Search for Senior Minister

Search Committee Report to the Board of Trustees

April 21, 2023

The Search Committee was selected during Spring, 2022. We held an initial five-hour organizational meeting on June 17, selected a chair, decided upon various other roles, discussed the settlement handbook protocol for searches, agreed upon scheduling and agreed to ask the various staff and committees to update our website in preparation for the search. 
Some of us attended a UUA Workshop on June 18 via zoom. On August 13 we held an orientation meeting / retreat by zoom with Christine Purcell of the UUA.  After that meeting we adopted a covenant largely based upon the UUA’s recommended covenant. 

During the summer one of our original members withdrew for personal reasons and a new member was appointed. By August we were fully constituted as a Committee consisting of Linda F. Smith, Chair, Susan Barnum, Tim Chambless, Heather Heaton, Phillip Moos, Carole Straughn, and Sherri Wittwer.

During September we conducted our Congregational Survey. Phillip Moos took primary responsibility for this, aided significantly by Carole Straughn’s son (and member) Jeremy Straughn who is a sociologist. Phillip wrote up the analysis for the survey results and they raw data and his report were posted on the church’s website. Two hundred-seventy-two individuals completed the survey which represented 60% of the church membership.  The Survey dealt with who we are as a congregation and what we sought in a minister.

During October we held twenty-four (24) focus group and cottage meetings. Carole Straughn and Heather Heaton took responsibility for organizing these meetings and all committee members participated by conducting meetings or taking notes at meetings. Heather wrote up the summary of these meetings and her report was posted on the church’s website. The focus groups dealt with what was important to our congregation in a minister.

During the fall Susan Barnum arranged for guest pulpits at three different churches in the area.

Once the results of the Congregational Survey and the Focus/Cottage Meetings were available we edited the Congregational Record. The Congregational Record describes our church and what we are seeking in a minister. The chair took primary responsibility for that editing.

During the fall Heather Heaton assembled all the documents that were required to be included in our Documents Packet.

During the fall we participated in the Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop with Rev. Keith Kron on zoom. The was attended by the Board of Trustees and additional members of the congregation. This workshop taught us what not to do in dealing with ministerial candidates who may be from marginalized groups (e.g. women, LGBTQ+, persons of color, persons with disabilities) and taught us that the majority of UU ministers today are women.

By the end of November we had completed all of the documentation needed by the UUA and had posted our Congregational Record and Documents Packet on the UUA website. We were ready for searching ministers to explore our materials.

During December searching ministers had access to our materials. On January 2, 2023 we became aware of who had applied to our church. We consulted via email and decided on dates to screen these candidates. We all read each applicant’s lengthy Ministerial Record.  We then held two-hour screening interviews with all candidates. We asked all candidates who had not already provided references to provide those references. We divided up the job of calling references. Each person who made a call posted a summary of the call in our shared directory.

We employed rank-choice voting to decide which candidates to invite to Utah for in-person interviews. We invited three candidates, and they all accepted the invitations to visit. Over three different weekends we hosted these candidates and their families. Each weekend consisted of Friday night dinner, Saturday morning three-hour formal interview, Saturday informal lunch, Saturday tour of the church building, Saturday evening informal dinner with candidate and family, Sunday morning service and sermon at a guest pulpit, Sunday formal exit interview at lunch, and individually arranged meetings with Rev. Ian and Rev. Monica.

After the interviews we solicited additional references from some candidates and again checked references and posted summaries. We also arranged for and held “follow-up interviews” with two of the candidates.

We met via zoom and discussed all the candidates. We agreed upon a ranking of the acceptable candidates and submitted that ranking to the UUA in a timely fashion. Promptly the UUA informed us that we were “matched” with Rev. Jade (J) Sylvan. We were all thrilled with that outcome. The negotiating team communicated with Rev. J and a contract was ultimately agreed upon.

Throughout the year we regularly consulted with one another via email, frequently made reports to the congregation through the Torch or during the announcement portion of the church service, posted results on the Search Committee webpage, and regularly communicated with the Board regarding matters that the Board needed to address. 

We arranged for Rev. J’s candidating week to be April 21 – May 1 and scheduled multiple meetings during that week. Rev. J met with Revs. Monica and Ian, Rev. Lora from South Valley UU, all staff, the Board of Trustees (twice), the Finance and Endowment Committees, eight different groups, participated in Teams Night, and delivered sermons on Sundays April 23 and 30. On April 30 the Congregational Meeting overwhelmingly supported Rev. J’s call to be our next settled senior minister and Rev. J accepted


The Search Committee submitted our Congregational Record and Questionnaire (text available here) to the UUA

Focus Group and Cottage Meetings
In October the Search Committee held Focus Groups and Cottage Meetings. The Focus Groups are meetings with individuals who share an important interest or identity in common (e.g. RE parents/teacher). The Cottage Meetings are open to any church member. We ask that no one attend more than one Cottage Meeting. Focus Groups are meeting at various times and places. Cottage Meetings were held every Sunday during the 10 am and noon coffee hours in Room 219 (labelled “Office”) above Eliot Hall. Cottage Meetings were OPEN to the first fifteen people who arrived 
Search Committee Congregational Survey
The congregational survey was completed by 272 individuals - over 60% of church members.  THANK YOU!
CLICK HERE for the Survey Results