We are a community that invites you to awaken to love.
As I conclude my ministry with you, I want to take a moment to explain and (hopefully) clarify the new boundaries around my relationships with each of you, particularly as it relates to what is sometimes called a “no-contact rule” in our tradition — that I am to have no contact with you for a period of time following my departure.
I am (and will continue to be) a member of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), and as such am bound by covenant to the UUMA Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry. It is within these covenantal guidelines that the so-called “no-contact rule” is articulated.
The guidelines note that (based on long histories of congregational life) – “the future well-being of a congregation … is best assured by the fully effective departure from leadership of [the] minister whose service … has ended.” Further, “Congregations are especially vulnerable in periods of ministerial transition. Therefore, departing ministers should exercise particular care to minimize their influence and presence within the congregation … with members, staff and clients during times of transition.”
With that in mind, my covenant with my colleagues is this: “There should be no intentional or ministerial contact between a departing minister and members, staff or clients of congregations … they have served until there can be a covenant expressed in a Letter of Understanding between predecessor and subsequent ministers.”
But what does that all mean?
It means that you and I will need some time apart — a separation long enough to shift the boundaries of our relationship. It means that I will give time for your new minister to develop their relationship with you all. It means that you and I will refrain from contact with each other until such time as I have a written covenant with your next minister.
How long? Intentionally, the UUMA Guidelines do not state a specific time period, because context matters a great deal. First, I will need to establish a covenant with your interim/contract minister. Then, when you have found a settled minister, I will need to establish a new covenant with them. That said, I believe that we’re talking about a bare minimum of six months — and most likely a period of more than a couple of years.
Of course, as context matters, know that I have no immediate plans to leave this area. Which means that you and I might run into each other at the grocery store, in line at the coffee shop, or perhaps at a UU General Assembly. In those cases, we need not act like we don’t know each other — while I’m no longer your minister, I remain, as ever, interested in your life, your joys, your being. (One note on that — if we see each other and I seem to have forgotten your name, I apologize — I sometimes struggle to bring up a person’s name from my memory!)
I know that this separation can seem awkward, upsetting, and difficult to understand. Ministry, church, community — these are all about human relationships — and it’s a struggle to acknowledge the end of our relationships — particularly those that we cherish. But know, too, that these guidelines and covenants come from a well of deep wisdom — wisdom that we can trust, even when it’s hard.
May you all — individually and collectively — be blessed with what lies ahead. Grow in your faith, your community, and your awakening. And know I have been blessed to be a small part in the life of this church.