The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the UUA said, “Growth and sharing our faith is a moral obligation.” Beginning with the 2013-2014 church year, the UU Church of Canandaigua NY and First Unitarian Church of Rochester NY began a Partnership of staff and resource sharing to expand and strengthen Unitarian Universalism in north central New York. This Partnership was initially established for five years and will be evaluated for continuation beyond that date.
The UU Church of Canandaigua began its life in 1993 as an independent congregation and is proud of its history of supporting itself through the years. It has been able to offer a part time ministerial position, serving the UUCC as well as other congregations in the area. Like many other small congregations, it struggles to pay for the staff, programs, and building which would increase its attractiveness and visibility.
The ministries and programming at First Unitarian Church of Rochester are welcoming and very attractive to people hungering for liberal religion, and have led to continuing growth in membership. This growth has created unique challenges for the congregation and ministries. Growth requires additional staff to maintain excellent programming. Yet, economic challenges make it harder for the congregation to afford the level of staffing needed to support dynamic and dependable programming.
Since the beginning of the Partnership, UUCC and the First Unitarian Rochester have created ministerial and staff sharing arrangements that foster economic efficiencies, allowing the UUCC to remain an independent entity, yet part of a larger faith community, and allowing First Unitarian to develop creative and economical means to staff for growth.
Partnerships between churches are thriving in a variety of ways in many denominations, including our own Unitarian Universalism. The Partnership between First Unitarian and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canandaigua is outlined in their joint Vision Statement which reads in part:
- We believe our congregations are called to share our message of liberal religion to the Rochester and Finger Lakes region. We believe that staff and resource sharing will enable us to fulfill this mission.
- We believe that staff and resource sharing is good stewardship. It allows us to take advantage of economies of scale and use our members’ financial contributions more effectively.
- We believe that staff and resource sharing will increase our congregations’ ability to attract and retain high quality ministry. By combining resources, our congregations can offer positions that are closer to full-time than either would be able to offer alone.
- We believe that staff and resource sharing can be done in a way that preserves each congregation’s unique identity. We believe that shared programming, organizational strategy and staff can be creatively adapted to each congregation’s particular character, history and circumstances.
The partnership between First Unitarian Rochester and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canandaigua is yet another model for collaboration and sharing within our faith tradition – a model that is already inspiring other congregations in New York state and beyond to help share and strengthen Unitarian Universalism.
Click on the picture above to be taken to the 1 1/2 minute video by Rev. Erik Martínez Resly
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere is the Central East Regional Lead and lives in “partnership” in Columbus Ohio with her spouse, Jerry, and three cats – all named after different Hebrew Bible prophets.