Calling a Minister, FAQ

Calling a Minister, FAQ

A Message and Guide from the board of trustees

Since we announced at the January congregational meeting our intention to hold a congregational vote, to call Reverend Lee as our Settled Minister, we have held listening circles open to all congregants to enable further discussion and education on this important milestone for our community. Please see below for a list of questions most frequently asked, during those listening sessions. Our vote will open on Sunday, April 7th, so watch your e-mail that day for a special ballot with instructions on how to submit your vote!

Q. What does it mean to “call” a minister?

A. In Unitarian Universalism, we as the gathered congregation get to choose our congregation’s minister. Our faith is not hierarchical; we do not get assigned a minister by our national denomination, the UUA, for example. This aligns with other aspects of being a UU in which each congregation is self-governed – a system called “congregational polity.” Our congregational polity gives these important decisions to local congregations: choosing a minister, defining membership, electing leadership, or purchasing property. 

If you want to read more about congregational polity here are some good resources: 

UUA Background on Congregational Polity

Congregational Polity for the Over-Extended Lay Leader

Q. Why is this a big deal? What does it mean?

A. The best analogy we have heard is that this is part of WellSprings growing up. Just like the work of Stewardship has put us on a more sustainable financial footing, this is what grownup congregations do — we make a commitment to our minister because we intend to be here for the long term. Reverend Lee has been with us for 10 years. As a Board we believe it is time to make the long term commitment to her. 

It does mean something more that the minister is called by the congregation and not just chosen by the elected Board. It shows a deeper level of support for her work and her leadership as our Executive Minister.

Q. I didn’t realize Reverend Lee wasn’t already our “called” minister. What is her status currently?

A. UU congregations can have a called and settled minister, a contract minister, or have no minister, and operate with lay preachers. 

A settled minister is one who has been called by a vote of the entire congregation. A contract minister is one who has been hired by the Board of Trustees.

Since Reverend Lee began working for WellSprings (after her internship here), she has been a contract minister. 

After calling a minister, the Board will continue to have the obligation to work out a contract regarding compensation, benefits, study leave, sabbatical, vacation and other items. However, the vote to call represents a commitment and affirmation, by the full congregational membership, that Reverend Lee is our chosen minister.

Q. How is this different from any other hiring decision?

A. As a faith community, the choosing of a settled minister is simply not the same as an organization hiring a leader through a search process vetted by multiple committees and others. Reverend Lee was vetted in her initial hiring process, by the Board and by the head of staff at that time, our Founding Minister, Reverend Ken Beldon. The vote to call, however, is about giving our full community the opportunity to choose whether or not to affirm this relationship. We should approach this with the utmost degree of reverence and love that lies at the heart of our faith, celebrating the worth and dignity of each person involved in the process, and affirming and practicing our democratic practices. 

Q. Is a called minister evaluated?

A. Yes. The minister is evaluated yearly by the Board of Trustees regardless of being a contract minister or called minister. The minister completes a self evaluation and the board evaluates the minister’s progress towards the congregational goals. Our congregational by-laws outline how a minister and congregation may part ways. 

Q. How did the Board come up with this process?

A. We are in a unique situation for a UU congregation in calling a minister. Typically when this occurs, it is at a time of ministerial transition: the former settled minister has transitioned out of the congregation, and then an interim minister is selected to serve for a period of one, two, or three years. During that time the congregation engages in a discernment process about what is important to them, and at some point a search committee is formed. The position is posted for candidates to apply and the search committee reviews the candidates. Out of that process a candidate may be presented to the congregation for a vote, or, if none are found worthy, no candidate is presented. 

Since Reverend Lee has already been with us for ten years we realized we would likely have a different path, leading up to a vote. As a Board we reviewed the current UUA Settlement Handbook and discussed what we could do. We then reached out to our regional UUA liaison, Reverend Sana Saaed, for her advice. As this is the first time we are conducting this process, she suggested we engage the congregation in education on this process and use listening circles to hear questions and ideas, before conducting our vote.

Q. Why are we doing this now?

A. The Board has been discussing this since 2019, when Reverend Lee’s role became full-time, after Reverend Ken stepped back into a very part-time, preaching-only role. However, you may recall that global events interceded. The current Board took up this work in earnest last autumn, after Reverend Ken’s retirement. We see it as formalizing our relationship with Reverend Lee, and important to do for both the congregation and for her. 

Q. Should we consider other candidates, alongside Reverend Lee? Why can’t we do a search committee?

A. Importantly, we learned that since Reverend Lee has been with us for this extended period of time, we could not ask her to ‘throw her hat in the ring’ with other candidates. Our denomination prohibits considering “inside candidates” alongside new applicants for a ministerial position. We are obligated to go through this process to first consider her as our ministerial candidate, if we intend to go through the process of calling a minister. 

Q. What if Reverend Lee declines being called? Can she decline?

A. Yes, a minister can decline the call. However, in all of our discussions with Reverend Lee she has shared she wants to remain at WellSprings. 

Q. What happens after the vote? What are the possible outcomes?

A. If we vote YES — we will celebrate! The congregation will plan and hold what’s called an “installation ceremony.”  We will ask for help in organizing this event, which would occur at a later date and is a reverential, milestone event where other local clergy are invited to participate, in some ways similar to an ordination.

If we vote NO — UUA guidance suggests that the congregation and minister part ways. As a Board we would need to reflect and identify a path forward, which would likely involve obtaining an interim minister and completing a search process as described above. 

Q. How will we vote?

A. We will vote as we have done during previous congregational elections. Online voting will open on Sunday, April 7, and close Friday, April 19 at 11:59 pm. The link to vote will be provided to you on April 7. Results will be announced at the service on Sunday, April 21.

Q. What are the quorum requirements for this vote?

A. Our by-laws require that the quorum for a Special Meeting for the Calling of a Minister shall be forty percent (40%) of the Voting Members. Each year we are required to report to UUA the number of our members. For the current church year that number is 156 Voting Members. A quorum is thus 62 Voting Members. During the voting window we intend to share how many votes have been cast and continue to encourage members to vote. 

Q. How many votes are needed to affirm the call? 

A. By-laws Article 4A, Section 5 requires that four-fiths (⅘) of those participating in the ballot must cast an affirmative vote to approve the ministerial candidate. If our quorum is met with 62 votes cast, then we would need to have 50 votes affirming the call. That threshold moves upward as more votes are cast. 

We appreciate everyone’s involvement in this process. You can continue to contact the Board via email at, or speak to any of us with your thoughts. 

In gratitude, 

Chris Groppe
Chris Rieder
Tonie Scullion
Tiffany Shoffner
Sandy Tucker