Rev. Jennifer Will be Retiring

Dear First UU community,

It is with both certainty and sadness that I want to let you know that I have decided to retire from First UU as of the end of my contract year, June 30, 2022.  This was not a decision that I came to lightly.

I have been ordained and in ministry for 37 years.  In that time I have been an Associate minister, a family therapist, a Director of Religious Education, Minister of Religious Education, and finally your called minister.  It has been a journey full of joy and love and awe along with heartache and grief.  But mostly what I will remember is the joy.

For it has been a joy and an honor to be your pastor.  We have laughed together, loved together, deepened our inclusivity and welcome.  When I came to First UU my memory is that there was a lot of talk about “the troubles”. That time in First UU’s history was full of strife and conflict.  Perhaps it was because I was the new minister and you wanted to catch me up with pertinent facts.  Since my start in August of 2014, I have seen and experienced that you have grown in your capacity for welcome, inclusion, and love and you have been able to own and acknowledge that as a congregation.

That is not all due to my leadership.  First UU and I were able to come together at just the right moment for each of us.  I never thought that I would have the opportunity to be a sole or senior minister.  Along the way, you and I have taught each other many things.  The reality is that when I came to this congregation you were already a welcoming place and you were ready to be more welcoming.  And I was at a place where I was ready and capable to lead you in that direction.

One thing that we have done together that I am very proud of is the Building Beloved Community Beyond the Binary conferences.  This conference has been a place for trans and nonbinary folx and their allies to create community and learn about issues important to them.  Through these conferences, we really did open our building in a beautifully welcoming way to folx who often do not feel welcomed.  This work that we have done has been good for both of us.  I think that one of the things that we have learned through this work is that deep welcome and inclusion is not just nice, it is indeed some of the best justice work we can do.

And along the way, we have done many, many infrastructure projects.  We have fixed the major leak problem in the church (no longer does it leak on the copier in the office!)  We have upgraded our tech (moving it into the 21st century), redone our entrance, made our building accessible (the lift we have a lift!).  We redid our parking lot (no more ice rink!).  We have upgraded our wifi and we have installed tech in the sanctuary that will allow us to have in-person services that are accessible to folks who cannot be with us in person.  Along the way, there have been baby dedications, weddings, and funerals, hospital visits, ordinations and installations, and many, many conversations about life and death, about love, about the sacred.  There have been friends made and relationships lost.  There have been countless committee meetings and potlucks, fundraisers, and social events.  There have been rallies and protestations. But most of all there has been a deep sense of call, love, and respect, between the congregation and me.

It is hard to say goodbye to all of that. And I am absolutely certain that this is the right decision for me and for you.  Even if you did not make that decision yourselves.  What I have come to understand about myself is that I am very good at what I do.  But at 37 years into ministry, I do not have it in me to take up the new mantle and lead you all to whatever is next.  For that, I think you need someone who has a vision for what is next and the energy to work with you on that.

The congregation is preparing to go into a new phase – one that will be shaped by this pandemic and it will be a new normal.  We will not be going back to what was.  Instead, this congregation has the opportunity to shape a new vision, a new mission, a new direction.  And I know that you are all so capable of that.

I have told the Board of my decision.  They will be taking the next steps – talking with Rev. Evin Carvil-Ziemer, our contact and support person from the UUA, and making a plan.  There are supports and processes for this congregation as you go through this transition.  This congregation has been here for over 160 years and it will be going on long after you or I are done with it.  It is no longer my place to tell you what that plan is or to help you shape it.  But I can assure you that you have both the internal and external resources to make this next transition successfully.

One of my goals for my career was to be able to retire from a congregation in a good way – leaving it a bit better off than they were when I started and leaving amidst love and good cheer.  And I am able to do that.  You have been and are the best congregation that I could imagine.  Your mission is “Justice with Love and Joy open to Awe”.  I cannot be more proud of how you and I have lived this out.

I know that good things are ahead for you.  And you will always have a special place in my heart.

In gratitude

Rev. Jennifer