Dear members and friends;
I will officially begin work on Sunday morning, August 12, but will be available for urgent matters prior to that. The board and staff members can get messages to me.
I want to thank the Search Committee for working hard to learn the needs of the congregation, and search for a candidate who will meet your needs. In no particular order, Shawn Ultican, Jane Chapin, Brian Watson, Jill Clarridge, and Redge Campbell, you have my deepest gratitude. Also, although I have not had the opportunity to meet Peggy Kent, I understand she was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the search process. Thank you all.
It will take some time for me to get to know each of you -- and I look forward to that! However, I can share some things to help you get to know me...
First, please feel free to call me Mike. I'm in my 40s, I have a male partner (Glenn), and three cats who only pretend to get along. My family is scattered up and down the west coast, while Glenn's family is mostly in New England. One sister is in Moscow, Idaho, and sometimes attends Rev. Liz Stevens' new church -- small world! The other two sisters both live in Spain -- big world! I have parents in Medford, Oregon and Monterey, California.
Professionally, I have served the UU movement in various capacities at the big churches in San Francisco and San Diego, as well as at a UU retreat center in Rowe, Massachusetts—which is where Glenn and I met, a couple of years ago.
My specialties have been liturgical design (the creative parts of planning Sunday services, and rites of passage or other rituals), small group facilitation, and nonprofit administration. I've taught at Starr King School for the Ministry (adjunct faculty for one semester), and I completed my Master of Divinity at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Prior to this, I worked in healthcare (mostly in psychiatric facilities, later in administration); but I always felt that my 'real' work was that I volunteered for many, many years as program staff for various spiritual retreats. I have also done a lot of work relating to GLBT rights and advocacy to improve access to HIV care for those in need, and have managed nonprofits in both professional and volunteer capacities. For 8 of my 15 years in healthcare, I was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy. In fact, my first duty station was Bangor, and I'm excited to be returning to the Pacific Northwest!
Some of my non-ministerial interests include: Art as a spiritual or contemplative practice, including textile arts, lapidary, and many other art-forms; recreational reading and watching movies, especially speculative fiction; "Sunday" drives, hiking and otherwise appreciating the awesomeness of nature; music, especially Celtic and folk; and animals.
Some of my ministerial or theological interests include (in other words, some things you might see or hear from me on any given Sunday): Rites of Passage and recognition of major life milestones; Forgiveness; Liturgical Arts; Civil Rights for All; Healthy Relationships, and Interdependency instead of Codependency; Wisdom of the Ages (i.e., from all ages of time and/or from all ages in life); Observances of World Religions, and Interfaith Dialogue; Earth- based Spirituality, seasonal observations and our interdependency with the world around us (our Seventh Principle); and many more...
Early on in my time with you, I will wish to collaborate on several items:
- Hosting various social and fellowship events, to allow us to get to know each other and build community.
- Working with the Board to define particular goals for our three-year developmental ministry, and a rubric to assess progress on these goals.
- Working with various Committees and Fellowship members to determine the congregation's needs, regarding pastoral care, social justice, religious education and faith development, liturgical design and worship, usage of the Education Building and rentals, and in any other areas that might need attention.
- Working with the Staff to ensure we are offering necessary services to the congregation.
- And, working with musicians and other liturgists to create Sunday services that touch the heart and mind.
A few words about music -- I'm a lover of music, but not much of a musician, so I will be seeking to develop working relationships with many local musicians. In an old sermon, I once wrote:
Think of music, as if it were magic. The fiddles are squealing, the drums beating the rhythm of your heart... In a dream of synesthesia, I imagine the notes of music as colors, swirling around me... Musical rain- drops become paint drops on the canvas, with more grace than Jackson Pollock. The sine waves of sound become waves of color washing over me like ocean waves. Chords crackle like lightning, but not like thunder. And then, I’m “pulled from the wreckage of my silent reverie...” (as Sarah McLachlan would sing.) Many of you may have already discovered how mindfulness and music can work together to achieve a worshipful experience. We see this in many congregations, to one degree or another, during our Sunday services.
That sort of experience will be my goal for our services.
Many of you might have questions about "Developmental Ministry". It is a fairly new category of ministry in the UUA, created in recognition that congregations may have needs that are not well-addressed in a short "Interim" ministry. It is a goal-oriented approach, with several opportunities for congregational input and assessment. Towards the end of the second year, we should collectively determine if we're on course (or not). This will help us to decide whether to mutually engage in the process to change the "Developmental" ministry into a "Called" ministry (perhaps at the end of the third year), or to go into search for other opportunities. I like this model of ministry, because I'm a goal-oriented person, and will really enjoy gleaning your needs through a small group process (my particular area of expertise) and other means. This is a shared ministry, and will only work if we are working together. I'm not an autocratic type (this is one reason I left the Navy!) or a 'lone ranger'. Rather, I will seek out collaborators to make our ministry a success.
This is an exciting time. Glenn and I have lots of work ahead of us, as we pack up our home in Salem, MA, and relocate to the Kitsap Peninsula. I eagerly anticipate meeting you all in August. Until then, may your days be blessed.
To the journey ...
Rev. Michael Walker