Parson to Person: “There’ll Be Some Changes Ahead!”

Those of you who regularly read this Parson to Person column (otherwise known as p2p) may have noticed that I haven’t written a column for a couple weeks. As you may remember, in the beginning of my ministry with you at UCN I wrote a p2p column once a month. But when Covid restrictions began, and we could no longer have at-church services (or in-person visits)–it seemed more important (to me and to the Leadership Board) to keep in contact with UCN members and friends in other ways. So I upped my p2p column to once a week and began calling parishioners on a regular basis (about once every other month). Now that we have returned to in-church services (and home visiting is possible again), my ministry schedule will be changing–though not exactly to where it was before Covid (we’ve learned a few things since then!).

Here are some of the changes you can expect:

My p2p columns will be once a month now, not once a week.
Yes, this is a change from their frequency during the Covid lockdown, but my renewed  travel time meant that something would have to give. So, when can you expect one? Well, you will find my Parson to Person column in the Northliner at the beginning and end of each month. That is, each p2p will appear on the last Friday of each month–and be repeated on the first Friday of the month following. So, if you miss one on, let’s say, July 31st, you can catch its “rerun” on August 6th; or if you miss it on August 27th, you can catch it on September 3rd.

My “office hours” will stay the same, but…
Before Covid, the hours you could be sure to reach me were 6-10 pm on Tuesday nights (at home) and 1-5 pm on Thursday afternoons (at church). When Covid hit, I still kept the same hours–but only at home. (The time saved in driving time made it possible to write more frequent p2p columns, make more phone calls, and type up more of my sermons.) The new schedule will be sort of a hybrid model. I will still keep Tuesday-night and Thursday-afternoon “office hours”–but I will not always be at UCN on Thursdays. Of course, I will still come to church on the Sundays I’m preaching, and on one weekday every week. But the weekday visit will more often be on a Wednesday instead of Thursday. Why? Well, since our adult-education classes are now being held on Wednesday evenings, it doesn’t make sense for me to drive to UCN and back on Wednesday and Thursday of every week. (Not that I would mind the extra travel, but the extra cost to the church–in both driving hours and mileage reimbursement–would be quite hefty: about $250 more a month in extra mileage costs (amounting to $3,000 a year), and 9 hours less time available per month (amounting to over 100 hours a year).

Religious Education:
I will still offer several adult-ed classes for UCN, but they will be both in-church and virtual, and they will take place on Wednesday evenings (instead of Thursdays) in order to be consistent with UCN’s now-established Wednesday Night Worship schedule. We will begin these classes in September (to coincide with our in-gathering service on the Labor Day weekend). The first 4-session class will be on the subject of “Belief in God: Arguments For and Against”–September 1 (cosmological and teleological arguments); September 8 (ontological and argument from miracles); September 15  (argument from morality); Sept 22 (a break in the class to celebrate Mabon); September 29 (Pascal’s wager and the “Quia consolans” argument); and October 6 will be a special “Amazing Faiths” program featuring Unitarian Universalism as explained to outsiders.

The next class I will lead will be on the 4 Wednesday evenings of January, on the subject of “The Religions of India”–January 5 (Hinduism); January 12 (Jainism); January 19 (Buddhism); and January 26 (Sikhism).

Other Church Meetings:
Now that a number of church meetings will be back at church again, I will be able to attend some of them in person (especially if they’re on a Sunday when I’m preaching, or on a Wednesday when I’m at UCN)–but others I will have to attend virtually. (A good example would be UCN’s Social Justice Committee. It generally meets on the first Sunday of the month, following the church service. On those Sundays when I’m preaching at UCN I will be able to attend the SJC meeting in person; on the Sundays I’m not there, I will sometimes be able to attend virtually, but not always–especially if I’m preaching at another UU church.)

I plan to continue to call UCN members and friends on a regular basis, but not quite as frequently–I’m thinking maybe once every three months instead of every two months (that is, “quarterly”: 4 times a year). But I will also resume visiting UCN folks in person (at home, at church, at a restaurant, etc.), so the time I spend visiting will probably actually increase.

Not in Stone:
These are the main differences in my schedule that I see going forward. Of course, nothing is written in stone, and plans are always subject to change (and open to improvement); but we have to start somewhere, and I wanted you to know in advance
what the future at UCN looks like to me at this point. As you can see, it will include elements from pre-Covid as well as during-Covid. So I’m looking forward to our new/old way of doing ministry together. Have a great summer, everyone!

peace and unrest,