Posted by Rev. Lissa Anne Gundlach

Dear Members and Friends of Neighborhood Church:

It’s hard to believe, but even in Los Angeles, the land of endless summer, the slower pace of July and August is rapidly drawing to a close with Labor Day around the corner and school back in session. It’s been an unusual summer for me in many regards.  In June, I enjoyed two weeks in Maine with family to celebrate my sister’s wedding, and since then have kept a semi-regular office schedule while preaching once a month, focusing on moving our congregation’s administration needs forward and preparing for the year to come. I have so enjoyed supporting our wonderful lay and clergy guests, helping coordinate a justice response to the events in Charlottesville, and worshiping as a part of the congregation. While I am Neighborhood Church’s Senior Minister, Neighborhood is my church, too. I have loved the connections made in the narthex with our newest generation of babies, singing heartily in the pews, and participating in the thoughtful ritual of our summer services.

In my sermon on July 9th, I shared the happy news that Sam and I are expecting a baby girl around the New Year. She is due January 7th, but as we all know, babies arrive on their own schedule! Accordingly, I am working with an experienced local Unitarian Universalist clergy member to secure pulpit coverage and ministry support during my parental leave, which will likely begin at Christmas time and last around twelve weeks. I am planning for a return to my full duties around Eastertime.  I will share more as details progress. Thank you for the enthusiastic support you have already shown me and Sam as we prepare ourselves for the exciting changes and challenges to come, including generously offering to throw us a shower in November. We are so grateful our daughter will be born into such a loving community!

In June, our staff team was so pleased to begin working with Matt Vasko as our new settled Director of Religious Education. After a fun and meaningful Chalice Camp summer program, Matt and Kat have a stellar fall and spring planned for our children, youth and families. Matt had his Sunday “Story for All Ages” worship debut in August with guest Megan Dowdell, and Matt will join Stephen and I in leading the Water Communion together next Sunday September 10th.  On September 17th, the first day of our religious education classes, the congregation will “install” Matt in a special ceremony within the worship service. We hope you can attend and show your support for this hopeful time in our religious education ministry.

This fall brings more additional changes to Neighborhood’s staff team. While staff changes are normal and an expected part of ministerial transition, they are always met with mixed emotions when beloved staff members depart after longtime service. We are so glad that Kim Hayden has been offered such a great new opportunity, and celebrate her many contributions as Director of Membership and Communications. We are also sad to lose her as a pillar of our Neighborhood staff for over ten years.  Kim’s departure leaves two main program areas in need of additional staffing support—Membership and Communications. Our Office Coordinator Taylor Chazan is excited to assume Communications duties, and now will have a title change as our new Office and Communications Coordinator. Taylor will be taking on the church’s communications tasks related to the weekly bulletin and Green Sheet, community outreach, web and print communications, as well as managing our church technology.

As for the Membership program, this is one of our church’s most important areas for attention as a centerpiece of our congregational life and the key instrument for church growth. As you know, since Rev. Hannah Petrie moved on from Neighborhood, we have been operating without a second minister. We have been waiting to hire a new minister until reliable funding is secured. When our mortgage retires in June of 2018, our plan to backfill our depleted reserves will begin, followed by additional available funds in the operating budget to fund a full time position in the near future, the precise timeline is yet to be determined.

In the mean time, we face this upcoming year’s challenges in ministry coverage—namely—a period of part-time coverage for parental leave. As the board and staff know, I would greatly benefit from additional ministry support, as would our congregation. With this in mind, I have broadened the Membership position into a half-time ministry position titled “Assistant Minister of Congregational Life. You can check out the job description online here: http://neighborhooduu.org/employment/.  It is my hope to hire a part-time minister who can serve Neighborhood on a contract basis for up to two years as we continue to determine our ministry and staffing needs. Of course, it is the goal to restore the Assistant Minister position to full time as soon as possible within the limits of our budget, and support the affiliated areas of ministry with appropriate support staffing. Until that time, hiring an Assistant Minister now will help us bridge these gaps in ministry support we very much need for the upcoming year. The job description has been circulated widely and I am awaiting applications to develop a pool of qualified candidates to interview. I hope to hire this new minister as soon as possible, but am willing to adapt the position accordingly if that is not possible in such a short time frame. As Kim departs this week, our staff and volunteers are generously covering her tasks on a temporary basis until the position is filled.

I hope this update provides you with a helpful understanding of our staffing and ministry needs over the coming months. I look forward to more thoughtful dialogue and a wonderful year ahead.

Looking forward to seeing all of you so very soon,

With love,
Lissa