The Rev. Suzanne Redfern-Campbell, D.Min.

(formerly Suzanne Spencer)

Intentional Interim Minister

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Vision of Ministry

Summary of Experience

My Journey in Ministry

First Interim: Danbury CT

Second Interim: Columbia MO

Current Developmental: Las Cruces NM

Selected Sermons

In Others' Words

About Sue

Contact information

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury, Connecticut

August 2008-July 2010

The UU Congregation of Danbury is a small congregation (145 members when I got there, 165 when I left) which has made some courageous moves in recent years. For a long time, they had been located in West Redding, a rural area, worshiping in a building they called "The Barn." Their origins, however, were in the city of Danbury, with a Universalist presence dating from 1822. Around 1997, they began to explore the possibilities of moving back into the city, and in 2003 they sold The Barn, rented the local university chapel, and began to construct their new building.

When I arrived at UUCD as Interim Minister, some of their hopes had been realized, while others had not. Their ministry in the city had expanded, focusing on Danbury's vibrant immigrant communities, and on building a downtown community garden. But their hope for numerical growth had proven elusive. They continued to hover at the 150 mark, the "pastoral-to-program" plateau, just as they had at The Barn. As my interim ministry began, the congregation seemed discouraged about their future.

As advised at Interim Ministry training, I focused my first three months in Danbury on "joining the system," becoming acquainted with the congregation and its dynamics, attending meetings and social events, and having "one-on-ones" with as many people as possible. During this time, I also worked to educate the congregation about the role of the Interim Minister, and about the Five Developmental Tasks of the interim period. (For more information about the developmental tasks, please see the sermon included in this packet, "For the Time Being: Notes on the Interim Journey.") This was, of course, in addition to the ongoing work of ministry - offering high-quality worship and preaching, and pastoral care as needed.

From my early work with UUCD, I was able to assemble a Transition Team, and to discern areas of congregational life that needed my attention. These included stewardship, membership practices, and the question of pastoral-to-program size transition. Throughout the year, I worked closely on these issues with the Board, the canvass leadership, and the membership committee. To educate myself about size transitions, I attended a seminar given by Alice Mann, the Alban Institute's resident expert on this, entitled "Raising the Roof: the Pastoral to Program Size Transition." In the months following, I attempted to share with the leadership what I had learned. That work began to pay off this year, as UUCD's membership increased. At my suggestion, the Board formed a Growth Team to sustain the momentum. Over the next six months, it will look at the systemic barriers to growth in the congregation, and develop a strategy to get past them. An important resource for the Growth Team will be a UUA-sponsored workshop series, "Planning for Growth and Vitality" into which UUCD has been accepted.

Other areas of focus at UUCD included:

  • Constantly lifting up the dream that led UUCD to leave West Redding and move into Danbury.
  • Encouraging the Board to focus more on policy and long-term issues, and less on administration and second-guessing of committees.
  • Assisting in a process of by-laws revision and simplification.
  • Working with the Sunday Services Committee to make the services more worshipful and better integrated.
  • Coaching the DRE in the allocation of her time and energy, and helping her respond more productively to criticism.
  • Supporting the Social Action Committee in its community work.
  • Working with the Caring Committee, and allowing them to take on more responsibility for the care of members and friends, thus facilitating the pastoral-to-program shift.
  • If I were to sum up my ministry in Danbury with a line, I would take it from the chorus of a Carolyn McDade song: "And I'll bring you hope, when hope is hard to find." When I arrived, many people were tired and discouraged about the future; now they are excited about their new called minister, and filled with hope. I have a sense of deep gladness in having been a catalyst for change.

    The next stop on my journey: Columbia, Missouri.

    Last updated 30 September 2014. cpc