Learning During a Pandemic:
I am completing a very successful two-year interim ministry at All Souls in Indianapolis. I began my ministry during the first year of the pandemic. We learned to pivot quickly to Zoom worship services and committee meetings, how to use zoom for the deeply relational interim work the congregation needed, and continued to keep the congregation connected and engaged while church had to be "virtual."
During my second year, we successfully introduced multiplatform worship in June, 2021, learning how to integrate in person and online services. I lead our Covid task force, using the latest scientific understandings and metrics for how we could safely return to in person activities. I worked extensively with the leadership to modify the building’s air transmission system and to develop policies for our safe return.
Although the pandemic required a shift in the interim priorities, the congregation was still able to advance significantly during my tenure. We created a culture of shared ministry for All Souls and the adoption of a new policy governance system with clearer lines of authority and accountability.
We diversified the staff: 43% of the staff are now people of color. The congregation renewed its commitment to anti-racism and multiculturalism, and that lead to its decision to share its facilities with a Headstart program for the children of migrant agricultural workers. Income grew 17% under my ministry, including grants from the Lilly Foundation and new rental income.
Perhaps most importantly for All Soul’s future, with my guidance throughout the process, the search committee has just introduced the minister who has accepted their offer to be their candidate for ministry.
Through 28 years in ministry I have been lucky to co-minister with some fantastic religious educators. I've learned from them that the quality of a staff's working relationships will model for their congregation how everyone can minister together.
When a congregation ministers together, everything changes. A UU youth expressed it best in her senior year youth service sermon: "At church I'm real. I'm seen as a person." She was real in church classrooms and in her Youth Group. But she also had real relationships in Sunday services, all-church potlucks, and weeding the church's food pantry gardens with the rest of the congregation.
Rev. Joel Miller