President’s Message – April 2014

It has been an eventful few weeks in our congregation.  Rev. Charlie Ortman announced his retirement effective the end of the 2015 congregational year, and our merger conversations with the Orange congregation changed, which tested our relationship with them, and prompted some passionate conversation among our own members.

It’s not time for goodbyes yet.  But I have heard people say Charlie’s tenure has been a very peaceful time for us as a spiritual community, after years of apathy and then discord.  Some people may say it was a time of complacency, but if there is one thing UU’s are not, it’s complacent.  I say it’s a sign of good community and spiritual health.

But nothing is perfect, as the events regarding the potential merger with Orange will attest. There is no room for details here, but there was passionate discussion about process and transparency among the UUCM leadership.  Although we moved forward in this process with as much integrity as we could, a merger is unprecedented in our faith community and so we did not have anything to fall back on – and we fell short.  For the pain that resulted, both in Montclair and in Orange, I am sorry.  We have hopefully addressed these issues, and will move forward with all the faith and heart that we put into starting the merger process in the first place.  The merger team had a meeting with Orange on March 20, with a strong desire on both sides to move forward in continued relationship with each other.

Perhaps the relationship will flourish in the way that it was intended to.  Shirley Matthews, a former UUCM Board member and member of the merger team, coined the phrase (some version of which is South Orange’s motto) at our March 20 meeting:  “Two congregations, one community.”  The whole group was struck by that phrase, and I hope it strikes you all as well.

Thank you for being passionate and asking questions, for being human and allowing your leadership to be human.  In doing so, you inspire us to be better, and do better things.

Teresa DeSousa
President, Board of Trustees