking for. It will take about 15-20 minutes to complete, and we are hoping for 100% participation in the next two weeks. You may click on the link above and take the survey at any time between now and Sunday, September 22nd.

Our plan is to use the collected information to guide the Search Circles, the next phase of the process, where we will meet together in small groups to collect even more in-depth information from all of you. Stay tuned for sign-up details.

Update: Timeline of the Search Process – September 2019

Update: Gathering Information & Sharing Information – August 2019

Your search committee has been busy gathering information about First Universalist.

The UUA has established a process in which congregations looking for a settled minister and candidates looking for these positions do complementary tasks. Candidating ministers and search committees create a package of documents by which they present themselves to each other to describe both the church and the prospective minister. (Speed dating for ministers.)

In the near future we will be asking for your input in a number of ways. First will be the Congregational Survey which you will hear about at the Ingathering service on September 8th. More information to follow.

We expect to post updates on the website, in Channels, in the Sunday Morning News, and possibly on the church Facebook page.

If you have questions please ask any of the Search Committee members. We want this process to be as open and as transparent as possible. As with any hiring we need to honor the candidate’s privacy. Otherwise ask away.

We are working on your behalf. Thank you for the trust you have placed in us.

For the Search Committee

Steve Thomas, Chair

The Beginning – August 2019

Your Ministerial Search Committee has begun its work! The committee has had a productive weekend retreat with our consultant Margaret Beckman. We now have a comprehensive overview of the enormity of the task, and a timeline for our work, as well as the roles each of us will play. The congregation will have several very important roles in this process during the fall months. In early September, you will be asked to complete the Congregational Survey, a very important collection of data about who we are and what we think about our ministry. There will also be Cottage meetings and focus groups to gather everyone’s opinions. Please stay tuned for more information, and be ready to be a very active participant. Your voice is needed and very important!