Letter from the Co-Presidents
Dear Prospective Settled Minister:
By now you will have had an opportunity to examine the packet from People’s Church to ministers in search. We would like to introduce ourselves as committed congregants of our church and current Board of Trustees co-presidents. We’d also like to share some of our personal experiences at People’s Church.
Darryl Loiacano: In my six years as a member, I have been witness to highly functional leadership, surprisingly free of the typical dynamics of church politics, and a respectful manner of interactions between members. Congregants demonstrate a tremendous willingness to work hard– whether on large projects such as our fall bazaar and the spring service auction – or on the day-to-day operations of committees, of which there are many. As an openly gay man, I have experienced a level of acceptance that has been unprecedented in my life. Being a gay man is not work at People’s Church.
Sally Padley: After attending People’s Church during the 1970’s and dropping away due to personal circumstances, I returned in 2005. It was the best decision I could have made, and People’s is now a second home to me, and the most important element of my life – outside of family. I have been very involved in committee work; most importantly, on the Sunday Service Committee, on which I’ve been a very active member for years. As a widow, I have felt a level of acceptance and friendship beyond my expectations. This church is a place where my abilities and interests are needed and where the contributions I can make matter.
Together, we have been leading the activities of the Board of Trustees since last June. We believe that this level of shared leadership has strengthened the Board and set a fine example to the church as a whole. We are proud of our long history as a church, of our friendly congregation, of our ability to work hard and accomplish major goals, of our Welcoming Congregation status, and of all the people who do so much to make People’s a place where all are welcome and valued. We are also very proud of our exemplary RE program, which has received recognition from the UUA. The children and youth involved in it are becoming confident members of our community and an integral part of our church life.
We look forward to meeting our settled minister and to doing all that we can to make the new partnership mutually beneficial and lasting. We hope that you find your experiences at People’s Church as stimulating and rewarding as we have.
Co-President, Board of Trustees
Co-President, Board of Trustees
Letter from the President of Heartland UUMA
If you are called to the People’s Church in Kalamazoo, MI, you will be having the opportunity to join the Heartland Chapter of the UUMA. We extend as far north as Traverse City Michigan and as far south as Bowling Green, KY. I serve on our western frontier in West Lafayette, IN. We have at least 2 Chapter meetings each year; a favorite location is the beautiful Pokagon State park in northern Indiana. I attend a monthly meeting with a group of ministers near Indianapolis. Your clergy cluster would be centered southern Michigan. I cherish these monthly meetings because I give and receive ongoing support from my UU colleagues. This is an isolated profession. There is considerable distance between congregations. You may be the only clergyperson in your town that holds the values unique to Unitarian Universalism. The chapter also provides Good Offices Persons to support you during times of congregational conflict.
Mindful of our familial and professional responsibilities, as ministers of the Heartland District UUMA, we covenant to:
- Engage in theological and practical reflection through dialogue, study and openness to the prophetic voice
- Respect the diversity that is present in our total membership and the larger community which we serve
- Affirm and promote the UU purposes and Principles which guide the larger UU Association
- Minister to each other and our called communities in love and truth
- Worship together in ways that reflect our diverse callings and beliefs
- Follow the UUMA Code of Professional Practice and honor the principles of confidentiality and the calling of ministry.
- Levy and pay annual dues.
- Share the responsibilities of chapter leadership.
- Attend regularly scheduled chapter and regional meetings and special called meetings, as well as ministerial and congregational rites of passage.
Best Wishes for Your Search,
Rev Charlie Davis, Chapter president HUUMA
Letter from Our Interim Minister
Monday December 15, 2014
To: Prospective Ministerial Candidates, People’s Church of Kalamazoo Michigan
Congratulations! You have entered into the dialogue and discernment phase with the Ministerial Search Committee at People’s Church of Kalamazoo. It is my privilege to summarize, in a few sentences, some of the signature qualities of this outstanding congregation and its surroundings.
People’s Church is a model of a healthy congregation: Intentional, talented, energetic, resilient, and agile. The proportion of members who are actively involved is very high (over 65%), and the volunteer spirit (whether for manual labor, care-giving, or serving on committees and ad-hoc teams) is strongly indicative of the church’s coherence. I would also call this a high-expectation congregation. They are intentional about all aspects of congregational life: from Sunday services and religious education to governance, community outreach, partner church initiatives overseas, and emerging ministries (e.g. young adult programming). The three most controversial issues in UU congregations (“joys & concerns”; spoken announcements; and theological diversity) are not contentious here, because they have thoughtfully considered, and agreed upon, how to be different together, toward achieving the common good. In describing this congregation as “high-expectation”, I’m not suggesting the Navy Seal model — wherein “only a very few are good enough”. Rather, People’s Church members encourage, foster, and celebrate the best in one another. They are well-grounded amidst the uncertainties of ministry-transition. While still adapting to some financial and staffing challenges, the ethic of good will and trust over-arches the particularities of any given situation.
Does People’s Church have ongoing challenges? Indeed! Like many UU congregations, People’s Church is asking, “How shall we be in the world, yet not of the world? Can our church serve as a beacon of worth and dignity, while being imbedded in a regional culture whose values may sometimes be at odds with ours? Can a UU congregation in SW Michigan be pluralistic, while remaining strongly aligned to the values of our free faith?” I’ve suggested to the congregation, and would also suggest to prospective candidates, that asset-based thinking will be crucial. If People’s Church is to build new ministries and engage those expressions of theology, ethnicity, sociology, etc. which are traditionally under-represented among UU’s, these efforts must build upon our existing strengths – by re-claiming, energizing, and amplifying what is already working very well.
A word about the regional context of Southwest Michigan. Greater Kalamazoo is a bundle of cultural bonanzas and surprises awaiting discovery. Little did I imagine, just six months ago, that Kalamazoo would offer to me and my wife opportunities in just one year to:
Visit art galleries, botanical gardens, and museums comparable to the best in Europe;
Attend operas on par with La Scala in Milano, and dramatic / musical theatre equal to Broadway;
Sing the choral music of Mendelssohn (“Elijah”) and Brahms (“Ein Deutsches Requiem”) in concerts with world-class soloists / maestros / orchestras.
Hear the brass of the Chicago Symphony, and the musicianship of maestro Riccardo Muti.
Feast on Hogzilla BBQ—a local specialty equal to the best anywhere!
People’s Church awaits your enthusiasm and dedication. I would welcome the chance to chat further with ministerial candidates who wish to give me a call. My best wishes to you in your search process!
Rev. David A. Johnson, Interim Minister, People’s Church (August 2014 – July 2015)
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org tel. 269-330-8495
Update: Our interim minister David Johnson experienced a mild stroke in early December while he was out of town. After 4 weeks of rehabilitation therapy he returned to Kalamazoo to continue his service to the church and would be glad to speak with interested ministers.
Letter from our Director of Religious Education and Co-chair of Heartland LREDA
Dear Prospective Minister,
I am excited to welcome you to our congregation at People’s Church. This is my 18th year at People’s Church and 13th year as the DRE. I think you’ll find that we have a wonderful, welcoming community that offers many opportunities for religious growth, service and learning. Our lifespan religious education program is an integral part of our church community.
Our program for children and youth has 140 registered participants and an average attendance of 70-80 each week. After 15 years of using a pillar curriculum model, we decided to use this time of transition to explore different models. This year we are using Tapestry of Faith curriculum with great success with all ages; the exception is for our middle school youth who alternate between OWL and Coming of Age programs. We offer OWL classes for each age group in a rotation and have a variety of trained facilitators for each of those classes.
People’s Church has an active group of about 20 youth who are involved in regional youth activities as well as within our own congregation. We appreciate their contributions in the Sunday service reading the chalice lighting words each week as well as helping in all church activities such as our annual bazaar. Our youth enjoy sleepovers, social justice projects, participating in youth conferences, trips to Lake Michigan and just hanging out together.
Our RE program has a host of dedicated leaders and teachers who enjoy working with an enthusiastic and energetic group of children. We strive to create a safe and fun place where our children and youth can feel free to be their authentic selves and traverse their own individual religious paths within the safety net of our church community. At the heart of creating this safe and fun place are many opportunities for children and youth to deepen their connections with each other. This fall, 45 children participated in a sleepover at church complete with a costume parade and teen led haunted house.
We have a talented religious education committee that keeps our large and varied RE program going strong. Religious education activities receive widespread support from our whole church community. At our RE Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon last spring we honored over 200 volunteers who assisted in RE in some way over the year. It takes a village to raise this many UU’s and we are grateful to have so many willing and able villagers to offer support in a variety of ways.
I look forward to working collaboratively with a new minister to foster a healthy church system that is welcoming to newcomers and provides ample opportunities for everyone involved to nourish their spirits, practice living in right relations, learn, grow and live out our UU values together.
I think you will find a warm welcome from the open and loving people at People’s Church of Kalamazoo.
Diane Melvin, Credentialed Director of Religious Education and Co-Chair of the Heartland LREDA Chapter
Letter from the Director of Transition, MidAmericanRegion
2355 Fairview Avenue #312
Roseville MN 55113
I am so glad that you are considering coming to the MidAmerica Region!
MidAmerica was created in July, 2013, when the Central Midwest, Heartland and Prairie Star Districts merged to become a new regional structure. We are excited to have accomplished much in our first year as a region—it has been a bold new adventure for us as we discover even more ways of helping congregations do what they wish to do, and do it better. We say that our job is also to build congregational capacity, rather than being the congregations’ capacity. We are expanding our outreach across our new regional boundary. We are delighting in getting to know the congregations across our region, and congregations have the ability to reach out to any of us to learn more—the person you call might not know the answer, but they will get you to the person who can answer that question!
We have 185 certified member congregations located in all or part of thirteen states. We are creating a policy based Board that also brings forward the best in generative leadership. We have six program staff, all with the title of Congregational Life Consultants. We approach our work as “deep generalists”—we each have generalized knowledge of the basics of congregational life, and then, each of us goes deep into particular areas of responsibility and congregational skills. You can see the staff biographies and areas of responsibility and expertise on the MidAmerica website: go to http://www.midamericauua.org/about-us/staff. Our work is augmented by our administrative staff, and by a cadre of consultants who can help your congregation move forward with its mission, vision and dreams. We value the congregations that pay their full fair share regional dues, and honor them by offering many services for free or at a reduced cost. We also realize that this economy has hit MidAmerica hard—congregations have been faced with difficult choices and we’re looking at how to provide training and support in the most cost effective ways. Many of our trainings are now on-line trainings, or provided in cluster settings throughout the region. Last year, we held our Regional Assembly in four locations, connecting them through technology. This year, we will be meeting as one, and for the first time in recent memory, the three UUMA Chapters will be meeting together before the Regional Assembly.
Within the region there are three active UUMA Chapters—they are open to attendance at their meetings from any of the ministers in MidAmerica. Depending on which chapter, you’ll find that you can meet with colleagues 2-3 times a year in retreat settings, and there are also many clusters that meet monthly. The same is true with the LREDA chapters—they meet in a variety of ways to try to help connect faith development staff within the region. We are seeking to reduce the “silo” mentality that too often separates ministers and religious educators, and we try to serve the staff in a team approach that we believe helps foster great relationships within the congregations.
People’s Church in Kalamazoo is a congregation many envy. There is a sense of “can do” about the congregation—not many congregations would choose to go ahead with a rebuilding/renovation during the financial downturn in Michigan, but they did. The resulting building is much more invitational and functional than it was before then. They value long ministries. Despite the hard ending of a ministry in the early 1990s, the ministry with Jill McAllister was another longer-term one, lasting twice the current average. During that time, Jill and the congregation members worked hard to open up to a wider understanding of theological possibilities for the members. They also worked to move social justice from something individuals did to something that the congregation embraced. There are few social justice projects in town that do not have People’s people in the heart of them. The leadership works hard to learn more about what it means to be good leaders, and there is rarely conflict as they voice differences in opinions. The Religious Education program is also a strength. With a long-term DRE in place, there is a consistent excellence that makes the congregation attractive to families.
One nice development over the past four years is that People’s has begun interacting more directly with UU Community Church of Southwest Michigan. Community Church began after the unhappy departure of the minister in the early 90s, and for a long time, there was no connection between the congregations. But recently they have begun to work together in specific ways that benefit both congregations. Notable is their joint Christmas Eve services. It is good to see that the dispute that divided them years ago is no longer strong enough to separate them in collaborating well together as they choose.
I have been impressed by People’s for a long time, and believe that they truly are a congregation to envy.
Please feel free to be in touch as you continue your search so that I can begin to get to know you and welcome you to MidAmerica. We can provide you insights into the congregation you’re considering, too, so please be in touch with me. If I’m not the person with the in-depth knowledge of this particular congregation, I’ll connect you with others who can give you that information. Here in MidAmerica we strive to make our Unitarian Universalist congregations ever stronger so that we can offer what the world so badly needs. We look forward to you joining us.
Rev. Dr. Lisa Presley
Director of Transitions
Letter from ISAAC Officers
Dear Candidate for Ministry at People’s Church of Kalamazoo,
People’s Church has been energetically engaged for twelve years in our interfaith organizing network of congregations and strategic partners working together to build a more just community in Kalamazoo County. If you become the Minister of People’s Church, you would be most enthusiastically welcomed as a clergy colleague in this interfaith work.
People’s Church was a founding member of ISAAC in 2002. Individual members of People’s Church have been key leaders of ISAAC ever since, including the current Vice President for Leadership Development and current and past leaders of the ISAAC Task Forces on Education & Early Childhood, Affordable Housing, and Public Transit. The previous minister of People’s Church played an important role on the ISAAC Executive Committee as Vice President for Finance. Some of ISAAC’s hardest-won victories–such as the Nurse-Family Partnership for at-risk first-time parents from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday, and the KC Ready 4’s program of high quality preschool for all four year-olds in the county, regardless of ability to pay — would not have happened without leadership from People’s people.
People’s members have consistently and dependably turned out large numbers of congregants for ISAAC training, listening campaigns, issues conventions, task forces, voter registration, public meetings and annual banquets. They have enthusiastically volunteered in the ISAAC office, on fundraising campaigns, on event planning committees, and on special projects. The ISAAC Founders’ Award was presented to People’s Church for its outstanding contributions.
People’s members have helped our interfaith organization better understand what it means to be truly “interfaith.” They have also encouraged members of other ISAAC congregations to join them in taking the excellent anti-racism training available in this community.
We hope you want to join us by taking an active part in our diverse interfaith network. We would eagerly welcome you at the table for this important work of congregation-based community organizing for social justice…
Yours in faith,
Pastor Douglas King
Grace Covenant Ministries
Pastor Matt Weiler
Sunnyside United Methodist Church