Ministerial Search Committee

Welcome! This page includes all of the key updates in our ministerial search process. This first section provides an overview from May 2016; after that the posts appear in reverse chronological order.

The Search Committee is thrilled to introduce Reverend Anya Sammler-Michael and Reverend Scott Sammler-Michael as co-ministry candidates for Senior Minister of our congregation. Please click here for more information about them and click here for the Candidating Week schedule.


As of May 2016, the long process of selecting our committee has concluded, the congregation unanimously approved our slate of candidates, and we begin our one-year commitment to finding our next settled minister. There will be times when our tasks require input from each of our members, times we will request to meet with groups of members, and times where we will be seemingly working in isolation and unable to discuss the details of the search.

Through each of these stages in the search process we want to ensure we are fully communicating with the congregation. Our communication plan will, at various times, include announcements in the weekly email, written and spoken announcements on Sunday, a monthly Gazette article, a bulletin board outside of Fletcher Hall, and posters in the narthex and Fletcher Hall.

We want to share with you a timeline of the search process, so you know upfront what we will be working on at each stage of the process. Here is a general overview:

  • Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) goes on a retreat to begin the process, June 10-11, 2016
  • Gather info on the congregation via survey and searchlight (cottage) meetings, June–September 2016
  • Compile an information packet, based on data collected from members, to share with prospective ministers, July-November
  • Sponsor a congregational Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, October 15-16, 2016
  • Complete an online Application for Minister, November 30, 2016
  • Begin to review applications and makes phone calls to a shortlist of interested ministers, January-February 2017
  • Conduct in-person interviews of 3 to 4 ministers, February-March 2017
  • Make an offer to our first choice candidate and Board announces candidacy, April 2017
  • Selected minister comes for Candidating Week and congregation votes on candidate, April-May
  • New minister arrives, August-September 2017

In gratitude, your Ministerial Search Committee:
Peter Arian, John Carlton, Nancy Felix, Erin Krupa, Lawrence Ramsey, Chelsea Vaughn Showalter, and Connie Thames –

Please click here for biographies of our Search Committee members.

June 1, 2017

The entire Ministerial Search Committee is grateful for your enthusiastic participation in Candidating Week and the overwhelming vote to call Reverends Anya and Scott Sammler-Michael. This will be our last Gazette article–as the transition for our new ministers will now move to the Board of Trustees and Reverends Scott and Anya as they make their way to Montclair and begin to settle in.

What we did on May 7th was historic:  We called our first female senior minister. We called our first co-ministry team. We firmly believe that Rev. Anya and Rev. Scott will help us to grow and attract new members in the years to come.

Many of you have asked, what can you do to help? Please participate fully in the life of the congregation from their very first day. Join a committee. Participate in programs. Support the congregation financially.  Be present.  

In terms of logistics, Revs. Scott and Anya will begin work on August 1st. They will be renting a home in Montclair for their first year as they transition. Should you know of good in-town rentals, please contact the committee at

We are grateful to have served our wonderful congregation.

May 1, 2017

By the time you receive this newsletter, it will be almost time for Candidating Week. For the Search Committee, this is the culmination of almost a year of work, with many laughs, some tears, hours of meetings, and many cans of La Croix grapefruit-flavored sparkling water.

If we have a successful vote to call Reverends Anya and Scott on May 7, it will be the end of our adventure. The Committee has really bonded and we will miss each other a lot, including Connie’s emojis and Peter’s puns.  

We are looking forward to seeing all of you at the Candidating Week events. Please sign up via the Google Form if you haven’t done so already (you can contact us if you need the link).

In the meantime, though, we are feeling philosophical. We are so grateful that our clear top choice candidate (unanimous across the committee) felt the same way about UUCM. We hope that you will find Reverends Scott and Anya as wise, charming, and energizing as we do. It’s exciting to think about starting a new and wonderful chapter in our congregation’s history with them in August 2017.

Just a quick reminder that Reverends Scott and Anya are candidates to share a single full-time position. Although they are two people, they are not a replacement for both our senior minister and our associate minister. Instead, we are moving forward with the Board’s interim staffing plan announced in January 2017. Reverend Judy’s Associate Minister role will be filled on an interim basis by two part-time new hires, a Director of Religious Education (in addition to Iris) and a Director of Membership & Congregational Life. For more details on this plan, see the FAQs on our website.

March 29, 2017

This is a big week in our congregation’s search for our new senior minister. On Thursday, March 30, on behalf of the congregation, the search committee will invite our top choice to be the official candidate for UUCM and meet the rest of the congregation. This timeline is part of the overall UUA search process: across North America, all the searching ministers and search committees will be on their phones on Thursday at noon!  Once the details have been worked out, we’ll be able to reveal the candidate’s identity to you in mid-April.

At the same time, we are also preparing for Candidating Week, April 29-May 7. This week will include two Sunday services and a range of different activities during the week, with the aim of giving everyone multiple opportunities to meet the candidate for senior minister. At the end of Candidating Week, the members of our congregation will vote on calling the candidate as our new senior minister.

Thank you for your love and support along the way.

March 16, 2017

Several months ago, as part of the Ministerial Search Process, we asked you to complete a Congregational Survey and attend Searchlight Meetings.  Thank you for participating and helping us to paint a compelling picture of our Congregation to candidates.  The data has been enormously helpful as we are speaking to candidates and sharing the story of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair.
As promised, attached are the results of the Survey and Searchlight Meetings.  We will also post the results on our website.

On Sunday March 19th and Sunday March 26th, there will be members of the Search Committee at a table during Coffee Hour available to discuss these results with you.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Many thanks for the faith you have in the Search Committee and for your support along the way.  We look forward to presenting our new Minister to the Congregation in April!

March 15, 2017

We are done with our neutral pulpit weekends! It has been a tiring but rewarding process during which we’ve gotten to know our four pre-candidates and each other well. We have put miles on our cars, shared many meals, laughed a lot, and cried some too. Each minister would bring major gifts to our congregation–our task now is to discern which one represents the best fit for our congregation now and over the next many years. We are checking references and expect to make an offer to our top pick on March 30. If all goes well and our pre-candidate feels the same fit that we do, we will announce their identity in mid-April in preparation for Candidating Week. The reason for the delay is to confirm contract terms, allow time for currently settled ministers to tell their congregations they will be leaving, and for us to prepare the candidate’s introduction. You will have a chance to get to know the candidate during Candidating Week, April 29-May 7. At the end of Candidating Week, the members of our congregation will vote on calling the candidate as our new senior minister. Thank you for your love and support along the way!

March 8, 2017

Our congregation is engaged in a year-long process of finding a new senior minister. The search committee is close to completing our “pre-candidating weekends,” which are full weekends spent with each of the four pre-candidates for our senior minister position. We are very excited about the gifts these ministers could bring our congregation and community.  Once we have completed these weekends and additional reference checks, the committee will decide which of these wonderful people would be the best fit for our congregation. In mid-April, we will announce the candidate to you and you will then have a chance to get to know that candidate during Candidating Week, April 29-May 7. At the end of Candidating Week, the members of our congregation will vote on calling the candidate as our new senior minister. Thank you for your love and support along the way!

March 1, 2017

Our yearlong search process is at an intense time. During February and March we’re spending one weekend each with our four ministerial pre-candidates. So far, the pre-candidates have been very impressed with the energy and commitment of our congregation and community. The ministers are excited about our tradition of social justice activism, our commitment to lay leadership development, and our desire for meaningful and stimulating worship. The Montclair area is also attractive–ministers are enthusiastic about our “urban suburb” feel, its diversity, and its progressive values.

By the middle of March, we will complete our weekend-long interviews and then come to a decision on the best minister for our congregation now. We then offer the position, negotiate the terms, and work on an announcement to the community, probably around early/mid April. Please mark your calendars for Candidating Week, April 29 – May 7.

This is the prayer we use to welcome our candidates:

A Prayer of New Beginning by Laurie Stuart

In the spirit of community and a sense of purpose in our ministry:

Let us commence the discovery of our strengths, our concerns, our grief and our joy.

Let this journey be one of love, authenticity and reverence.

Let us shape our lives, our work and our days as an expression of that joy,

that love and of our commitment to service and to each other.

Thank you for your support and love along the way. It shows!

February 1, 2017

It is a time of discernment for the MSC! In early January we reviewed information from 23 ministers who showed an interest in our congregation. We narrowed them down to 4 who will spend time with us during pre-candidating weekends in February and March. By April, we should have a candidate to introduce to you during Candidating Week (April 29 – May 7).

We heard from many amazing ministers who have different backgrounds and strengths. During the pre-candidating weekends, we will be learning much more about the interested ministers, their theology, personal histories, likes and dislikes, and their hopes and dreams.

We have already used some of the questions you suggested in the Searchlight meetings, and plan to use more during the longer interviews. These include:

  • What are you passionate about in ministry?
  • What worship service are you most proud of and why? What worship service failed and what did you learn from it?
  • Why us? Why now?

Thank you for your support! We are keeping all of you in mind as we go through this process, remembering that it’s your expectations we are trying to meet.

January 18, 2017

We may be in the busiest phase of our search! We are in the midst of identifying 3 or 4 candidates to invite to pre-candidating weekends, out of the 23 applications we received at the beginning of January. It has been a busy and rewarding time, during which we have all gotten much better at using Skype. During the pre-candidating weekends we will interview the ministers formally, give them tours of our area, and see them preach at another congregation. We will also spend a lot of informal time with each minister, getting to know them. Until we have a final candidate to propose to the congregation, we must keep the identities of the ministers under consideration highly confidential. Please save the date for Candidating Week (April 29-May 7), when the final ministerial candidate will visit before a congregational vote.

January 11, 2017

Last week we received a list of 22 ministers who are interested in UUCM! (That list has now grown to 23 with a late addition.) We are now immersed in reading ministerial profiles, listening to and watching sermons, and preparing to interview many of the ministers who have expressed an interest in UUCM. We must keep the identities of all the ministers under consideration highly confidential, but we are excited and energized by the task ahead of us. Please save the date for Candidating Week (April 29-May 7), when the final ministerial candidate will visit before a congregational vote.

January 4, 2017

A very exciting milestone: On Monday, January 2, we received a list of 22 ministers who are interested in UUCM! Over the next 3-4 months, the search committee will learn about these ministers via their written profiles, Skype interviews, reference checks, in-person interviews, and more. This phase is highly confidential so we won’t be able to share a lot of details, but rest assured that the committee will be hard at work discerning who could be a great fit for UUCM. During Candidating Week (April 29-May 7), the final ministerial candidate will visit before a congregational vote.

December 7, 2016

This week the UUA Transitions Office released the names of all the congregations in search, providing some interesting data about the other congregations in search. UUCM is one of 47 congregations seeking a new full-time minister in Fall 2017. Of those 47, 18 congregations are similar in size to ours (250 to 500 members), including Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; Solana Beach, CA; West Hartford, CT; Cambridge, MA; Rochester, MN; Lincoln, NE; Ridgewood, NJ; State College, PA; Providence, RI; Bellevue, WA; and Vancouver.

January through April will be an intense time for the committee as we receive names of interested ministers and interview them by Skype and in person. But of course we are always open to comments and feedback from the congregation. Please stop us in coffee hour or email us at And please save the date for Candidating Week, when our new prospective minister will visit: Saturday, April 29, 2017, through Sunday, May 7.

December 1, 2016

Our job listing has been submitted to the UUA, and in the month of December, ministers in search will be taking a break from their Christmas Eve planning to check us out online. During December, we will make our packet available; the packet is a more detailed website about UUCM, including the full survey results and summaries from the searchlight meetings. In December we will also share the congregational survey results with the Board, and we’re planning to share them with the congregation in January.

On January 3rd we will receive a list of names of the ministers who are interested in our congregation. That will kick off an intensive period of evaluation and discernment for the Search Committee. We’ll identify candidates to interview and then invite 3 or 4 “pre-candidates” to visit during which each candidate will lead a service and preach at a “neutral pulpit,” another UU congregation in our region.

Decades ago, it was normal for whole congregations to audition multiple ministerial candidates over successive weekends; this was called serial candidating. However, it is no longer done in UU congregations because it can lead to conflict and division. Members might prefer different candidates, resulting in no one candidate having the overwhelming support of the congregation. From the point of the view of the candidates, serial candidating would make the fact that they are in search public. In order to preserve their effectiveness, most ministers in search prefer not to tell the congregations they are currently serving that they are looking, until they receive and accept an offer from another congregation.

So, at the end of a long process of interviewing, evaluation, reference-checking, and consensus-building, the Search Committee will present you with the one candidate who is, in our opinion, best for our congregation. This is what you entrusted us to do when you voted for us (and we are honored!).

The congregation becomes involved again during Candidating Week, which will be held from Saturday, April 29, to Sunday, May 7, 2017. It will be 8 days of meetings and social engagements where you will have opportunities to meet and size up the candidate for yourselves, including at two Sunday services. After the second Sunday service, the whole congregation will vote on the proposed candidate. We hope we find someone who is a great fit! Thank you for your help and support in this process.

November 23, 2016

Our congregation is engaged in a year-long process of finding a new senior minister. We recently submitted our Congregational Record (our job listing) to the UUA and are working on our packet, a more expansive website that will tell candidates all about our congregation. January through April will be an intense time for the committee as we receive names of interested ministers and interview them. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the process! Please save the date for Candidating Week, when our new prospective minister will visit: Saturday, April 29 through Sunday, May 7, 2017.

November 1, 2016

Our most important message right now is THANK YOU! We’ve asked a lot of the congregation over the last four months–take a lengthy survey, attend a searchlight meeting, and participate in the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop. If you did all of those, you could have easily spent six hours contributing to the ministerial search effort. And all of this is on top of all the other activities you are probably doing to support our congregation and community.

Thanks to your input, we now have rich data about who the congregation is and what kind of minister we are looking for. We have insights into our collective strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. We have a list of thoughtful interview questions for our ministerial candidates, thanks to the ideas you contributed at the searchlight meetings.

Our task now is to distill these insights and ideas into answers to questions on our Congregational Record (CR), which is like a job listing (or personal ad!) and is the first thing that ministers see about us when they are considering congregations. The CR includes questions about our strengths and weaknesses, the most important events in our history, our theology, the issues we struggle with, and governance. UUCM’s CR will be posted on a secure part of the UUA website by November 30th. We are also working on a more extensive profile called the packet, which will include more information as well as pictures, videos, and links.

Ministers have the month of December to browse the CRs of congregations looking for new ministers. During that month ministers will discern which congregations they are interested in. We hope to hear from 10-20 ministers who would like to be considered.

On January 3rd, the committee will receive a list of the ministers who are interested in UUCM. That kicks off what may be the busiest period of the search, as the committee reviews the ministers’ profiles and interviews the ones who seem the most promising.

That’s a preview of what’s ahead. For now, again, we want to thank you for your support and participation. This is a team effort by the whole congregation and we are grateful to be on this journey with you.

October 19, 2016

Beyond Categorical Thinking: We have huge appreciation for you! More than 50 congregants participated in this past Saturday’s Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, a great turnout especially on such a beautiful fall day. Reverend Keith Kron, the director of the UUA’s Transitions Office, led a thoughtful workshop on how to conduct a fair search for our new minister. One of the big themes was the idea that no one can or should be reduced to a single story. We need to speak up when we hear biased thinking during this process or spot it in ourselves, because the easiest way to keep any oppression in place is to be silent.

Keith also gave great perspective on the “market” for ministers and congregations. While the Montclair area has a high cost of living, it’s also appealing due to its character, diversity, and the many professional options for ministers’ partners or spouses. There are usually about 110 ministers in search each year, ranging from age 25 to age 75. Most of those ministers will be in their 30s or their 50s (second career ministers). In typical years about 60% of ministers in search are female. 2-3 ministers in search may be transgender. About 10% of ministers in search are people of color and 15-18% are bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender. Interestingly, Keith said that one of the biggest drivers of a minister’s match with a congregation is geographic–for example, a minister from Colorado may find our northern New Jersey customs odd.

Communications Note: We now have a section of the bulletin board between the Alliance Room and the kitchen devoted to the search process. Please check there for additional updates or on this page. Both include a new FAQ about the search process.

October 5, 2016

Our congregation is in a year-long process of searching for new senior minister. Our next big step is the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop with Reverend Keith Kron, director of the UUA’s Transitions Office. The workshop is Saturday, October 15, from 9 am – noon in the sanctuary, with bagels and coffee at 8:30 am. This should be a thought-provoking morning, helpful for all of us individually and for us as a congregation as we engage in our search. Keith is the first person that many ministers in search will be in contact with, so this is also a great opportunity to get to know him and to let him get to know our congregation.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Search Process

Question: I really like Justin Osterman, our interim minister. Can we hire him? 

Answer: No. Interim ministry is a specific, time-limited role with the goal of helping us transition to a congregational future with a new minister. Interim ministers are supposed to challenge us and make us uncomfortable in some ways–ask the hard questions so that we reflect, change, and are a better home for our future minister. It is against denominational rules for a congregation to offer long-term employment to an interim minister, and for the interim minister to accept such an offer.

Question: The search process restricts us to just one candidate. Why can’t we bring in three or four candidates on successive weekends and have the congregation vote?

Answer: This is called serial candidating, and decades ago it was not uncommon. However, it is no longer done in UU congregations because it can lead to conflict and division. That’s because it’s possible that some congregants would prefer Candidate A, others would prefer Candidate B, and so on. As a result, no one candidate would receive the overwhelming vote of confidence needed for a successful ministry, and the congregation would be divided–not an optimal beginning for a new minister.

From the point of the view of the candidates, too, it could be a major problem because some of them have not told their current congregation that they’re in search, and prefer not to do so unless and until they receive and accept an offer from another congregation. Serial candidating would break the confidentiality of the process and could seriously impair their effectiveness in their current congregation. Few candidates would agree to participate in such a process.

So, at the end of a long process of interviewing, evaluation, reference-checking, and consensus-building, the search committee will present you with the one candidate who is, in our opinion, best for our congregation. This is what you entrusted us to do when you voted for us (and we are honored!). After a full week of meetings and social engagements where you will have abundant opportunities to meet and size up the candidate for yourselves, plus hearing the candidate at two Sunday services, you will make the final decision about whether or not to call.

Question: I’ve heard that married couples sometimes share a ministry position. Might such a couple apply for our position?

Answer: Yes. Any pair of ministers, married or not, may apply to share a position. If this happens, UUCM will receive paired Ministerial Records from them. Some congregations, having two ministry positions open, invite teams to apply. If we consider a co-ministry team, we should remember that we are looking at three entities: two ministers and the team. Each has its own track record, personality, and strengths.

Question: What if we don’t find a minister in the search?

Answer: The congregation will decide if it wants to keep the same search committee or select a new one. Not finding a minister is not necessarily a failure. It could just mean that we aren’t settling for someone who doesn’t seem to be the best fit. Much depends on the pool of applicants we can attract. Justin, our interim minister, will still leave on schedule, but we can bring in another interim or a consulting minister.

Question: Why do we need both a congregational survey and Searchlight Meetings?

Answer: There are some important questions that can’t really be asked on the survey, or where the survey raised issues that we’d like to clarify. That’s why we have scheduled small group discussions called Searchlight Meetings. Questions without dialogue can leave us confused, prone to misunderstanding, or left to deal with conflicting visions. Talking through your visions will help you and us clarify what we truly care about in this community.

Question: What is the job market like for UU ministers?

Answer: According to the UUA’s Transitions Office, last year (2015-16), there were 66 congregations in search with around 110 ministers searching. And here is preliminary data for this year about where UU Montclair fits in among other searching congregations:  

2017 stats by cost of living for each location – 51 congregations, 13 in our category:

Geo Index 1 (lowest cost of living) 2 3 4 5 6 7 (highest cost of living)
Average wages vs. US average Below 91% 91%-96.9% 97-102.9% 103-108.9% 109-114.9% 115-120.9% 121% or more
Sample cities (not necessarily in search) Oklahoma City, Chattanooga Omaha, Tulsa Galveston, Milwaukee Vancouver, Houston Montclair, Alexandria (VA) Ridgewood, Brooklyn, Roxbury (MA) San Jose, San Mateo, San Rafael, NYC
# of congregations in search 2 11 14 7 13 2 2


2017 stats by size of congregation – 54 congregations, 16 around our size:

UUA size category “Large 2” “Large 1” “Mid 3” “Mid 2” “Mid 1” “Small”
# Members 750+ 500-749 350-499 250-349 150-249 0-149
# of congregations in search 2 3 8 8 11 12


Let us know if you have another question you would like answered!

October 1, 2016

First and foremost, on behalf of the UUCM Ministerial Search Committee, we thank the congregation for all of the time, effort and support we have received for the past several months. We have been busy compiling the results of our survey, digesting all of the thoughtful comments from the Searchlight meetings and gathering and organizing all of the information collected about the goings on at UUCM to be included in our Ministerial Packet.


Chances are you thought of both. In terms of a minister, what images came to mind? Was it a person of a particular gender, race, or age?

Beyond Categorical Thinking is a highly recommended part of the search process for our congregation. In finding the person who would be the best match for our minister, we could potentially overlook or even let biases keep us from knowing that a particular person would be the best match for us. Ministers in our faith who are people of color, bisexual, gay, lesbian, female, transgender, differently-abled, young, old, ethnically different, or of a different class—all of these credentialed ministers still face discrimination as part of the ministerial search process.

In our efforts to find the best match, our congregation will host a Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop on Saturday, October 15th. Keith Kron, UUA Transitions Director (and the first point of contact for Ministers in Search) will facilitate a 3-hour conversation where we will have a chance to examine how to avoid letting prejudice become a part of our search process.  He will also lead Sunday services on October 16th.

This opportunity allows the entire congregation fuller participation in the search process. It will allow us to explore our hopes and concerns for a new minister, learn more about the search process, and see how our own history (both personal and congregational) might interfere with our efforts in this search. So come on Saturday, October 15th and on Sunday October 16th to participate in the weekend’s activities provided by the UUA, whom our congregation has asked for help in this process.

September 1, 2016

Your Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) is hard at work, and we know that you have been too.   THANK YOU to everyone who filled out the Congregational Survey and signed up to attend a Searchlight meeting.

Your input is incredibly important to us right now. Throughout the next several months, we will continue to ask for your feedback and participation in the search process.  The process, designed and tested by the UUA, asks for Congregations participation in three ways:

  • Through the Survey:  We have closed the Survey and are now compiling the results.  The results of the Survey will help us to describe the UUCM to potential ministers through data.  Thank you to everyone who completed one.  We will be presenting the results of the Survey later this fall in partnership with the Board of Trustees.
  • Through Searchlight meetings:  In these small group meetings, you will be asked questions that bubbled up from the Survey.  We intend on making these meetings fun and filled with feedback.  If you have not already signed up for a Searchlight meeting, there are several more opportunities in September to do so.  The Search Committee would like to extend a special thank you to those who have hosted meetings in their homes.  We are grateful for your hospitality!
  • Through a UUA Workshop: Over the weekend of October 15 and 16, our Congregation will be hosting Keith Kron, the Director of the UUA Transitions Office. Keith will be conducting a workshop called Beyond Categorical Thinking, which is an amazing opportunity to explore the topic of “implicit bias.”  We are looking forward to this time as an exercise in personal reflection and in community building.  The Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop is a required step in the UUA process for Ministerial Search and we are honored to have Keith to lead us.  Please save the date for Saturday October 15th from 9:00 AM to Noon.

With these activities completed, the Search Committee then moves into a stage of “marketing” by creating materials that tell the amazing story of our UUCM and the compelling opportunity we offer to a future minister. We are incredibly proud of this Congregation and excited to share our story with potential candidates.  Many thanks for the trust and faith you have put in us.

August 31, 2016

CONGREGATIONAL SURVEY: I know, you thought that was all done! But we have decided to extend the deadline through Tuesday, September 20, to ensure that as many of you as possible can participate. We have already learned a great deal from your thoughtful responses–now we are especially concerned with making sure the survey statistics accurately represent our congregation. For example, the survey results currently suggest that our congregation is 70% female–is that true or are we missing some guys? Likewise, getting an accurate understanding of our many kinds of diversity is important. Each adult should do a survey, and parents, please encourage your teens to do it. The link is here . Thank you so much!

SEARCHLIGHT MEETINGS: These are small group discussions about who we are and what we’re looking for in a senior minister. Make your voice heard and meet a few new people! Sign-up is available here  and there are dates available throughout September. Email us with any questions at We look forward to seeing you soon!

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, October 15, 9 am – noon: Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop. More details coming soon!

August 24, 2016

SEARCHLIGHT MEETINGS: Sign up for a Searchlight Meeting today! These are small group discussions that will help us interpret and clarify the survey results as well as ask a couple of new questions. Make your voice heard and maybe even meet a few new people! Sign-up is available here . Once you have clicked through, please look for slots for “Guests” not “Facilitators”. Email us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you soon!

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday October 15th: Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop 9-12. More details coming soon!

August 10, 2016

* L * A * S * T ** C * H * A * N * C * E
to do the survey! Do it while you are watching gymnastics! Ask your teen to fill one out too! We are extending the deadline to Sunday, August 14. Here is the link.

We have 125 complete responses to the survey and about 50 partial, which means that people may have started and not completed the survey. We have heard from a few people that they used the “save and continue later” feature but then didn’t receive an email. If this happened to you, please try the following steps:

The link came from the email address:
Check your spam or junk mail folders.
Your browser should remember, so try to type in Survey Gizmo and the old address may come up.
Try going into your history and click on the link from when you started the survey and it might even (if we are super lucky) return you back to the exact spot you need.

You will also receive a separate email invite this week for the Searchlight meetings. These are in-person small group discussions about what we are looking for in our future minister and congregation and should be fun and illuminating. Hope to see you there!


August 3, 2016

Even over the summer, we are making a lot of progress!

  • We have identified the three to four weekends early in 2017 when we’ll interview candidates.
  • The Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, which is run by the UUA and will help ensure a non-discriminatory process, will happen the weekend of October 14-15 (Saturday morning, Sunday services) and everyone is invited. More details to come, but please save the date.
  • Thanks to Jason Brome and our wonderful administrators, there is now a section of the UUCM website with information about the search.
  • Many of you have filled out the congregational survey. If you haven’t done it yet, please complete it by this Friday, August 5! We also heard from some people that when they didn’t finish the survey and requested an email link, the email didn’t arrive. If this happened to you, check out these instructions and let us know if you are still having trouble.
  • Searchlight meetings, which are like focus groups, are happening in August and September. You will receive an email about signing up for one soon.

July 30, 2016

Are you having trouble with the survey? We’ve received some reports that people who paused during the survey (without completing it) didn’t receive the promised email that would let them restart the survey. If you can’t find the email, please try the following steps:

  1. The link came from the email address:
  2. Check your spam or junk mail folders.
  3. Your browser should remember, so try to type in Survey Gizmo and the old address may come up.
  4. Try going into your history and click on the link from when you started the survey and it might even (if we are super lucky) return you back to the exact spot you need.

July 24, 2016

Our congregation has begun the process of searching for a new senior minister to start in Fall 2017. An important early step is a congregational survey, to better understand who we are and what kind of minister we’re looking for. We have received about 70 responses to the survey, about a third of the way towards our completion goal. We need to hear from you! We want to hear not only from the members who attend UUCM every week, but also friends, lapsed members, people who don’t come very often, teens and kids–really everyone! Every voice matters to us and to our potential new minister. The survey is available at, and the deadline is Friday, August 5.

In other news, we are planning the cottage meetings, which will be called Searchlight meetings because they’re a way to illuminate and provide focus on our congregational goals and our hopes for our next minister. They will be held in August and September, and we’ll be sharing a schedule for signups in the next few weeks.

July 13, 2016
Please complete the congregational survey! This is your first opportunity to share your hopes for our next minister. The survey gives us the data we need to describe our congregation to potential ministers who really want to get to know us.

This link will take you to the survey:

Please allow 20 to 40 minutes to take the survey (your time will vary depending on how much you write). Please fill it out by Friday, August 5. All responses are anonymous. Whether you are a member, a friend, a lapsed member, or a child or youth (parents, please share the survey link with your kids!), we need YOUR input!

We are grateful for the 45 of you who have already taken the survey, and for your incredibly thoughtful answers to the questions.

Some other ways you can help:

  1. We need a photographer to take a fabulous photo of the search committee. If someone could help on a Tuesday evening, we would be grateful!
  2. We need photos for our search packet and website: If you have great photos of anything UUCM-related, we would love to have them. Please email your photos to John Carlton.
  3. We need web/graphics/design expertise to help us with our website and packet. If you would be willing to learn more about this short/discrete assignment, please contact Nancy Felix.


July 6, 2016
We are hard at work and we will soon need your help and input! What can you do?

  1. Take the Congregational SURVEY: You will receive an invitation to take the survey in the next week. This is the most important way to provide concrete feedback and input on the search. Please complete the survey!
  2. Attend a Searchlight MEETING: These will be FUN small group discussions that will take place in August and September. Look for an email invitation to one and plan to attend!
  3. We are looking for PHOTOS for our search packet and website: If you have great photos of anything UUCM-related, we would love to have them. Please email your photos to John Carlton.
  4. We are looking for members with web/graphics/design expertise to help us with our website and packet. If you would be willing to learn more about this short/discrete assignment, please contact Nancy Felix.

In the meantime, we recently received some interesting stats about ministerial search from the UUA’s Transitions Office, which helps congregations and ministers through the matching process. Last year there were 66 congregations in search and about 110 ministers available. This year so far the UUA knows of about 70 congregations in search. We’ve already spotted a few who are going through the process at the same time as us: VancouverWausau, WisconsinAppleton, WisconsinYork, PennsylvaniaWinnipegIthaca; and Schenectady. And in the great state of New Jersey, the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood is also going through a search this year.

July 1, 2016
The Ministerial Search Committee has officially launched, and will be busy over the summer. Here’s an overview of the key events between now and next spring. We are excited to begin this process and look forward to talking with all of you during this process.

Congregational Survey & Searchlight Meetings
One of the most important steps in the search process is to understand who the congregation is, who we want to be, and what kind of minister can best help us fulfill our aspirations. There are two ways that we’ll this gather info:

  • A congregational survey: This will take about 20 minutes to complete and will cover all aspects of your relationship with the congregation and Unitarian Universalism. The higher the rate of participation, the richer the portrait of our congregation for our potential minister. High participation is also a sign of a healthy congregation, something ministers are looking for.
  • Searchlight meetings (aka cottage meetings): These are like focus groups: meetings where we learn about your wishes and hopes for our new minister. We plan to offer a variety of times and formats so that everyone can participate.

The search committee’s goal is to find a minister who will guide the congregation in the direction we want to go. As search committee members, we will aim to put our own wishes for the new senior minister aside–instead, our focus will be on understanding the congregation’s wishes so that we can act effectively on the congregation’s behalf.

Preparing a Profile of Our Congregation
The matching of potential ministers to congregations happens in an area of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website that is kind of like an online dating site. Congregations looking for a new minister create summary profiles of themselves for ministers to review. Ministers interested in moving to a new congregation review the available congregations’ profiles. If they’re interested in a particular congregation, they make their profiles available to the search committee of that congregation (congregations cannot browse all available ministers; we only see the ones who have indicated interest in us, and only starting in January). Once there is mutual interest, we exchange fuller sets of information called Packets.

Our congregational profile and packet will describe the history and life of UUCM; it will include factual information about the congregation such as membership, attendance, pledging, and budgets. More importantly, it will offer candidates a picture of who we are: Why is UUCM important to us? What is its role in our lives? What challenges confront us in the coming years? What problems have we faced and how have we come to terms with them? This is our opportunity to shine, to boast about our strengths, and be honest about our challenges. Our profile will be made available to candidates by 11/31/16.

In the fall we will offer a Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop. This is a sermon and workshop, presented by representatives from the UUA, that helps us open our minds to the different UU ministers who could serve our congregation. It is recommended for every UU congregation in search.

Reviewing Candidates – January 2017
Starting on January 3, 2017, we will learn which ministers have expressed an interest in our congregation. This is where confidentiality for the search committee’s work becomes extremely important. We will review the profiles and packets of every minister who has expressed interest in being considered by the committee, and will interview some of them using Skype or a similar service. By the end of January we will have narrowed the initial list of interested ministers to a shortlist of three or four “pre-candidates.”

Pre-Candidating Weekends – February – March 2017
During February and March, the MSC will check references and biographical data of the pre-candidates, and we will invite each candidate to Montclair for a weekend that includes an extensive interview, a tour of our community and facilities, and a worship service conducted by the pre-candidate in a “neutral pulpit.” Neutral pulpits are congregations in the Tri-State Area that may have similarities to our own but are not in our immediate area. Because confidentiality is a critical part of the ministerial selection process, the members of the search committee will be the only members of our congregation who will interact with the pre-candidates during these visits.

Selecting a Candidate – April through May 2017
After much discussion, evaluation, and analysis, the search committee will select a final ministerial candidate to propose to the congregation. The candidate will come to UUCM for a 9-day visit and will preach at both services for two Sundays in a row, attend meetings with key committees and groups, participate in social gatherings and other events, and interact with members in a variety of ways. If the candidate has a partner or children, often his or her family will be present for “candidating week” as well. After the second Sunday Service, our congregation will vote whether to call the new minister. If the congregation votes to approve the minister, and the minister accepts, we will have a new senior minister! The new minister would likely move to our area in August, and officially start in Fall 2017.

June 14, 2016

This past weekend we held our search committee retreat on Long Beach Island, NJ, with our Ministerial Settlement Representative, Reverend Craig Hirshberg. This is an important foundational step that launches the work of the search committee. We spent time getting to know each other, talking about how we will make decisions, reviewing the schedule, and deciding on roles. Some of the key principles we agreed on were confidentiality, assuming good intentions, accountability, and creating a nurturing environment. We also learned about “W.A.I.T.: Why am I talking?” and “E.L.M.O.: Enough — Let’s Move On.”

Here are the roles we will fulfill:

  • Chair – Nancy Felix
  • Arranger & Cottage Meeting Coordinator – Connie Thames
  • Reference Checker & Negotiating Team Member – Peter Arian
  • Treasurer – John Carlton
  • Secretary – Chelsea Vaughn Showalter
  • Congregational Record & Packet Editor – Erin Krupa
  • Survey Coordinator – Lawrence Ramsey

The people in those roles won’t have to do their work alone–each person will have others on the committee to support him or her. Additionally, we will soon be asking the every member of congregation to participate! We are grateful to be on this journey with you.

May 31, 2016

The committee has started meeting weekly on Tuesdays. We’ve planned our retreat with Reverend Craig Hirshberg, our local Ministerial Settlement Representative, for June 10-11. That June retreat will officially kick off our work together. Over the summer, we’ll create a survey to better understand the congregation and what we’re looking for in a minister. We will also organize small group meetings to get in-person input. This will inform and guide us as we create our congregational profile and our “packet,” which is the set of materials we’ll use to describe our congregation to potential ministers. You’ll hear from us this summer about all of those things!

May 10, 2016
On April 26th, the newly formed Search Committee met with the Rev. Craig Hirshberg, our local Ministerial Settlement Representative, an Unitarian Universalist Association employee who guides us through the process of finding our next minister. She gave an overview of the search process and advice about finding the right fit for our congregation. We also scheduled a 2-day retreat with Craig for early June, which will officially kick off our work together. Stay tuned for how we will include you in congregational conversations!