Since the beginning of July 2021, TPUUF has been without a minister. Several of our members stepped up to conduct services or contact and host guest ministers and speakers to fill our pulpit. On a few occasions, we shared services with other congregations. Our fantastic Tech Team of John Sayer and Mike McNeill ran virtual services on Zoom for many months. They also wired and set up equipment in our building to run “hybrid” services which people could attend in-person or on Zoom. Collectively, this was all a heavy lift that has kept our Fellowship running for the past year, but it is not sustainable.
The Committee on Shared Ministry recently polled many members of our congregation about what they wanted to see at TPUUF going forward. Many respondents put top priority on getting a new minister. Unfortunately, this has been a challenging year in which to be conducting a search for a minister. There have been a significant number of ministers retiring, both in our region and nationally, and the pool of ministerial candidates is smaller than usual.
Your Board of Trustees has worked with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to search for a half-time contract minister using the resources, staff, and website of the UUA Transitions Office. In the end of this process, there are often positions that go unfilled. This is even more likely to be the case this year. In a phone conversation with UUA staff, we were told that there were about 50 posted openings and about 40 candidates looking for positions (most looking for full-time positions). Members of our Board had also put out feelers with some of our guest speakers, and we received no actionable leads. To date, we have received no inquiries or resumes from candidates in response to our posting.
By April of this year, the Board of Trustees (which is also the Ministerial Search Committee), was becoming concerned that we might not find anyone to serve as our minister, and we were hearing from the UUA that the pool of applicants was expected to be smaller than usual. And then an unexpected and fortunate turn of events occurred!
Rev. Andrew Weber had been invited by the Worship Committee to conduct our Easter Sunday Service on April 17. Rev. Weber has given sermons at TPUUF several times over the past two years, and we have had positive feedback from the congregation on those services. The Worship Committee had also arranged with Rev. Weber to conduct our Flower Communion service on June 12.
After the Easter service in April, Rev. Weber asked me if TPUUF was looking for a half-time minister. He expressed how much he liked our Fellowship and enjoyed the times he spent in our pulpit. He let me know that he was looking for a position as a half-time contract minister and was planning to post his resume with the UUA Transitions Office. This was a new and welcome bit of news but it was only the beginning of the work that needed to be done to see if we would be a good fit for each other. Knowing the shortage of ministers, it was likely that when Rev. Weber posted his resume on the UUA website, he would receive multiple offers. We wanted to move quickly but still perform our due diligence as your Board of Trustees. Some follow-up phone calls, e-mails, and extensive conversations followed. His resume was shared with the Ministerial Search Committee, and the entire Committee interviewed Andrew in person at TPUUF on Saturday, May 7. It was a lengthy meeting at which time we were able to ask all of our questions and answer all of Rev. Weber’s questions as well.
Adhering to the same procedures we followed when we hired Rev. Peers three years ago, the Board’s next step was to decide whether to extend an offer to Rev. Weber. This is something the Board can do for a contract minister, and it is what was done when Rev. Peers was hired. Our By-Laws require a vote by the congregation to hire a “called” minister, but that is not the case here, nor was it the case for Rev. Peers. A “called,” or “settled” minister is someone with a long-term relationship with a congregation, like a professor with tenure. A contract minister has a contract for a fixed period of time (usually one year), and neither the minister nor the congregation is obligated to the relationship beyond the term of the contract. If you would like a copy of the By-Laws, please call or text me at 215.341.5052 or e-mail me at [email protected].
At the Board meeting on Tuesday evening, May 10, the Board, elected by the Congregation and acting on behalf of the Congregation, unanimously authorized extending a Letter of Agreement to Reverend Weber for a half-time contract minister position for one year beginning August 1. The Letter of Agreement was executed on May 12. Reverend Weber will officially be our half-time contract minister effective August 1. We feel fortunate to have found a minister with Rev. Weber’s skills, background and experience, especially in light of the current minister shortage!
Rev. Weber will be giving our Flower Communion service on June 12. He has agreed to stay after that service and meet with anyone who would like to get to know him better. I hope you will attend the service on June 12 in person. If you cannot attend the service but would like to come by around noon to meet Reverend Weber, you can do that also. This will be your opportunity to meet Rev. Weber before our Congregational Meeting the following Saturday, June 18.
Rev. Weber grew up on the Main Line where he and his family were members of Main Line UU Fellowship. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He was the Lead Youth Advisor for the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor MI from September 2009 to May 2012.
Andrew and his wife moved to Newark, DE where he was called to ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark. He was there from 2013 to 2017. Andrew, his wife and their two children (whom some of you met on April 17) currently live in Newark, Delaware.
Andrew has been a Pulpit Supply and Pastoral Coverage minister for Area Unitarian Universalist congregations since 2017. In that capacity, he has conducted services at several congregations in our area.
In 2018, Andrew led a Mindfulness Pilgrimage to Transylvania, Romania, which he described to us in a sermon he gave at TPUUF on January 26, 2020.
We are very much looking forward to welcoming Rev. Weber to TPUUF in the coming Church Year. We hope that you will make him feel at home here at TPUUF and engage with him in a way consistent with our Covenant of Good Relations and our Seven Principles.
President, Board of Trustees