Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation
374 Hicks Road, Nashville, Tennessee 37221
I am delighted that you are considering Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation for your settled ministry. This community cares deeply about their ministers. Should you be selected as their candidate, you will be warmly welcomed.
As you will see in other parts of the congregation’s search website, GNUUC is a congregation that was born in conflict. The group that became GNUUC initially named themselves The Phoenix Group. The phoenix is an apt metaphor for this congregation. Though there are still some aftereffects from that conflict, GNUUC, like the mythical bird, is in the process of regeneration. There are many skilled, passionate, generous and caring lay leaders dedicated to this congregation. They are willing to take risks and eager to try new things in worship, social justice, religious education, and governance. They are a joy to minister for, minister with, and minister to. It is a forward-looking group whose best days are clearly ahead of them.
During my two years serving this congregation as their interim minister, the congregation has focused on telling its story, including the origin story. I have also worked closely with the board to reimagine its role. With a full-time minister (GNUUC only had part-time ministers prior to my arrival in 2013.), the board is shifting their focus from operations to policy and governance. This transition is in progress. The next settled minister at this congregation will be greeted by a new, clear set of policies and updated bylaws. The board is committed to creating a congregational system in which a full-time minister can thrive. Another interim project was making the annual stewardship campaign a positive, guilt-free experience. This had stellar results. The congregation came within a few hundred dollars of reaching a 10% pledge increase stretch goal this year, after reaching a similar goal the year before. The congregation had a budget surplus last year. They are financially prepared for a settled minister.
The congregation is thriving in this time of transition. They have welcomed many new members– over 10% of the congregation’s membership has joined in 2014. The congregation has also become more involved in social justice in the wider community through congregation-based community organizing in Nashville and an emerging statewide UU justice ministry. Lest this all sound too serious, you should also know that this is a congregation that has fun. Members, friends, and visitors have lunch together after the service every Sunday. There are regular game nights, movie nights, an annual retreat at a state park, and other chances for fun and fellowship.
One of the wonderful things about being the minister at GNUUC is the UU ministerial colleagues in the region. Gail Seavey and Jason Shelton serve the First UU Church of Nashville across town. I have found them to be warm and welcoming colleagues and collaborators. The Shinn Splints is the East Tennessee UU ministerial cluster (named in honor of Universalist evangelist Quillen Shinn), which meets monthly. The Southeast UUMA gathers twice a year. I have found both these groups to be supportive, inspiring, and non-competitive.
Nashville has everything you’d expect from a big city as well as beautiful parks, a fascinating history, delicious Southern food, and a deservedly famous music scene. I have enjoyed living in Nashville. As a Coastal Northerner, I was surprised and delighted to discover that Nashville is a city where religion and ministry matter. There are 1,000 congregations in Nashville. The United Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are headquartered here and there are leaders in the study of religion at Vanderbilt Divinity School. It is routine to overhear pastoral care meetings in cafes or discuss theodicy with my hairstylist. There are abundant opportunities here for interfaith cooperation and collaboration, scholarship, as well as public ministry.
If you have further questions about this congregation, I would be happy to speak with you. You can reach me by phone (615-576-0108) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I wish you the very best in your search,
Rev. Rachel Lonberg