Farewell from Paula Cole Jones

By Paula Cole Jones

Paula Cole Jones

It is time to say farewell to you as my position with the Congregational Life staff in the Central East Region of our UUA comes to an end on June 30th. I am passing the baton on to Sana Saeed, who will serve you beginning July 6th. Both the global health crisis and the civil rights movement to end racism and reform policing have changed the nature of this farewell.

How do we attend to rituals and traditions when we know we must change and we are still figuring out how we continue things we used to do face to face? How do we show up in the world when our voices and bodies are needed to be part of the collective demand for justice and systemic change? How do we do that when our bodies are at risk in the coronavirus pandemic? How do we engage in the ongoing struggle to protect our civil rights, ensure the right to live free of tyranny and free of the abuse of power so that all of us have communities where we can thrive? Changes are indeed needed and hopefully underway. If we, the people of the United States, can pull together in this moment to make a better democracy, then we can pull together to restore environmental safety and perhaps have positive effects on the changing climate. This is the backdrop for my farewell.

You did not get to have a real farewell moment with Rev. David Pyle before he left. Maybe our quiet celebrations when we received the good news that he would serve as lead for the Mid-America Region sufficed and provided a sense of closure. I can’t imagine a better way to have lived the past two years than to have been present with you during this time of transition. Some of you are in the midst of transitions from one phase of your ministries to another. I wish for you a sense of gratitude for what you learned and shared with your departing minister and a sense of completion and release as your paths diverge once again. Twenty years ago, I co-chaired the search committee that brought a new, young minister to my home congregation, All Souls in Washington, DC. We are now saying farewell to Rev. Rob Hardies after 19 years, and we too are in transition.

Farewells are important for a sense of closure. We get to scan the pages of our memories and mark the highs and lows and the periods of subtle appreciations and discernment about how to address challenges so that we all win, without anyone losing. There are times when it doesn’t feel good to work through the problems, and sometimes that is when our best ministry is being done. I can close my eyes and remember images of you in rooms and hallways during UU gatherings. I see your faces, hear your messages and voices, feel the impressions of your hugs and handshakes and breaths as we sat together in worship, celebrations or meetings. My farewell is providing a chance to concentrate a wider and deeper understanding of what so many of you bring to UUism into a more holistic sense of who we are.

“We are better together.” Let this be a rallying cry for how we build enduring communities in our churches and in the places where we live. We are better together.

The Congregational Life team that serves you cares deeply about UU ministry, about you and the well-being of your families and your congregations. Being a part of this staff has been one of the greatest team experiences in my lifetime. I ask that you continue to build and strengthen relationships with the staff who support your work. Work through any difficulties and hold each other in esteem for the people you are and what you do bring to the moment. We are better together.

Without any hesitancy, I can say that the UUA is a great organization that is truly committed to living out UU values. These two years have been a significant time to serve on staff and to have been able to see up close the changes that are being made, as charged by the Board and lead by President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and Executive Vice President Carey McDonald. Together, with the national staff and the UUA Board of Trustees, their visions and work are transforming our Association. Don’t get stuck on a particular thing or issue and miss the big picture. As a lifelong UU, I have more hope and confidence in this movement than I have had at any other time in my life. We still face many challenges, but some of the most entrenched institutional challenges are changing as we find the courage to put our values into practice, broaden the perspectives at the table and shape UUism for a more expansive role in the future.

And it is with this sense of hope that I ask you to welcome Sana Saeed. She will be your partner and she is excited to get to know you. I will continue to work as a religious professional, returning to life as an independent consultant. Thank you. You have enriched my life in many ways that will certainly be beneficial in the future. I bid you farewell, but not good-bye.

About the Author

Paula Cole Jones

Paula Cole Jones is the founder of ADORE (A Dialogue on Race & Ethnicity), a former president of DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) and an independent consultant specializing in multicultural competencies and institutional change. She lives in...

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