Staffing for the Future – A Message from Church Council

What uncertainty we have been living in as a community, as a church and as individuals! And yet we have, as those before us in other unprecedented times, pressed forward in day-to-day life and tasks.  

After several years of intense transition amongst our church staff, particularly the pastoral staff, I am excited to announce a plan for moving forward. After discussion and consultations with staff, Personnel Committee, and the Church Council, the Council voted and passed a plan to hire two settled associate ministers, in addition to our already settled Senior Minister Molly Baskette. 

Looking at the budget, and in discussion about staffing needs with the staff and Personnel Committee, the plan moving forward is for all three of those positions to be fully benefited positions at 80% time, or 32 hours/week. This would be equivalent to 2.4 full-time ministers, but would ideally allow for more longevity and sustainability for all three pastors. The decision to move Molly from full-time to 32 hours/week is with her full approval and support. 

A little bit of recent history: First Church Berkeley began the search for our Acting Associate Minister in May, 2020, to address Rev. Kit Novotny’s absence due to sabbatical and family leave and in anticipation of Rev. Molly Baskette’s upcoming sabbatical. The Church Council and Personnel Committee understood that, due to Rev. Rachel Bauman and Phil Porter’s previous departures, we would have some longer-term decisions to make regarding settled pastors. We anticipated the possibility that the Acting Associate, if a good fit, might move into a settled role.

Elizabeth Driver-Bucholtz, who chaired that Search Committee, shared that we received profiles from all across the country, screening 16 of over 25 applicants. After selecting and interviewing six finalists, with much prayer and the grace of God, our search committee unanimously extended an offer to Kelly Colwell in August 2020. 

As we now know, Rev. Kit was called to start a new chapter for her and her family this past summer.  On Sept. 28, 2021, the Church Council voted unanimously to nominate Rev. Kelly Cowell from Acting Associate Pastor to a settled Associate Pastor position to fill one of the vacancies.  Rev. Kelly has been a member of our church for five years and has served as both a member and contract staff in a variety of ways.  She has provided thoughtful guidance, enthusiasm and compassionate care to our community since August 2020.  I am glad to call a Special Congregational Meeting on Sun., Nov. 21 after worship for a congregational vote to call Rev. Kelly as a settled pastor of our community.

The second Associate Pastor position will require the formation of a new Search Committee.  This Associate Pastor position will hold primary responsibility for the Youth and Young Adult Programs, as well as emerging ministries as our congregation’s spirit moves with God and strives to reach seekers in new ways. The position will partially be funded by an endowment for Young Adult Ministry as well as the elimination of a part-time youth ministry position.  The intention of church leadership is to establish the youth programs under a settled minister rather than part-time staff position, for consistency and longevity, as well as creating a natural synergy and continuity between the Youth and Young Adult Programs. 

If you are interested in serving on the Search Committee for the position, please submit your name to Committee of Involvement chair Brian Hauck at [email protected] for consideration.  The Committee of Involvement will also recruit members for this Search Committee to ensure a diverse and representative group of stakeholders from the congregation appropriate to this particular staff position.

I am optimistic and excited about what God has in store for our next chapter.

Sara Woods, Moderator