Rev. Paula Retiring at Year End
Today I announced to the congregation that I will be retiring from my position as senior minister at the end of this year. My last Sunday will be Dec. 18.
I know this is the right decision for me, though I make it with a heavy heart. Unity Renaissance has been at the center of my life for some 9½ years. I love our community, and all of you, very much. At the same time, I am feeling complete with my ministry here. I’ve done what I came here to do, and it is time to pass the torch to new leadership.
Let me assure you that nothing happened to cause my decision other than my own inner urging to create the next chapter of my life. All is well with Richard and me, the Board, the staff, and the congregation. But I will be 68 in February, and time is precious. I am looking forward to having more time with my beloved Richard, with my precious children and grandchildren (including our first grandson due Jan. 3!), and more time for myself. I will spend much of 2023 resting and rejuvenating before contemplating what’s next.
Rev. Richard will not be retiring along with me. He will continue as Music Director for the foreseeable future. Rev. Ann DeMichael will also be continuing as Adult Education Director and Director of Prayer and Pastoral Care. Neither Richard nor Ann, both Unity ministers, is interested in applying for the senior minister position. Nevertheless, they will provide tremendous continuity and stability as we move forward, as will our exceptional Board, staff, and volunteers.
The Board is already in touch with Unity Worldwide Ministries to chart the way forward. In keeping with UWM’s recommendation, the Board will be looking to hire a transitional minister at the beginning of 2023 who will serve Unity Renaissance for several months. The role of the transitional minister is to help the church adjust to operating without the departing minister. The transitional minister will also work with the Board and congregation to move through the steps of hiring a new senior minister. You will be a vital part of that process. The Board is committed to keeping you informed and engaged through each phase of the ministerial search, via meetings, emails, regular updates, and Q&A sessions.
There is much more to understand about what will be happening at Unity Renaissance in the coming months and year. I encourage you to attend the Community Forum with our Board at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, to ask your questions and learn more.
Meanwhile, know that whatever you are feeling about this news is normal and okay. You may be sad, angry, shocked, in denial, or even excited about the changes to come. My own feelings are all over the map! As much as I look forward to retirement, I am very sad to be leaving you.
I will be holding small group meetings later in the fall to talk to you about what’s happening and process it together. This is a great time to put our spiritual tools into practice – to have faith in our community, and each other; to affirm Divine Order will prevail; and to know all will be well.
Here’s how you can best support Unity Renaissance in this time of change:
• First, recognize that the church is not the minister. Unity Renaissance is much bigger and stronger than the leadership of a single person. You are part of a spiritual community and a consciousness that continues on, no matter who is in charge.
• Second, lean in, not out. It’s normal for some people to think this would be a great time to take a break from church, and to stop attending, contributing, or volunteering. Please don’t! Community is strengthened when we stick together through times of change and shape our future together. You are a valued part of our spiritual family. Unity Renaissance needs you! Please take this opportunity to engage even more deeply with our spiritual family and find new ways to call this place your home.
• Third, hold positive intentions for our future minister and our evolving community. We have a strong Board, strong staff, and strong lay leadership. See this change opening the way for an exciting new era for Unity Renaissance.
I am grateful to have three more months with you before I go. It will be precious time indeed! I look forward to spending time with each of you, appreciating how far we’ve come, and focusing on what’s most important.
It has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life to serve all of you. I love Unity Renaissance more than words can ever express! Thank you for making this minister’s dreams come true.
Rev. Paula Mekdeci
FAQs on Rev. Paula’s Retirement
- Why is Rev. Paula retiring? After what will be nearly 9½ years of service, two capital campaigns, one prolonged pandemic, nearly 350 Sunday talks, and dozens of classes, Rev. Paula is feeling complete with her time here as senior minister. She will be turning 68 in February and wants more time for family, travel, hobbies and interests, friends, and herself. It is worth noting that Rev. Paula will have served longer than any of our previous ministers other than our founding minister, Rev. Judi Meyer, who served 16 years and retired at age 55.
- Did something happen to make Paula leave? Rev. Paula has been very clear that nothing happened, nothing is wrong, and that her relationships with her husband, family, and our Board, staff, and congregation are all healthy, happy, and strong. She is simply ready to create the next chapter of her life.
- When will her retirement be effective? Officially, Jan. 1, 2023, though Paula’s last Sunday will be Dec. 18, 2022.
- What will be happening between now and then? We will continue to operate as usual, with Sunday services, classes, workshops, social events, and meaningful time together. In addition, Rev. Paula will be available for one-on-one meetings with congregants as well as small group meetings to process this change and help us say goodbye.
- Is Rev. Richard leaving too? Richard will continue as music director, but recognizes that a new minister will have his or her own preferences for music choices and staffing.
- What if I’m feeling angry or excited that Rev. Paula is retiring? You have a right to your feelings, no matter what they are! Grief includes shock/denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance, and hope. You may feel a mix of these things. Or you may be excited that change is coming! Different people feel different things at different times; all of it is normal and okay.
- When will we get a new minister? Can’t we just hire a new one now? The Board will first work with Unity Worldwide Ministries to hire a Transitional Minister who will help the church learn to operate without Rev. Paula. The Transitional Minister is expected to join us in early 2023 and stay for several months. That person will guide us in the search for a new Senior Minister.
- Could Rev. Ann or Rev. Richard (both of whom are credentialed Unity ministers) be our new minister? Neither Rev. Ann DeMichael nor Rev. Richard Mekdeci is interested in filling the Senior Minister position. However, both will continue in their current roles at Unity Renaissance – Ann as Director of Prayer and Pastoral Care and Director of Adult Education, and Richard as Music Director and teacher in Adult Education.
- Could someone else from our congregation be Senior Minister (Tom Baker, Rev. Margaret, etc.)? As a Unity church, we are required to hire a credentialed Unity leader as our minister. At the present time, Rev. Ann and Rev. Richard are the only credentialed Unity ministers in our congregation.
- Why do we need a Transitional Minister? When a minister leaves after having successfully served a congregation for many years, Unity Worldwide Ministries recommends a buffer time before the new minister is hired. This gives the congregation time to grieve and adjust to operating without the departing minister. The Transitional Minister will lead the church during that time and steer the change process.
- What is the process for selecting the Transitional Minister? Unity Worldwide Ministries will provide our Board with the names and background information on a few qualified individuals who could serve as Transitional Minister. These are Unity ministers who have specifically been trained for this work for 2-3 years. Our Board will review the candidates, conduct interviews, and select the individual who is best suited to our community.
- Can the Transitional Minister stay if we like him or her? Unity Worldwide Ministries’ guidelines specifically forbid the transitional minister from staying on or applying for the permanent Senior Minister position.
- What is the process for hiring a new Senior Minister? How long will it take? The Transitional Minister will lead us in the search process for a new Senior Minister. The process includes developing a church packet to inform potential candidates of the opening, and the formation of a Ministerial Search Team to lead the effort. The Ministerial Search Team will send out the application packet, review all applications, determine finalists, and invite finalists to come to Unity Renaissance to give a Sunday talk and workshop, participate in a Q&A with the congregation, and meet separately with the Board and key staff. After all finalists have visited and presented, the Ministerial Search Team will make a recommendation to the Board for consideration. The process will likely take several months.
- Who will decide who the next minister is? The Board of Trustees will make the final decision, taking into account the recommendation of the Ministerial Search Team and input from the congregation.
- Who will be on the Ministerial Search Team? The Transitional Minister will support the Board in creating a Ministerial Search Team. The Board will appoint one Trustee to serve as a liaison to the Ministerial Search Team, and will review applications from congregants for the remaining members.
- Will the congregation have a vote? No, but the congregation will be asked for feedback after each candidate’s talk, workshop, and Q&A. Since the role of Senior Minister involves much more than Sunday services, the Ministerial Search Team and ultimately the Board will need to evaluate their administrative and business skills as well as their pastoral and presentation skills.
- What will the Board be looking for in a new minister? The Board and Ministerial Search team will be looking for someone who aligns with our vision, mission, and values, and can take Unity Renaissance to the next level in terms of growth and impact. Cultivating and embracing diversity will continue to be central to who we are. In all we do, we will be guided by our Core Values:
- Love – With open hearts, we behold, affirm, and embrace the highest and best in each person.
- Acceptance – All people are welcome here.
- Creativity – We give our spiritual gifts in diverse and inspiring ways.
- Spirit-Centered – Attuned to God, we emanate peace, love and wisdom.
- Community – We care about one another and cherish opportunities to give, love, serve, and celebrate together.
- Will our new minister be younger? Female or male? White or Black? We don’t know! It depends on the best qualified and best suited candidate to lead our church.
- Who will be the primary Sunday speaker after Paula leaves? We will likely rely on guest speakers (and many of the spiritual leaders in our congregation) and the Transitional Minister until the new Senior Minister arrives.
- How will the church and ministry operate after Paula leaves? Who will fill her role as CEO to lead the staff and organization? The Transitional Minister will serve as CEO initially, and the new Senior Minister thereafter. We also have an exceptional staff who have worked with Paula in the day-to-day operation of Unity Renaissance who will continue to be in place for the foreseeable future.
- Will the Transitional Minister change things or keep them the same until the new Senior Minister gets here? Change is inevitable. The Transitional Minister will be here not to keep everything as it is, but to help the congregation prepare for what’s next. The Transitional Minister will also help the congregation work through its feelings and let go of how things have been with Rev. Paula. This will prepare the way for the new Senior Minister, and the exciting talents and opportunities they bring!
- What have you done before when the minister left? When Rev. Laura Bennett left, we followed the same process (church packet, Ministerial Search Team, tryouts, etc.), and it worked very well. Congregants felt informed and involved, and the Board made the final decision.
- How will Youth Education be affected? We are blessed to have strong leadership in Youth Education with Director Ana Vincent and Assistant Director Bea Clendenin. Both of them will continue in their current capacity, teaching our children Unity principles and supporting them in their social and spiritual growth. It will be up to the new Senior Minister whether there are changes in programming or personnel down the road. However, our youth will remain a top priority for Unity Renaissance.
- Will our music change? It may. That will be up to the next Senior Minister. Rev. Richard and the Unity Renaissance Music Team and U.R. Singers will continue on. It will be up to the new Senior Minister whether there are changes in programming down the road.
- Will we still have classes? Absolutely! Adult Education will continue to operate and hopefully grow. Classes are a mainstay in the Unity Movement – a key way for us to deepen our spiritual understanding, and bond with one another.
- Will our theology change? No! Unity Renaissance is, and will remain, a Unity church. As such, it embraces the teachings of Unity, and Unity’s emphasis on prayer, education, and community. The Unity movement honors (as Rev. Paula says each Sunday) “all paths to God, all names for God, and all expressions for God.” It is based on the teachings of Jesus, the power of prayer, and a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible. These are foundational to Unity and do not change from minister to minister.
- What are the biggest changes the community needs to be prepared for? Not having Rev. Paula here will be the biggest change! Beyond that, things will change as our new credentialed leaders come on board. We don’t yet know how, but we will all be part of that change. In fact, we are here to shape the future for Unity Renaissance. After we let go of the old, we will be ready to step into an exciting future together.
- After she retires, will Rev. Paula be able to attend church here? Can she participate in classes and events? Under Unity’s ministerial Code of Ethics, Rev. Paula must “release her ministry” after she leaves. That means she must cease all involvement with the church. This is done so the new order may be established without people holding on to the past. Once a minister leaves a congregation, it takes time for both the minister and the congregation to adjust to this new reality. If, after at least one year after the hiring of our new Senior Minister, Rev. Paula wishes to inquire about returning to active membership, she may speak with the new minister and Unity Worldwide Ministries to determine the best path forward.
- Can we still contact Paula after she retires? Can we call, email, or contact her via social media? As hard as it is, the answer is no. It is best to make a clean break.
- What if we’re personal friends? Well, we all feel like personal friends at Unity Renaissance! But you are asked to not contact Rev. Paula. It is not that Paula doesn’t care; it’s that she is bound by the Code of Ethics.
- What if I’d like Rev. Paula to perform a wedding or memorial service? The Transitional Minister (and eventually new Senior Minister) will be available to perform special services; Rev. Ann DeMichael and Rev. Richard Mekdeci are also qualified to conduct such ceremonies.
- What if a member of the staff needs Paula’s help, guidance or direction based on things she created and/or led when she was minister? We will need to find our way without her.
- How can I best support the church during this transition?
- First, recognize that the church is not the minister. Unity Renaissance is much bigger and deeper than the leadership of a single person. You are part of a spiritual community and a consciousness that continues on, no matter who is in charge.
- Second, lean in, not out. It’s normal for some people to think this would be a great time to take a break from church, and to stop attending, giving, or volunteering. Please don’t! Community is strengthened when we stick together through times of change and shape our future together. You are a valued part of our spiritual family. We need you and we hope you take this opportunity to engage even more deeply with Unity Renaissance and find new ways to call this place your home.
- Third, hold positive intentions for our future minister and our evolving community. We have a strong Board, strong staff, and strong lay leadership. See this change opening the way for an exciting new era for Unity Renaissance.
- Who should I contact with questions? You may submit your questions to the email address Unityrentransition@gmail.com. A member of the Board will monitor the email and get you a response.
As we step into our journey of transition, the board is working diligently to ensure continuity within our community. We have had several meetings with Toni Boehm at UWM who is helping us in our search for a transitional minister. Toni will be sending out a request to the Transitional Ministers team on November 1, 2022. After that we will meet with the potential Transitional Ministers and select the one who is the best fit for Unity Renaissance. Rest assured the Board is meeting regularly with Toni and Pat Bessey, our Eastern Region consultant, to make this transition as smooth as possible. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to reach out to a board member or email us at the transition email, firstname.lastname@example.org. This email is monitored daily and a board member will get back to you. We will come through this together, stronger and better than ever.
Valerie Winters,Board Vice President
“We Are Here For You” – Rev. Paula Mekdeci – December 10, 2020
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