Minister’s Report to PrairieUU – November 11, 2019

AJ Blackwood, M.Div.

Prairie UU Church

“A Liberal Religious Light on the Prairie”


Mission: “We gather as a welcoming, caring community to nurture mind and spirit, celebrate diversity, and work for justice.”


Where we are…

It is hard to believe that we are already in the month of November. We are well underway with planning for December, the holidays and even into 2020. We have reserved several spaces at the libraries for the 2020 year ~ I would like to thank Brenda P, Carol F, and Denard T for their help in getting this task completed.

Visioning: I have met with the visioning leadership, the Committee on Shared Ministry and the Associates to discuss where to find a home for the visioning process so that it can be taken to the next level, as well as the role of the Associates in the life of the congregation. Additionally, we are continuing the discussion about how to connect the visioning process with the Committee on Shared Ministry under the auspice of mission and vision building and how to connect the Associates into this process. I would like for us to gain from the experience, dedication, and passion of the Associates as we move the visioning process forward while still respecting the current Associates and the Associate’s program.

Additionally, the Committee on Shared Ministry has started a new regular meeting schedule on the 2nd Monday of the month. These meetings are closed and confidential but we are definitely looking for congregational input to shape meetings and conversations.

Youth: This past Sunday, I attended Brunch Bunch with the high school and middle school youth. We had a very engaging conversation about their hopes and concerns. They have asked for more time together regularly including possible 2x/month Saturday game nights. I also asked them for more full participation on Sunday mornings. I have asked them to participate in the Sunday service in leadership by presenting the Centering Thought at the top of the service and to be present in the service through the “Focusing on Our Youth” section before leaving to have class or conversation. This is approximately 15 minutes of the service. I also received feedback that some don’t feel fed by the service and feel that if the service was to be altered or updated in a way that would “feed” them, it would either be met by resistance or would “be taking something from the adults.” I offered for them to work with me on developing a service that would be Youth Centered and to give me a chance to work with them on creating something new. There were some mixed feelings about what could be done but for the most part, they seemed willing to try. Success!

Membership: I am continuing to meet with several members for one on one sessions to discuss PrairieUU as well as pastoral care issues, membership and more. I have met with two prospective members and will be meeting in the next week or so with a third. It looks like we will be on schedule for a new member ceremony on December 8th.

The Committee on Shared Ministry has opened its first Reconciliation and Restorative Justice Listening Circle. We are in the initial stages of working with two members of the congregation and looking forward to a larger roll out of the program/process to the congregation in the future. We invite anyone who would like to participate in a process like this to contact the COSM and most specifically Pastor AJ, Michael M or Samera B.

Human Resources: We are chugging along without an administrator but we seem to have avoided any major catastrophes. I would like to thank Clark H and Janet S as well as our communications Mary S, our marketing consultant, and Renee L, our accountant for all their help. Each of  them and many more have taken on a lot of additional responsibilities these past two weeks. Clark, Janet and have conducted several phone interviews and are confident that we have strong candidates for the position. We will hopefully have someone in place by the end of the month.

We have hired a new childcare provider, Bobby Blasiotti, who started this past Sunday. We are excited to have him on-board. He will be with us on average two Sunday’s per month. I would like to thank John K and Susan E for all their work on the hiring process. We are still looking for a Childcare Coordinator and one to two more Childcare providers.

Admin: As was approved by the Board last month we are looking into new church software. I have been contacted by Tom H and Bill B with offers to help with this process. We have 3 pieces of software that we are looking at. I also think we might want our new admin to weigh in on this process.

Congregation at Large: I believe we had a productive town hall meeting on November 3rd. We had more than 30 members attend. We had introductions from the COSM and Board as well as some solid feedback for Pastor AJ, Board and COSM. People overall stated that they felt we are headed in the right direction but they would like more communication in advance and explanation of the changes that are happening. There was also a good conversation about levels of volunteering and specific request from Cindy W and Fran L about the need for help with Hospitality.

Where we are going …

We are headed in a few new directions as a congregation that is growing together in this new form of ministry.

One specific area where we are seeing change is in the Sunday Morning Experience. The Core Team and I are continuing to evaluate the Sunday morning experience and solicit feedback from the congregation. It has been raised in several spaces including the town hall that we need to address Candles of Community to deter people from making “announcements” and to keep sharing of a more personal nature. We are also continuing to work on the format and flow of the service.

Growing edges … 

As with any community, there is always room for growing edges. I think the growing edges we have at PrairieUU is the area of communications and well defined organizational structures. We are trying to open more communications avenues. The Board, COSM, and I are attempting to be more transparent in advance about changes that are being made and why.

In the last few months, we have changed the phone number due to a new billing process with Google. We have had the PO Box changed to relocate it in Parker reducing the annual cost and making more locally available. We have changed modes of communication because of the change in status from having to not having an admin. All of these things for most make perfect sense but if you don’t know why the change happens or even what the change is, it can be disheartening and confusing. We are working on this. It is a process and cultural shift that we are undergoing and I am very proud of how the congregation and community are coming together as a whole to embrace these updates, changes, and processes. It shows the strength of this community to its covenant.

I continue to invite you all to give me your input, feedback, candor, and generosity of spirit, and I will return with the same. I am truly enjoying our shared ministry and life here at PrairieUU. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to spend this time with you.

If anyone would like to meet and chat, I am here to serve and I look forward to our shared time together. Thank you for inviting me into both your community and lives.

AJ Blackwood, MinisterIn Service,

Pastor AJ