Introducing Our New Minister: Rev. Dr. Michelle Walsh
This Spring, the Search Committee sent a survey to our congregation. The results helped shape the search for our new minister, and we’d like to share an overview of the results. You will also read a brief overview of what made Michelle stand out in comparison to other candidates. While we can’t fully encapsulate a person in writing, we hope you find this information helpful.
Congregational Survey Overview Below is a summary of survey results, and a few words by our fellow congregants.
The highest areas of importance were that the Minister leads us in the mission/ministry of FPC, supporting multi-generational ministries, and the minister presenting inspiring and challenging services on Sunday mornings. The next areas of importance were effectively leading church staff, being able to support congregants in personal and spiritual matters, and providing visible leadership in the Taunton area. After that, the congregation sees encouraging social justice programs and recruiting volunteers and lay leaders somewhat important. The least important quality that the congregation is looking for in a new minister is the being able to lead and teach workshops.
Important Characteristics of New Minister
They should have a deep understanding of UU theology, all the sources from which it draws, and be able to communicate about this effectively
They need to be as energetically committed to engaging with and providing service to the greater community as we are.
They need to be trustworthy (able to hold information shared in confidence, respectful of every member of the congregation, not prone to exaggeration and confabulation.)
The minister should have the ability to provide inspiring weekly messages that are easy to understand and not overly scholastic, the ability to develop friendly relationships with the congregants, the ability to provide leadership to staff that allows them to have input into how the programs are organized
Important Duties of New Minister:
Foster a sense of belonging that encourages congregants to be active in the various programs, make a strong effort to keep our building safe and functioning, be visible in the community outside of church in efforts to promote social justice.
Relationships with the larger community with a strong understanding of belonging, keeping the church alive with new members especially young people, work towards a deeper understanding of social justice and being able to take action
Sunday services, leading us to service opportunities, keeping people in the pews.
Management of staff; giving compelling sermons; moral leadership at church and in community.
Energizing and Unifying Changes:
More opportunities to meet up - like theology on tap, movie nights, etc
More active services out of the pews! And other events to keep members befriending each other. Maintaining service/programs
Try to do more silly/fun things to rejuvenate enthusiasm in the face of the pandemic - game nights, potlucks, field trip type stuff
Publicity about specific programs that benefit Taunton citizens.
Do Not Change:
#1 The music program #2 The RE programs.
Our welcoming, casual atmosphere. Our music isn't "church" music.
The welcoming, open door policy; The ease and fun where the children are concerned. The ambition to grow on so many levels.
Anything Else To Share:
We are hard working, fun people. We care deeply about each other and are committed to our mission as shown in our community outreach programs.
We don’t just talk about radical hospitality, we actively engage in it.
We are a truly diverse and multigenerational congregation, with members that come from all walks of life.
Anyone who wants to speak up, spearhead a program/ event, etc. Is welcome to - everyone in the congregation is valued.
We are the place in Taunton that will always say yes to the hard issues. I have opportunities to be involved and help our community.
We have this historic building and grounds coupled with a young-leaning congregation with high energy for making and keeping connections to the community.
Our church makes a difference in our city.
We are, collectively, a group of people that support our community AND each other.
I believe the future minister would find this Church challenging, fascinating and enthusiastic. For the right individual, these elements would represent an optimal opportunity for growth....personally as well as for the congregation.
Rev. Dr. Michelle Walsh Overview
Michelle applied to be the minister at First Parish Church in Taunton because, as an expression of her deep commitment to our faith tradition, she wants to commit herself to “on the ground” work of leading and developing a small, vibrant, urban congregation. She expressed special interest in growing our lifespan faith formation for adults, developing lay ministry at First Parish, and in engaging social justice efforts, especially (but not exclusively) the climate crisis. She also spoke of the crucial importance of welcoming newcomers, and of her talent in spotting budding leaders. Our first impression of Michelle was how prepared she was. She truly wanted to get to know us as much as we wanted to get to know her. The next thing we noted was how enthusiastic she was at the possibility to work for First Parish in Taunton. Working close by in Quincy, and knowing Christana; Michelle has been aware of some of the work we have been doing and is intrigued by our community.
During her interview, she made it clear that our casual style of service and family friendly atmosphere were positive components to our culture. Michelle spoke on the programs that we offer. In particular, she noted the strength of our Life-span program and our music program. She expressed a desire to not change what we are offering but work to grow and add to our offerings when the time is right. She referred to our committees as “ministries” and spoke about how important it is to ensure that folks do not burn out when serving the church. We also enjoyed her story style of preaching. Like many of us, Michelle’s spiritual journey is one drawn from many sources and has developed over many years.
The committee was drawn to Michelle’s compelling pastoral presence, and her vision for how to support and grow our community. She told us “In all of my ministries, I seek to embody self and cultural humility as a pastoral presence as well as the challenge for all of us, myself included, to engage in our prophetic call to dismantle structures of oppression. In this sense, I believe that none of us is free until we all are free. The pastoral and the prophetic are deeply intertwined because if we lack self awareness, it limits our capacities both for compassion and for courage.” She has an astute understanding of what it means to work in a church like ours, and her experiences show a commitment to leading us forward.
As a minister with extensive urban ministry and youth ministry experience, Michelle is a great match for First Parish’s Church in Taunton. Our church embodies the UU values of radical welcome, engagement for every age- including youth, and living out our beliefs through our actions. Michelle has a true understanding of what it means to be a minister in a thriving community like ours, and we are thrilled to take the next step forward with her.
In addition to being an ordained UU minister, Michelle is a licensed clinical social worker and pastoral therapist. She currently lives in Quincy with her husband.
First Parish Church in Taunton P.O. Box 614 76 Church Green Taunton, MA 02780 508.822.2107