Dear Borderlands,
I am entering into the end of my first month at Borderlands so I thought it would be a good idea to write you all a letter sharing my impressions and providing updates on what I am working on.  First, impressions . . .  You all are a strong community, maybe stronger than you know.  I feel you have been through a lot and yet, you’re still standing, a testament to your commitment.  I also have had the gift of experiencing your emotional and spiritual depth.  And I am grateful for your strength in vulnerability.  In addition, you are experienced.  In other words, this ain’t your first rodeo.  You have engaged me in thoughtful, discerning dialogue and have an openness to having hard conversations and asking tough questions – both of me and of yourselves.  You all are fierce!  And I mean that in every good way.
There are also growing edges.  In my conversations with the Board and other individuals, one growing edge that seems to be of concern for most is infrastructure.  There can always be improvement in infrastructure and it can often feel like a moving target.  Consistency in policies and manuals and structure around their review and revision is one example.  More specifically, our personnel manual is out of date and our bylaws are overdue for review and probably revision.  How we go about the work of the church could use a bit of standardization and I’m a firm believer in what isn’t written down will be forgotten.  An example of this would be processes for how things are managed and communicated.  This growing edge is common to many churches.  I assure you; we are not alone.  The goal, and I know it’s a tall order, is to have an infrastructure in place that would enable anyone stepping into any leadership role at Borderlands to be able to do so seamlessly and for our committees to be as efficient as possible.
So, what am I spending my time doing right now?  I’m spending a significant amount of time getting to know Borderlands.  Currently, I am attending all committee meetings.  I am also talking with folks through phone calls, in person meetings, visits to homes and via email. I have scheduled our monthly town hall meetings, tea for the soul and coffee chat (at Posada Java).  I am working on updating the personnel manual.  I am putting together a new member orientation.  I am working with a group of us to organize education opportunities for the congregation to learn about Article II – a significant revision to the UUA’s bylaws as well as developing a plan for preparing to vote at the General Assembly in June.  I am planning a leadership training for the new Board, our committee chairs and anyone else who is interested.  I am talking with our Vision, Mission and Values team about planning next steps.  These are the larger endeavors.  In my day to day, I’m providing pastoral care, planning upcoming services, preparing for the next tea for the soul and town hall, addressing concerns and providing reflection for problem solving.  I am in ongoing communication with the Baja 4.  And I am in a constant process of learning which entails listening, acquiring new skills, understanding how things are done at Borderlands and becoming familiar with your history.  I think that that about covers it.
I do try to spend the first four to six months of any new job just listening and observing.  I view my role as primarily pastoral and my leadership style in ministry is to notice, reflect and ask questions that will inspire discernment.  The to do list I have shared with you are things that can’t be put off.  Nevertheless, I believe that the worst thing anyone in leadership can do when they first come on board is going around changing everything.  It has been my experience that individuals who do this tend to be insecure and that this establishes their credibility in some way.  It’s also a really good way to alienate people.  It is very important to me that you all are flying this plane.  I am your co-pilot.  How we grow in community is entirely up to you.
As you have learned, ministers come and go.  Let me assure you, you would have to push me out the door! (Kidding)  I have no plans on leaving.  I’m in this as long as you and I feel it’s a good fit.  The point I am trying to make is that it should never be about the minister.  When it becomes about the minister, either good or bad, the community suffers.  One of my goals is to strengthen the Borderlands community.  What that means to me is that your experience of me is always even handed.  I’m good at some things and not so good at others.  There are things you feel good about in my leadership and things you’re not thrilled about.  You enjoy my enthusiasm but sometimes it gets on your nerves.  You get something out of my sermons, but not all of them.  You get the idea.  My greatest anxiety in every leadership position I have ever had is that I get placed on a pedestal.  Why?  Because there is only one way to go on a pedestal and that’s off and the fall is hard.  Really hard.  So, when someone comes up to you in Safeway and says:  “Hey I heard Borderlands has a new minister, how’s it going?”  Your response should be:  “Meh, she’s alright.”  Okay that was a joke.  I hope you’re chuckling right now.  But your response could be the truth:  “We’re in the process of getting to know one another.”  Give me the opportunity to earn your trust.  I won’t do it perfectly but you can be sure I will give it my best shot.