Rev. Joan’s Remarks for Annual Meeting — Important News about Staff Transition

Rev. Joan shared the following remarks to start the recent 2020 Annual Meeting:

I would like to begin by lighting the chalice. I light this chalice in honor of the three members of our UCM community who have died since our last Annual Meeting: Darlene Grundy, Genevieve Olsen, and Ted Richards. Their lives have touched us, and they each shaped this church community in unique and enduring ways, and for that, let us give thanks.

Much of our energy and focus as a congregation was dedicated this year to planning for the future – developing a five-year staffing vision and budgeting projections and continuing to develop the Building for the Future Project. While some of these plans will need to be on hold for now, I believe we also learned a lot as a congregation in the process: about our hopes and dreams as a community; how to work together towards shared goals even with differing opinions on how to reach those goals; and how to maintain our spiritual health while attending to big, institutional priorities.

This was also a year of growing together spiritually – deepening our individual and collective spiritual practices; reaching out to our neighbors of other faiths and learning with and from them; engaging in discernment in developing a Congregational Covenant; and deepening our practices of social and environmental action especially heeding the call for mobilization to address the climate crisis.

Since March, we have had to adapt to living in a world with the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, pandemic. We have moved our worship services and most programs online. Some of the adaptations we have had to make have been done with relative ease given existing technological knowledge amongst staff and church volunteers and members. Other changes have been more challenging.

One area that has not been as easy to adapt is our music program. Of all the groups in our church who have experienced loss due to this pandemic, I want to acknowledge that our choir is experiencing one of the most significant losses of all. There really is no replacement – at least not yet – for singing in person with a large group and being able to hear in real time the harmonies and interplay of voices.

We have done our best to adapt musically in our worship services. The emotional and logistical challenges of this have been felt deeply by our music staff, Dick Riley and Eliza Thomas. I am so grateful to each of them for their efforts in still making music come alive, and I am grateful to Student Minister, Lisa Kynvi, for her contributions of music in our worship services as well as church members who have contributed their talents.

As we look ahead towards next church year, much remains uncertain and dependent upon the course of the pandemic and any viable treatments or vaccine. We do know that large congregational worship services with live choral singing is a near impossibility for now and the foreseeable future.

Related to this difficult reality, I have some unexpected news to share with you. Earlier this week, Music Director, Dick Riley, submitted his resignation. He will be with us the remaining church services of the year and will retire from his position with UCM at the end of June.

Dick has concluded that the work required by a music director of UCM at this unusual time is no longer a good fit for his passion for in-person music making. We have experienced as a church community how this is not only a passion, but also a remarkable gift.

Dick will be reaching out to the choir directly so that you all, who have worked with him so closely over the last five plus years, can be in conversation with one another about this change. I will be in touch with all of you about ways we can honor and thank Dick for his service to UCM over the next few weeks. Our service on May 31st will include a time to pay tribute to Dick and his contributions to UCM.

The Executive Team will be discussing next steps to support our music program with paid staffing in the days to come.

As Dick said, these are unusual times. These are times for thoughtfulness and care. The Board and Executive Team have discussed forming a UCM Covid-19 Task Force to address the church’s continuing needs in response to the pandemic. They will be working together to take next steps towards forming this task force.

We will continue to comply with the regulations set forth by the state of Vermont. We will be paying attention to the local conditions within the Vermont, and we will take into thoughtful consideration the recommendations of our Unitarian Universalist Association which is guiding UU congregations to prepare for virtual operations through the coming church year.

We – you all and I – are on the cusp of concluding five years of shared ministry together. I cannot adequately express my appreciation for your love, care, and generosity during this time. I am so grateful to be serving as your Minister.