The Rev. Elizabeth L. Greene, Minister Emerita
Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
1012 Strawberry Lane
Boise, Idaho 83712
I write to encourage you—enthusiastically—to consider the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (“BUUF,” familiarly), the congregation I served for 25 years. In 1988, I drove east over the Sierra Nevada and across the high desert, a brand-new Starr King School For the Ministry graduate, into a life of intensity, joy, change, service, collaboration, and growth. For all of us.
Not to put too fine a point on it, BUUF is a healthy congregation with a great past and present, and the potential for an even greater future.
Sunday attendance is good (and can be better). Adult membership grew fairly significantly during our time together, as did Sunday School registration. (Plus, the introduction of a fabulous Coming of Age program, and a junior high Boston pilgrimage every other year.) We became a Welcoming Congregation. There were almost no functioning committees in 1988— by the time I left in 2013, the Board and Program Council were well enough organized that the minister can be almost completely freed from organizational minutiae. We bought 4.2 acres and built a sanctuary/RE building, adding two office/RE wings a couple of years later. In 2008, the congregation bought another acre abutting the original property. The Landscape Committee and volunteers do a great job of keeping the campus parklike and serene. There is a settled, able, loyal and fun team of staff members, a joy to supervise.
Three members of BUUF have been members of the Pacific Northwest District Board (one the Board chair, two years ago), and I was the trustee to the UUA Board from the PNWD, for eight years. The congregation in general is not as informed as it could be about denominational affairs, but the District and the Association know who Boise is.
More important than the physical and program growth is the spiritual and emotional growth, into more acceptance, openness, and willingness to speak directly and respectfully to each other and the minister about hard matters. When I came, there was something of a culture of triangulation. Years of practicing and preaching respectful confrontation have changed us into a more honest, loving group, and spiritual maturity has emerged. In addition, humor is always about, in the midst of all this Serious Stuff—laughter is a part of this community.
Congregational care is strong, and people attend to each other. There is also much respect—even love—for the professional ministry. I had two emotional crises during my 25 years—my younger sister’s death in 1998; a divorce in 2011—and the congregation was amazingly supportive, without ever assuming inappropriate caretaking. Likewise, when I had an emergency appendectomy, then kidney cancer surgery in 2003.
A part of my ministry I have found exceedingly fulfilling is public witness. Boise is a capital city, in a very conservative state. The local UU minister has uncounted opportunities to show up and speak out on capital punishment, abortion, minimum wage, civil rights and other issues. A small band of us—maybe 8—marched in Boise’s early Pride Parade, in about 1990, waving our freedom-proclaiming 8½x11 “banners” printed proudly on my dot-matrix printer.
One is always asked, in a letter like this, to mention where the difficulties may lie. This is difficult. It is a human bunch, people doing their best and making lots of mistakes. (With a high level of forgiveness, including of the minister’s mistakes.) There could be more social action as a whole congregation, in addition to the work of the many individuals who work for justice in the community. Perhaps the issue I wish most I had helped improve is in the area of generosity. BUUFers simply do not do a good job of stewardship: campaigns are often run at less than peak efficiency, and many people give a good deal less than they could. It would be wonderful if they could find more joy in giving.
Having said that, may I return to my unvarnished admiration and affection for this honest, hard-working, courageous, committed, mature congregation. We spent two and a half decades together, and grew in all ways. I will be grateful for the rest of my days for the honor and work and joy and challenges of being with these people. Do consider this congregation seriously, as a place where much ministry has happened and can happen.
Rev. Elizabeth L. Greene
PS: The PNWD UUMA Chapter is simply wonderful, with stimulating and supportive colleagues, a spirit of teamwork, and excellent programs. We also play an amazing game of Charades, enjoyed by participants and observers alike.
I am very happy to be able to recommend the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to you as a place where you can practice a meaningful and effective, pastoral and prophetic ministry.
This is a fine congregation that said a healthy and grateful goodbye to a 25-year ministry and embraced the work of interim ministry thoughtfully and well. Though the path of the previous settled ministry was lively and engaged with some disagreement and occasional dissension, this is a congregation that knows how to love a minister. They have a strong-minded, able and responsible lay leadership, and they respect ministers and ministry.
There is lots of good ministry you can do in partnership with these good folks. They have made some real progress in the pastoral-to-program shift and adopting a policy-style governance model, and yet there is good work still to be done. The congregation has the potential for growth in depth, in service and in numbers, and a few good issues around directions to proceed – especially around buildings and grounds and manifesting mission – to which a new minister’s contributions will be central.
They appreciate good worship and good music. During the interim time, we expanded the role of lay Celebrants in services and increased participation of a fine choir in Sunday services. They have a well-developed program for lay pastoral care. They are becoming more conscious of the intentional welcoming and integration of membership, and know they have more work to do in this area. The Stewardship Team has made significant progress during the interim period, and your partnership in fostering a deeper culture of generosity will be welcomed. There is a competent, loyal and devoted staff who work well together.
Boise is a fabulous place to live and do ministry. After living in both the San Francisco Bay area and in Portland, Oregon, I was delighted (and, yes, a bit surprised) to find Boise such a livable and beautiful place. I also found it gratifying to do ministry the state capital. The city of Boise is in many ways a progressive island in a much more conservative state, which makes the opportunities for justice ministry all the more powerful. I was able to join other progressive clergy in bearing witness for GLBTQ rights during the legislative session, and members of the congregation were part of the suit that brought marriage equality to the state. The next minister here will have opportunities for witness and outreach with a congregation hungry to create a just and compassionate community.
I have well appreciated serving this community. Sometimes they are a bit more dutiful and serious than they need to be. I’ve encouraged them to embrace a sense of both reverence and delight in the work of the church. On another note, when I had a serious illness diagnosed in the spring, they rose to the occasion with strength, maturity and compassion. They were neither overly anxious for themselves nor did they try to over-care for their minister. They struck a very healthy balance.
I would be very happy to speak with you to share the impressions and perspectives as their interim minister. They are a strong and fully human congregation with many achievements, a few on-going issues, and still great possibilities to do powerful ministry among themselves and in the community.
I commend them to you.
Rev. Dana Worsnop
Dear Ministerial Candidate,
I am excited that you are taking a look at our beloved Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. We are a vibrant and growing congregation that needs a minister who is ready to grow with us, who can challenge us spiritually and intellectually, and who can help us become the open, welcoming, social justice committed congregation that we envision. At our end we hope to be a place where you can also grow in your spiritual journey.
I currently serve as the board president, which at BUUF is a one year stint book-ended by being the vice president first and then serving on the board as immediate past president. It is an exciting year to be in this role as we gear up to call the first minister we have called in over 25 years. I believe we have been well prepared both by our outgoing minister, Rev. Elizabeth Greene, and by our current interim minister, Rev. Dana Worsnop. We will be ready to make the call when we find the right fit.
I am a lifelong UU, who has been part of this congregation for the past 18 years. My wife Cathy and I joined shortly after my oldest daughter, Elia, was born. The fellowship has seen us through both celebrations and difficulties: Our own marriage, the deaths of both of our fathers, one tragically, the birth of our twin daughters, Hallie and Deana, whose birth was preceded by a difficult pregnancy, requiring 10 weeks of bed rest (and many congregation provided meals!) Our kids grew up in RE, our oldest went through OWL and our Coming of Age process, went on pilgrimage to Boston, and renewed her commitment in her senior year by attending the Youth Con and Pacific Northwest District Youth event. Our twins are rapidly approaching that part of the cycle. The church has been an important part of our family's life. I think only a church can support people through those many stages of life and this one does those things well.
I value this church too because of what it does outside our building and grounds. Our ministers and congregation have a long history of standing up against unjust wars, on behalf of people who have been left out or discriminated against, and on behalf of women's rights. We have taken stands on behalf of including farm workers in the minimum wage and against proposals discriminating against LGBT people. We became an official Welcoming Congregation in the mid-1990's and have taken that to heart in current struggles for marriage equality. Our members have volunteered weekly on Sunday evening for years to assist the local interfaith homeless shelter. We also staff the booths at the farmers markets weekly so that SNAP/food stamp recipients can buy local produce and we have helped subsidize the cost to make it affordable. We have painted the town, raked up Boise, worked at the food bank and low-income schools. We give 25% of our unpledged plate offering to various social justice organizations. I am proud of both the justice work and mercy work that our congregation does. And we want to do more. We are working towards a “Sermon to Service” model where our minister's sermons help drive our social justice ministry and vice versa.
For the last few years our board has been studying and reflecting on Dan Hotchkiss' Governance and Ministry and this year adopted two focuses for our “ministry vision”. The first is to become a more welcoming and transparent congregation to all comers and especially to work towards finding clear and easily discoverable pathways for participation at all levels. The second is to integrate social justice into the work of all our ministries. This is the first time the board has set and communicated a ministry vision that we are asking all groups to adopt and plan around. Our Program Ministry Council is critical to this effort as we work to discern the difference between governance and ministry and the roles of each body.
We are ready for the next leg of the journey for the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. We look forward to welcoming a new minister and discovering his or her gifts.
Yours in fellowship,
St. Luke's CPE Center
190 East Bannock Street
Boise, ID 83712
September 26, 2014
I have been a member of the Boise Unitarian Univeralist Fellowship since I arrived in the beautiful city of Boise in the summer of 2010 to become the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Supervisor at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center. I was warmly welcomed into this UU community and, even though I am not able to be especially active due to the demands of my job, I still feel very much a part of this congregation. As BUUF's community minister, I preach once a year, participate as a consultant for the Congregational Care Team and serve as a spiritual partner in our Quest program. I also bring BUUF's spirit beyond the walls of the church and into the community, representing the UUA's definition of a professional minister as one whose central purpose is "service to persons of the transformation of society."
I am one of a handful of Unitarian Univeralist CPE Supervisors in the country and, yes, as you may have heard, many of the people in the Boise area are relatively more conservative religiously, politically and culturally than many UU's are. They are also friendly and open to conversation, which certainly broadens my experience of diversity. There are many faiths and cultures here. And our thriving, healthy BUUF community is a liberal haven for my need to be with like-minded people. We also have a small group of UU ministers here who meet periodically for support and socializing.
The people, the natural beauty and the cultural opportunities in this area are some of the things I most appreciate about living here. I am glad that you are interested in the possibility of joining us as our new minister.
Peace to you,
Rev. Jackie Kelly
I am delighted that you are considering a congregation here in the Pacific Northwest, and I can assure you of a warm welcome on the part of your colleagues here. Our UUMA chapter shares a deep ethic of collegiality and support for one another, across the many miles of our four state region. We are known throughout the UUMA for the spiritual depth of our gatherings and the rigor of our collegial practices. We are also leaders in the inclusion of various forms and different life stages of ministries. We are committed to creating programming that is useful to parish and community ministers and that includes everyone from students to retired clergy. Our attendance is quite high, often over seventy people at a gathering, and many of our colleagues travel hundreds of miles to join us. (Indeed, some come from Canada and Alaska--traveling hundreds upon hundreds of miles!) We also enjoy a positive relationship with our district and regional staff.
The UUMA chapter gathers twice each year for our Professional Days. This time is three to four days with colleagues, learning, resting, playing and praying together. Each gathering is part retreat, part continuing education, and part collegial bonding--a different mix from time to time, but always restorative to our varied ministries. We have a rich theological mix as well, and practice hospitality and open-heartedness towards one another in that aspect, as in all things.
In addition to our Professional Days, every other year we host a joint gathering with the Pacific Northwest LREDA chapter, and collaborate with them on some topic of continuing education and professional development for clergy and religious educators. We have found this time together to be immensely valuable, and cherish the ties that have been made between our two professional organizations.
There are also numerous opportunities for smaller clergy groups--we have multiple clusters which meet throughout the four states and there are smaller support and prayer groups which form as desired. And we show up for each other. We travel long distances to celebrate those milestones of ministry--ordinations, installations, building dedications, and more. We know that ministers need one another, and that those ministries that do well are the ones in which the minister actively participates in chapter life and collegial friendships. We offer our friendship and support to you, should you decide to make your new home in the Pacific Northwest.
Good luck in your search, wherever it takes you, and blessings on your new ministry!
The Rev. Cecilia Kingman
President, Pacific Northwest Chapter,
Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association
Pacific Northwest District
Part of the Pacific Western Region – Big Faith * No Borders
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
To Clergy Considering Settlement Opportunities:
As Pacific Northwest District Executive since 2004 and now part of the UUA’s Pacific Western Region staff team, I have come to know and admire the Boise UU Fellowship as a spiritually mature, gracious and fun-loving congregation that is both recognized and respected for its liberal religious leadership in Idaho.
If I had to pick two things that this congregation does best, I would say relationship and shared leadership. They know how to love, hold one another accountable, forgive and keep right on loving. They are used to partnering with a strong minister who expects a strong laity. They listen well, speak up with kindness and honesty, and they pitch in. They attract and retain wise leaders who consider it normal to hold the reins lightly and mentor others. There have been bumps along the way, of course, but they recognize these early, engage directly and ask for help. I would rank them among our healthiest congregations.
Boise is a gem of a small city, with a delightfully sophisticated array of arts and cultural opportunities and many great restaurants, as well as a stunning natural environment ideal for recreation and family life. Idaho is a solidly “red” state, and our UU congregation is one of Boise’s steadfast and prominent liberal voices. Its presence and public witness is established, expected and impactful. The congregation has close ties to the area’s large Basque population, and offers important presence where the LDS Church is by far the largest single religious tradition.
Ministers in the Pacific Northwest District (PNWD) enjoy a strong collegiality – our UUMA chapter is active, warm and supportive. Participation in chapter activities will be essential, and the congregation expects your involvement.
I will be on Sabbatical January 2 through April 5, so I will likely miss the chance to offer you more personal encouragement – but the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is definitely at the top of my recommended list!
Congregational Life Staff, Pacific Western Region