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Senior Minister Search
SMSC Updates

SMSC Updates

PLEASE NOTE: The Senior Minister Search Committee is no longer accepting new applications for the position of Senior Minister.

Welcome to the Senior Minister Search Committee page. Here you can find important information about where the committee is in its process to select a new senior minister. All of our past congregational reports are available on this page, just click on a date below to be brought to that Month's report. If you wish to look at a hard copy of the report, you can find copies in the cloister library. You might find these resources helpful, as well as our frequently asked questions. You can contact the Committee via email at SMSearch@TheRiversideChurchNY.org.


THE TWENTIETH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #20
June 15, 2014

On June 8, 2014, you affirmed The Rev. Dr. Amy K. Butler as the seventh Senior Minister of The Riverside Church. She will be installed on the afternoon of October 5. It will be a fit beginning as Riverside presents itself and its new minister to the public.

During the transition period between now and then, Rev. Butler will return to Washington, D.C. to pack up her house for moving and tie up her affairs there. She will also return occasionally to New York to introduce her children to the city, settle her housing arrangements and handle any Riverside business that needs her personal attention. And she will take a much-needed vacation.

She will have the assistance of the communications staff in preparing for and scheduling meetings with the press. In addition, the Riverside clergy will lead Sunday services and the worship staff will coordinate other summer supply preachers and help her plan the installation service. Rev. Sherry has agreed to remain until his replacement arrives and the immediate office staff will help Rev. Butler settle in to her duties as Senior Minister. Dr. Forbes anticipates that his most recent service at Riverside will be completed by Sunday, June 15th. Rev. Butler will begin her ministry at Riverside on September 14th.

With this report to you, the Senior Minister Search Committee concludes its work of search and call and takes up its final duty. The American Baptist Churches and United Church of Christ search and call manuals recommend that search committees meet occasionally with their new ministers during the first six months to help them navigate the new territory and establish comfortable relationships with their ministerial relations committees. Appointed by the Council, Riverside’s committee is the official liaison between pastor and parish. Congregational members interested in service on this committee should contact the Church Council.

Finally, we wish to thank you. We have been unexpectedly privileged. Sometimes in worship the Holy Spirit moves the people strongly. The energy in the room is palpable. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t often hang around for committee meetings or take individual members aside for counsel when things get stuck.

Yet that has been our experience. And it began with you. You chose us and commissioned us. You trusted us. Your presence was with us in prayer throughout the 24 months of the search and call process and that encouragement gave the Holy Spirit room to work. She showed us how Christ’s beloved community can move ahead together as one.

We also wish to thank everyone else who met with us or contacted us during the listening period – UCC and ABC conference ministers, friends of Riverside, Riverside’s house staff, clergy and lay leaders. The passion that we felt from all sides was inspiring and the counsel we received was invaluable. It kept us focused on the larger goal and that helped us stay together. Thomas Fitzgerald, our administrative assistant, lifted the administrative burdens from us and often ministered to us, anticipating the process and keeping it and us running smoothly. His support made it possible for us to do the search and call process internally.

Holiness has been our environment. We have lived another way of life built upon love, not because love is all sweetness and light and free from stress and weariness but because love revealed glimpses of the divine. Oh, we said to ourselves, this is how it’s done. And completed the task you set for us. We fervently hope you will come to love Rev. Butler as we do. We also hope the world will sense that Riverside is on the move again and run to join us on Christ’s mission. May God bless us on our way.

Lesley Gittens Eugene Melino Jim Reed
Jerome Hairston Marilyn Mitchell Christian Rojas
Timothy Jacobs Robbie Patterson Ruby Sprott
Lois Livezey Pat Pell Elizabeth Wheeler

THE NINETEENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION

A LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION
April 27, 2014

Dear Members of Riverside,

Today the Senior Minister Search Committee announced that The Rev. Dr. Amy K. Butler is our choice to become the seventh Senior Minister of The Riverside Church. As you know, the By-Laws permit us to recommend only one person for your consideration. During the next few weeks, Rev. Butler will meet the Congregation and the Staff and you will have an opportunity to learn more about her before it is time for you to vote on her candidacy in June.

Rev. Butler has been Senior Minister of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC for the past 11 years. Under her leadership the church has become an influential congregation in the nation’s capital and she has become a much sought-after voice for Progressive Christianity.

A 1991 graduate with the Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and political science from Baylor University, Waco TX, she received the equivalent of the Master of Divinity degree in 1995 from the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Ruschlikon Switzerland and was awarded the Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC, in 2008. She was licensed to the Gospel ministry in 1992 and ordained in 1997. She writes regularly for denominational publications and for a bi-weekly column distributed by the Associated Baptist Press news service.

In anticipating ministry at Riverside, Rev. Butler initially was drawn to the church’s legacy of great preaching and prophetic witness. Riverside’s first Senior Minister, Harry Emerson Fosdick, famously asked, “Shall the fundamentalists win?” Its fourth Senior Minister, William Sloan Coffin, was arrested for his anti-Vietnam war protests. And more recently the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. has led a national crusade for the emancipation from poverty.

As Rev. Butler came to know us better, this heritage sharpened for her. “I have,” she said, “begun to wonder what mark an institution like Riverside might make on the future expression of church. This wondering is so exciting to me! Riverside’s diversity raises the potential of modeling how we live with and relate to one another. The human community is messy and sometimes painful. But to live into a vision of love within the tension of uncertainty and difference can be stunningly transformational. The possibilities are so great – small glimpses of God’s imagination and intent for the whole world!”

“Following a 22-month period of listening,” said Christian Rojas, co-chair of the Search Committee, “to the Riverside Congregation, to all the amazing candidates who applied for the Senior Minister position, and to each other on the Search Committee, we have prayerfully, deliberately, and in the end unanimously, selected Rev. Butler as our Finalist. We are convinced that she will be an inspired and inspiring minister for our beloved Riverside Church.”

Rev. Butler grew up in Hawaii and identifies herself as a Pacific Islander. She has three children: Hayden, 20, who attends the University of Hawaii as a sophomore; Hannah, 17, who is a junior in high school; and Sam, 16, who is a sophomore in high school.

Please keep Rev. Butler and her family in your prayers. Please also keep the Riverside Church in your prayers so the Holy Spirit may move among our open hearts as we seek to discern God’s will for us all.

The Senior Minister Search Committee


The Riverside Church Senior Minister Search Committee To Name Senior Minister Finalist Sunday April 27th

The Senior Minister Search Committee has selected the Finalist it will recommend to the Congregation for the next Senior Minister of The Riverside Church. The By-Laws of the Church allow the Committee to submit only one name to the Congregation for its approval and the Committee’s recommendation of the Finalist is unanimous and without reservation.

As a courtesy to the Finalist, who has obligations at home, the Search Committee cannot make the name of the Finalist public until Sunday, April 27th. Additionally, in the meantime, the Senior Minister Committee will be meeting with the Finalist prior to April 27th to begin discussions on compensation and other terms of employment.

During the past 22 months the Senior Minister Search Committee has listened intently to the Congregation, reviewed 91 applicants and governed its proceeding by the Covenant all members signed on August 13, 2012:

By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we the members of the Riverside Church Senior Minister Search Committee, solemnly covenant with one anotherll we do.
To be mindful of our commitment to the congregation and to be guided by the Leadership Covenant of the Church Council May 1996.
To give equal consideration to all candidates, regardless of their age, race, gender, nationality, marital status or sexual orientation.
To show respect and loving kindness to those with whom we disagree; to avoid and forgive words spoken in anger or in the spirit of accusation.
To always be respectful of a person’s self worth.
To rely on prayer in times of disharmony or disagreement so as to refocus on our purpose.
To work together cooperatively and effectively until the completion of our task.
To practice active listening with respect for all opinions.
To create an atmosphere that welcomes full participation in all conversations.
To maintain the confidentiality of all candidates and all discussions about them.
To be transparent in the communication of process and procedural matters.
To keep before us, as best we discern it, God’s call to the people of God we serve in this place.
We thoughtfully and prayerfully bind ourselves in covenant with one another and in Christ our Lord. We pledge to read and reaffirm this Covenant as a prayer at each meeting.

To prayerfully seek God’s guidance in a
Over the next several weeks the Senior Minister Search Committee will introduce the Finalist to the Congregation, lay leaders and staff. A complete schedule, currently under development, will begin with the in-person introduction of the Finalist at the Sunday, May 4th worship service and a reception for the Finalist and the new members after church on that Sunday. The following weeks will include a number of events with the Finalist as well as an opportunity for the Congregation to bring inquiries, ideas, and any concerns to the Senior Minister Search Committee for a Question & Answer session after church. The Finalist’s “candidating” sermon and vote at a Special Congregational Meeting on whether or not to affirm the Finalist as the seventh Senior Minister of The Riverside Church will take place on Sunday, June 8th.

Thank you for all your prayers over the past 22 months; they have supported and inspired the work of the Search Committee. Please continue to pray for Riverside and for our Finalist in this period of transition.


THE SEVENTEETH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, March 30, 2014

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #17
March 30, 2014

At this point, the Search Committee has three semi-final candidates. We have given prayerful consideration to 91 applicants who did Riverside the honor of expressing their desire to serve God through Riverside. Using the written documents they provided us, we narrowed the field to ten excellent candidates. In order to further narrow the field to three, we gathered additional information by phone and Skype. Thus we had before us:

    The candidates' cover letters and resumes;
    Their sample writings, sermons and videos;
    The web presentations of their churches;
    Their written responses to such questions as --
      What is your approach to teaching bible to people who fear it?
      What personal and leadership qualities do members and leaders need to live successfully in a congregational polity?
      How would you use the web to attract young people and young families?
We also had before us or available to us for review
    The notes from the phone interviews with the references the candidates provided;
    The notes from the Skype interviews we had with the candidates;
    The background checks by the appropriate independent agencies;
    The notes we took during our conversations with you;
    And the questions the candidates asked us, such as:
      Is Riverside financially sound and administratively well managed?
      How does Riverside use social media for evangelism?
      What are Riverside's plans for strengthening its public voice?
      Does Riverside have a strategic plan to chart its course?
      What is Riverside's one-sentence mission statement?
      What are Riverside's program priorities?
      What would success at Riverside look like?
In your daily devotions on Acts 1 and 2 we invite you to reflect on some questions about unity in diversity. Since unity in diversity can be hard, why have I chosen a multicultural, multiracial, interdenominational, international congregation? Have I reflected upon the fact that living together amid such diversity is a spiritual discipline? What is God calling Riverside to do? What can I do to help Riverside live up to its aspirations and legacies? What small kindnesses can I do that will stitch up the fabric of community at Riverside? What do I know about living in community that the world longs to hear? How can I help give the new senior minister a good start?

During the end of March and early April the Search Committee will meet the three semi-finalists in person, hear them preach and go on retreat to pick the finalist. The finalist will then meet with the Senior Minister Committee, a group distinct from the Search Committee, to discuss the terms of employment. At this point the finalist would want to feel God’s assurance that the call to Riverside is the Divine intention. We rely on your continued patience, discretion and support for the search process. We especially rely on your prayers for the semi-finalists and for Riverside during this time of mutual discernment and decision.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE SIXTEENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, February 23, 2014

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #16
February 23, 2014

The goal of the Senior Minister Search Committee is to present a Finalist to you by early May. In order to meet this deadline, we have put ourselves on an intensified schedule, meeting twice a week for the next two months. As of February 1st we have identified 10 excellent candidates for the next phases.

Phase 1 asked The Ten to respond to a number of questions in writing. These questions grow out of our listening time with you and will start a dialogue with them. We also asked permission of The Ten to do reference and background checks on them.

Phase 2 divides the Committee into teams, each team being responsible for contacting the references of the candidates assigned to them. We will also hire an outside firm to do criminal background checks on The Ten. Confidentiality is important. Now that we have a short list, speculation on it is inevitable. We and the candidates need to be transparent but we also need to secure the process as much as possible.

Phase 3 brings all this information together. By the end of February we will reduce The Ten to Five and do phone and Skype interviews with them in order to choose Three by early March. Additional background checks will also be performed on the Three.

Phase 4 is the crucial one: the Committee comes to a consensus on a Finalist and two runners up. In early March The Three will come to New York for face-to-face interviews. Second interviews might occur when teams travel to neutral pulpits to hear each of these semi-finalists preach. By the end of March the Committee will come to a consensus on the Finalist. In April the Finalist will have time to meet with the Senior Minister Committee on the terms of employment and to notify his/her congregation.

Consensus does not necessarily mean that the Finalist is the first choice of every committee member. We are a varied group and unanimity may not be possible. But every committee member should be convinced that the Finalist can serve Riverside well and that we can embark successfully on the mutual ministry of Riverside’s next chapter.

So we, too, will be reading this month’s text that invites you to reflect in your daily devotions upon the Crucifixion and letting go in Mark 15 and 16. In preparation for the next senior minister, we, too, will be asking: in relation to Riverside, are there disappointments I hang on to? What will I do if the new senior minister does not live up to all my expectations? How can I keep my complaints about Riverside from spoiling the gratitude I feel for Jesus? He gave up his very life for me. How willing am I to support the new senior minister and commit myself to a new ministry at Riverside?

Phase 5 presents the Finalist in person to you. We are working toward a date in early May.

We are very much aware of your hopes for Riverside and urge you to contact us at SMSearch@TheRiversideChurchNY.org if you have any questions or comments. In this time of preparation and prayer, we also feel your prayers for us. Thank you.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE FIFTEENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, January 26, 2014

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #15
January 26, 2014

In this report we will bring you up to date on where we are in the search and call process and invite you to begin a Time of Prayer and Preparation for the coming of the new senior minister.

First, we have entered a period in the search and call process where Steps 5 to 8 overlap. We have received about 90 applications. In Step 5 we thoroughly review the candidates’ materials. We strive to discern their gifts, attitudes and interests. We also search the internet for their sermons and the work of their churches. The candidates should come alive for us. As we read we ask ourselves: does the experience of this person fit Riverside’s needs; does God seem present in the life of this person?

By Step 7 we will have identified 5 or 10 qualified candidates and notified the others that they are no longer under consideration. Through the Church Profile we introduced Riverside to these candidates and through their resumes they introduced themselves to us. In Step 8 we will go deeper into our mutual stories. We will send videos and basic documents of the church to the candidates and they will send us references to check and answers to 10 or 12 questions that would reveal more of their fit to our needs. These questions would enlarge upon the qualities of a senior minister you identified during the listening period with us, qualities such as a record of social justice activism, leadership in a congregational polity, development of a Progressive theology through intellectually challenging sermons.

But we are also aware that the candidates are looking at us and evaluating the kind of impression we make. They are interested in full disclosure. Do we provide annual reports and budgets, bylaws and long range plans? Are we forthcoming about the relations between the pastor and congregation? Are we prompt in keeping them informed about where they are in the process? Is there a spiritual vitality in the church and does our committee appear to be proceeding in prayer? We will have conversations about such questions by phone, Skype or in person if necessary in order to arrive at a short list of semi-finalists.

Secondly, as we begin to narrow the field of candidates during the next four months, we invite you to prepare yourselves for the coming of a new senior minister. In this preparation you would move from the idea of creating a new era at Riverside through to your vision of what that era might be like. We are suggesting that you focus your devotionals on four topics and bible readings and reflect upon the questions they raise. The topics are:

    Creation and Change: Genesis 1and 2
    Crucifixion and Letting Go: Mark 15-16
    Pentecost and Community: Acts 1 and 2
    A New Vision: Revelations 21 and 22.
As you begin your reading of Genesis 1 and 2 this month, you might reflect on such questions as: How able am I to live through the formless void that starts the creative process, to live in the tension between the passing of the old ways and the emerging new ways? Can I tolerate uncertainty and failure? Can I listen to those with whom I disagree or am I distracted by my own temptations? If I have a complaint do I have a solution that I am willing to work for collaboratively? Or am I open to change only as long as it’s going my way? What are my guides through the mists of new beginnings and how do I decide what is foundational and what is ephemeral? Do I dare to follow the Holy Spirit? How will I know if the winds of change are the breath of God breathing new life into Riverside? What is my prayer right now for myself and for Riverside? How can I welcome the new senior minister enthusiastically, that is, en-theos, meaning God within?

Senior Minister Search Committee

THE FOURTEENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, December 15, 2013

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #14
December 15, 2013

As you know, the Search Committee is in Step 5 of the search and call process: evaluating applicants and gathering more information about them. We now have a group of viable candidates and will lift up each one of them for a more intense review. Concentrating on this review in so short a time allows the Committee to compare the viable candidates more easily and it allows their personalities to emerge more clearly.

The Committee has divided itself into pairs and assigned the applications of the viable candidates among the pairs. In addition to the paper applications, the pairs will gather information from online sources, writings and sermons, the websites of the candidates' churches and the organizations they belong to. From this material the pairs will present their candidates to the whole committee. They will have looked hard at their candidate's strengths, weaknesses, job history, style and interests. And the whole committee will ask itself: Could this person be Riverside's pastor?

From the group of very strong viable candidates we will select about ten top semi-finalists. In addition to going deeper into their materials, we will do phone interviews with them to clarify areas of uncertainty and seek out references beyond those the candidates give us. Then from the top ten semi-finalists we will select a few finalists from whom to choose our next senior minister.

The Committee is grateful for the guidance of our denominations in this process. UCC's Rev. Gaewski reminded us that although we may not all agree on the person to be the next senior minister, we should all feel that the person we choose will serve you well. ABC’s Rev. Stallings asked us: Are we looking in the mirror or through a window? Are we looking backwards at what we were or are we looking forward to what we want to be?

We are able to match viable candidates against data-based guidelines from the Congregational Survey and our listening period with you. But maybe the Holy Spirit has some new ideas for us. We cannot know the intentions of the Spirit with certainty. She goes where she wills. But we can lift up the candidates in prayer, ask God’s blessing on them and their ministry, listen for God's guidance in our decision-making, listen as well to the stirrings of our hearts. For once that data-based bar is crossed, we enter the uncanny realm of the Spirit where other ways of knowing - intuition? imagination? insight? revelation? the visceral? - are at work.

We will, therefore, proceed as seems right to us, secure in the knowledge that it will seem right to you. When we present a single individual for your vote to be the next senior minister we will be of one mind about this person and have confidence that our mind will be yours. If that is so, and we pray it will be, the next senior minister will begin his/her pastorate from a strong position. Support for him/her will not be limited to a majority or even a supermajority but will arise from the spirit of the whole people.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE THIRTEENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, November 10, 2013

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #13
November 10, 2013

At the service on Sunday October 6th 2013 the Church Council and Rev. Stephen Phelps announced that Rev. Phelps would end his ministry at Riverside on January 5th 2014. In the wake of this announcement, many of you have also asked two questions of the Search Committee:

    -- Can the search process be accelerated and
    -- Can the congregation choose from the two or three good and available candidates instead of having to vote up or down on only one?
First, the search and call process is on schedule and should not be accelerated. We agree that the interim period has been unusually long. We also believe that the interim has been unexpectedly productive and acknowledge the foundational work the congregation has done with Rev. Phelps. We are learning how to unify a lay-led and a pastor-prominent structure. A commitment to a collaborative leadership is emerging. Riverside’s membership may have plateaued but that is commonplace during interim periods. What is uncommon is our rededication to the vision that brought us here in the first place.

The Search Committee is where it should be in Step 5 of the process: evaluating applications and gathering more information on the excellent group of candidates who have applied. Both of our affiliated denominations, ABC and UCC, strongly advise a deliberate and thorough search process. We are also legally bound by Riverside's By-Laws to present only one final candidate for senior minister. Getting to the one candidate that the Search Committee presents to the congregation customarily takes 18 to 24 months and should not be rushed.

Secondly, as a practical matter asking you to vote on two or three good candidates opens the congregation to unnecessary divisions, may harm the candidates who are not chosen and could jeopardize the pastorate of the majority candidate who is chosen. Logistically how would we make sure you knew the candidates well enough to make an informed decision? If we invited each finalist to Riverside for a week to visit the committees and commissions and to preach, the confidentiality of candidates who were not chosen would be breached because their names would surely become public.

Furthermore, if there were a vote among the candidates and a majority or two thirds of us voted for one person, the successful candidate would still begin with a minority in public opposition. We want to offer our next senior minister a good start. A small group charged by the congregation, committed to an intense discernment process and, by the grace of God, led to a consensus candidate is the best way to accomplish that good beginning.

During the interim period we have learned to live by faith, faith in God's abundance and the firm foundations our ancestors built. We celebrate this amazing grace. We have been transformed by it. We will certainly have to be better stewards of the legacy we have been given. But we need not be governed by fear. We already have all things needful. Thanks to you we move ahead in the search process with joyful expectation.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE TWELFTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION
Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #12
September 29, 2013

Before we begin to read candidate profiles, the Senior Minister Search Committee has had to create the metrics against which to judge these profiles and a reading process that provides a level playing field for all. We are deeply committed to being thorough, fair and prayerful as we approach Step 5 of the search and call process: reviewing and evaluating candidate profiles.

We have divided ourselves into four groups of three persons each. As the profiles come in they will be distributed equally among the groups. We have developed a set of metrics devised from the job description to help us evaluate the profiles.

Each profile will be read initially by a group of three Search Committee members. The goal is to separate out qualified candidates who fit our qualifications and narrow down the number of profiles to a group of viable possibilities. The profiles of these viable candidates would be read by the entire Search Committee.

Although the set of metrics is a useful tool, the heart of the discernment process is the discussion of each profile by Committee members and their prayerful consideration of each candidate. The United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches search and call manuals recommend a way to read profiles respectfully. We have adapted their process, making sure we keep before us the leadership qualities and skills you described to us during the listening time we had together last fall.

Through Step 5 we will be evaluating candidates on the basis of their paper profiles. Once we have a group of viable candidates we will meet with them face to face. By Step 10 in the search and call process we should have come to a consensus on one final candidate to recommend to you.

As we have listened to you over the past months, we will listen for God in the days of discernment. God’s calling is the ultimate standard for us.

Thank you for your continuing prayers. The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE ELEVENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION - SUNDAY September 8, 2013

Senior Minister Search Committee
REPORT TO THE CONREGATION #11
September 15, 2013

The Senior Minister Search Committee is now in Step 4 of the search and call process; advertising the position and gathering candidate profiles.  We are in contact with our denominations, the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. and the United Church of Christ, to identify clergy actively seeking new positions through their networks.  We will also recruit persons who may not be looking for a new position but might be interested if invited to apply.  And an advertisement in Christian Century will reach persons in other denominations.

  1. Candidates from ABC and UCC. Both ABC and UCC have employment opportunity networks.  Clergy in good standing who are seeking new positions send their profiles to the denominations and churches seeking new clergy request those profiles that fit the requirements of each church.  In this sense the candidates are pre-screened by the ABC or UCC conference ministers who know their churches well.
  1. Candidates from friends of Riverside and from you.  There are many clergy persons from various denominations who are settled in their work but might consider relocating if the right opportunity came along.  At the moment we have the names of nearly 60 scholars and clergy who know Riverside well and could recommend potential candidates we should contact. 

We also invite you to recommend candidates you think would fit Riverside.  Please let us know how to contact your recommendations and include a short paragraph on why you think we should consider them.  Drop your recommendations in the Search Committee box next to the security desk or send them to us at SMSearch@TheRiversideChurchNY.org.

  1. Candidates from the Christian Century advertisement.  The Christian Century is the bi-weekly magazine that has shaped Progressive Christianity for a century.  It is the “flagship” of mainline Protestantism and the voice of “generous orthodoxy.”  We have taken out a full page ad in the print editions of August 21 and September 5 and you can also see it on line at www.christiancentury.org/classifieds.

While we cannot predict what the Holy Spirit will do and how many profiles we will receive, we would expect to begin reading profiles by October 1st.  There is no deadline for submitting profiles.  The search will remain open until we reach our penultimate goal of three to five finalists whom we would interview in depth and thus reach our ultimate goal of recommending to you one person to become Riverside’s new senior minister.  

In our next report to you we will describe the process for reviewing each profile, how we will go about reading each profile and the metrics we will use for evaluating the candidates.  These objective standards provide the framework for our subjective judgments.   

We took a vacation in August and are resuming our meetings in the first week of September.  We are still in need of your prayers.  Thank you.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE TENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION - SUNDAY July 7, 2013

On Sunday June 23rd the Senior Minister Search Committee held an open forum to review the Draft Church Profile with the congregation. The Church Profile includes

  • The Riverside Mission Statement,
  • An Historical Timeline that takes snapshots of the various pastorates and congregational initiatives within the context of national and world events,
  • Congregational and Community Data from the Congregational Survey and the Census,
  • The Contemporary Narrative that tells the story of where we came from, who we are and who we want to be, and a video collage of Riverside voices,
  • Various Commission program documents,
  • A reflection on the 2012 Congregational Survey and the sample questionnaire,
  • The 2013 Narrative Budget,
  • The 2012 Auburn Seminary Stewardship Feasibility Study,
  • The By-Laws of the Riverside Church as amended May 18, 2008.

Binders with all these elements are in the library. Members who were not at the Forum can email us for the Profile handouts at SMSearch@TheRiversideChurchNY.org and anyone can drop comments in the box next to security.

Members wanted greater emphasis in the Narrative on the Christian Education Program and made insightful comments about the discrepancies between Riverside’s rhetoric and its actions.  How diverse are we politically, economically, ethnically, educationally?  How ready are we to be the church we say we want to be?  If Riverside is a work in progress will we always have conflict?  If so, put conflict resolution skills high on the list of senior minister qualifications.  Members wanted the Committee to be candid about our past difficulties but stress that we have worked hard during the interim period and are well prepared for our future.

Members were also concerned about possible restructuring.  If the Council is re-considering the governance structure, won’t their actions influence the kind of senior minister Riverside needs?  The Search Committee must know what the Council is planning 6 to 10 months ahead.

And members wanted updates on the search and call process.  Answers to their questions are:

  • The ad for the senior minister position will be posted in July in Christian Century, through the American Baptist and United Church of Christ networks, through contacts with Riverside’s friends and recommendations from members;
  • The search and call process usually takes from 18 to 24 months.  From the Search Committee’s start date of July 1, 2012 to the present, we are on schedule;
  • According to the By-Laws, the Committee can recommend only one candidate for the senior minister’s position; 
  • The Committee also has no authority to set the wage and benefits package for the next senior minister.  Under the By-Laws, that is the responsibility of the Senior Minister Committee.

Your continuing prayers and support do much to smooth the path before us.  Thank you.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE NINTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY, June 2, 2013

The Senior Minister Search Committee is coming to the end of our dialogues with you through the congregational listening process and are ready to present a draft of the Church Profile to you.

Listening teams have had 35 meetings with individuals and groups.  We have sat with 4 commissions, 9 committees, 2 councils, 3 choirs, 1 group of teachers, 6 current and past clergy members, 7 current and past senior staff members, 3 current and past representatives from our affiliated denominations, the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ.  We have also interviewed 24 people for a video collage of Riverside voices.

The Committee has read the 2012 Congregational Survey of 644 responses, the summaries of the 4 congregational meetings from the spring of 2012 and gathered data from the approximately 2500 stewardship records, 700 education enrollment records, worship attendance records and local census information.

It has taken a long time to digest all of this material.  We want to move ahead as quickly as you do.  But we ask you to remember the purposes of the listening process:
 

  • to clarify your priorities for Riverside,
  • to identify the building blocks of the future church,
  • to articulate the qualities and competencies you seek in the new senior minister – and
  • to do this not just as a collection of our individual opinions and special interests but as a whole congregation.

Our goal is to come out of this process as a more unified and powerful people, girded and ready for the mission Christ has given to us for a waiting world.

We thank you for your prayers, for your patience, for your participation, for your truthfulness.  You have honored us with your candor and devotion.  We will present our preliminary findings to you in a Draft of the Church Profile at our Forum on Sunday June 23rd.  In preparation for that meeting the Draft Profile will be available to you at coffee hour June 9th or you can find a copy of it in the library after that date.

We are grateful for your blessings on this journey.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE EIGHTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY, APRIL11, 2013

A short video of Riverside members is part of the church profile that potential senior minister candidates will receive.  The video will help them get a feel for the congregation.  In order to have wide participation in this project, the Senior Minister Search Committee invited interested members of the congregation to enter their names in a lottery from which 5 persons would be drawn at random.  This form alerts the congregation to the video, provides a coupon for the drawing and is considered by the Search Committee as Report to the Congregation #8.



The Senior Minister Search Committee

Invites YOU!

To help create a 10 minute video introducing Riversiders
to potential senior minister candidates.

You can be one of the persons interviewed
on
Saturday, May 18, 2013

HERE’S HOW

Fill out the coupon below, tear it off and
drop it in the Senior Minister Search Committee box at the Security Desk by
Sunday, April 28, 2013

Please Note:

To make sure we show Riverside’s diversity, the Senior Minister Search Committee has recruited some church members to represent the congregation.  Today’s invitation is to make sure everyone has a chance to participate if they wish to.  We will select interviewees by lottery from the coupons collected in the Committee’s box next to the Security Desk.  The Committee cannot guarantee that everyone’s interview will be used.  But all taped interviews will go into the Riverside Archives.  Thank you.

We will notify the persons selected through the lottery by May 8, 2012 and
 schedule a time for each person’s filming on May 18th.


Print name:

Date:

Address::

Telephone:

Email:

Riverside member since:

I want to be interviewed for the Senior Minister Search Committee video because:

 


THE SEVENTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY March 3, 2013
Next Steps after the Forum

The Senior Minister Search Committee thanks all of you who have taken the time to meet with us. When we finish the listening process we will have heard from at least 15 individual staff persons and 15 lay leadership groups and we will have digested the notes from the four congregational meetings held in the spring of 2012, the Congregational Survey completed last summer and the recent Forum of February 3rd.

The next step is to summarize what we have heard and report back to you in more detail. Generally speaking, however, you highlighted such topics as

  • a collaborative leadership style that is compatible with Riverside's congregational / covenantal polity;
  • a culture that fosters pastoral care not just through a personal relationship with the clergy but through the kindnesses of members toward each other;
  • a demonstrated competency in the administration of a complex church with a strong identity;
  • a church growth strategy that builds on the strengths of the existing ministries and the outreach possibilities of a new web ministry; and
    • a reaffirmation of Riverside's core values, i.e.
    • intentional diversity and a progressive interpretation of scripture, a spirituality of inclusion and hospitality,
    • the blend of faith and action, and
    • the unapologetic celebration of the risen Christ.

You acknowledge that Riverside has been drifting and you are eager to get moving. You have urged the Senior Minister Search Committee to speed up the search and call process. We would like to remind you, however, that this committee was only formed six months ago. Both of our advisors in the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ stress that a sound search and call process takes 18 to 24 months.

Please keep in touch with us through the suggestion box by the security desk or through SMSearch@TheRiversideChurchNY.org.

As we listen to you, we have come to admire you more and more and the work that God is doing through you. One of you said to us: There aren’t many churches like Riverside in the country. Please find someone to love us.

God willing, we will. Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE SIXTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION (part 4) — SUNDAY JANUARY 27, 2013
What is the living narrative of the Church Profile?

In the 2013 Budget approved at the Adjourned Annual Meeting December 9, 2012 is a summary of The Auburn Seminary stewardship feasibility study. It stresses the importance of storytelling and personal witness as powerful ways to live into who we say we are and overcome the divisions that inhibit our mission. The report observes that:

There exists a deep love for Riverside, what it is trying to be and can be and a hope for the future. More specifically, there is a strong and consistent commitment to being a diverse community, to the centrality of powerful worship preaching and to prophetic social justice ministry. Where clarity is needed is on the church’s primary purpose or overarching mission, as the primary purpose drives the determination of priorities, activities and planning for the future…

We firmly believe that stories and shared experiences deepen relationships, create understanding of different motivations for faith and membership and help people discover their shared values and hopes. We recommend that the church invest in specific opportunities for members to do this with each other in worship, media and between new and longer-term members…

Riverside should prioritize story and church experience as a way to build bridges between the whole church community, create a narrative of Riverside’s history, present and future and create purpose through shared experiences and seeing each other not just as members of a church but seeing one another in our full humanity.

A living narrative of the congregation is just such a story. It recounts our reasons for coming to and staying at Riverside, the qualities we believe are essential for a new senior minister, what we love about this church and what we seek to change, the tensions and paradoxes that we live with, the themes that persist from decade to decade. Riverside is more than the sum of the data or the facts of our history. It is a story that has no end. It is Riverside in its own words.

This series on the Church Profile will culminate in the Congregational Forum to discuss the Church Profile with the Senior Minister Search Committee. It will be held next week Sunday February 3 at 1pm in 9T. Please join us.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE SIXTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION (part 3) — SUNDAY JANUARY 20, 2013
What kinds of Historical Events are in the Church Profile?

Riverside has a rich history. The most complete source is The History of The Riverside Church in the City of New York. It is the Search Committee’s most dependable reference and is available in the Gift Shop. In his foreword to the 2004 book biblical scholar Martin Marty wrote

Those of us who have occasionally visited and always kept an eye on Riverside see it as exemplary, an example, or, in medieval Latin terms an exemplum. A medieval dictionary reminds us that an exemplum (eximere, to “cut out”) may be “a clearing in the woods”

that defines a space where the light falls and cultivation can take place. Riverside, he writes, has defined fundamentalism vs. modernism, conservatism vs. liberalism, closedness vs. openness, exclusivism vs. expansiveness. It is a place of paradox — a cathedral that tries to serve “from below.” The stories behind the stories reveal considerable conflict and bemused leaders who have had difficulty discerning the polity that holds the church together. But Riverside has endured, adapted, written new scenarios. Prof. Marty concludes that

Riverside at its best deserves to be measured by the biblical stories of the very human prophets who are transparent to the divine and a divine-human child of God and his sister and brothers in the polis we call New York, America, the world, in the new millennium.

The historical component of the Church Profile would, therefore, highlight Riverside’s struggles and triumphs through the pastorates of its senior ministers, its critical public stands and transformative lay initiatives. Here would be a tale of Fosdick’s controversial pacifism during World War II, Riverside’s sponsorship of Grant Houses in 1956, Martin Luther King Jr.’s anti-Vietnam War speech in 1967, James Forman interrupting the service with the Black Manifesto in 1969, the Hispanic caucus walk out from the annual meeting in 1971, the affirmation of gays and lesbians in the Open and Affirming vote of 1985, Nelson Mandela’s triumphal visit in 1990, the fiscal and leadership challenges we’ve worked through in recent years.

Our denominational advisors from the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ point out that to be credible we must be honest about our recent challenges. But we should not dwell on them. Rather we should recognize the work we have done during this interim and feel confident that the church stands upon good ground as it looks to the future.

Next week in the fourth part of this series on the Church Profile we will address the Living Narrative of the Congregation. We also invite you to the Congregational Forum to discuss the Church Profile with the Senior Minister Search Committee to be held Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 1pm in 9T. Please join us.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE SIXTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION (part 2) — SUNDAY JANUARY 13, 2013
What membership information is in the Church Profile?

Last week we began our January series on the Church Profile by listing its component parts. They are: the membership information about the congregation; the historical background of the church; and a living narrative about our witness in the world today. Throughout the month we will look more closely at these component parts and begin today by asking: what membership information is in the Church Profile and where does this data comes from.

The basic information about the congregation will come primarily from the Congregational Survey. A preliminary report on the Survey was given to the congregation at the Adjourned Annual Meeting Sunday December 9th. This survey is an important source of information because the data comes directly from the members and friends of the church. Of the 644 people who completed the survey 81% were members and 12% were non-members who attend services and/or participate in the programs of the church.

An additional resource is 2013 Budget approved at the Adjourned Annual Meeting December 9th. This program budget tells the reader how the funds of the church are allocated among worship, membership and parish life, mission and social justice, education, auxiliary programs and support services and where these monies come from — Every Member Canvass, the portfolio, funds restricted by donors for particular uses, etc.

The data compiled in these documents provides us with a snap shot of the congregation — our age groups and how long we’ve been members, our educational and income levels, where we live and what the census data says about our zip codes, what our denominational traditions are, what the sources of church income are and which programs need more/less resources allocated to them, what facilities are available to us and how we use them, how frequently we attend worship and come to church events; what programs we prize and what activities go to make them up.

Analyzing the data in the Congregational Survey and the 2013 Budget is yet to be done. But we urge you to read them so that you will know our references as we put together the membership information about the congregation. You can find copies in the library.

In the third part of this series next Sunday we will address the historical component of the Church Profile. We also invite you to the Congregational Forum to discuss the Church Profile with the Senior Minister Search Committee. It will be held on Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 1 pm in 9T. Please join us.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE SIXTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY JANUARY 6, 2013
What is a Church Profile and Why is it so important?

The Senior Minister Search Committee is now in Step #2 of the search and call process. Preparatory to drafting the Church Profile, we are listening to the many voices of the congregation — to committees and commissions, staff and clergy, to individual members who button hole us to just talk. The Church Profile is Step #3.

What is a church Profile and why is it so important? A Church Profile is a document that sets forth in data, narrative and reflection who we are as a distinctive congregation in a particular time and place. The “God-listening process” helps us to identify the basic facts of the congregation, the story we tell to the world, the kind of faith-based leadership we seek as we “lean forward” into the future. The major components of a church profile are

  • Membership information about the congregation as whole;
  • The historical background of the church; and
  • A living narrative describing our witness for the glory of God today.

Developing a Church Profile is not easy especially if we want to capture the full fidelity of who we are and why we continue to assemble. To get it right, the Search Committee will deliberately solicit input from the congregation. Taking these views into consideration we will bring a draft to the congregation for comment after we have concluded the listening period and had time to reflect upon and dig deeper into what we have heard from you.

The Church Profile is critical. It shapes how the Search Committee understands its priorities and communicates to prospective ministers who we are so that they in turn may discern whether they would fit well into Riverside. If we rush this process candidates will be limited to reading our history book and searching the internet. And they will find much information there for this is a high profile church. They will think they know us. But God has called us to the grand experiment of living as one body in Christ. This is our story to tell.

In the second part of this series next week we will address the Membership Information component of the Church Profile. We also invite you to The Congregational Forum to discuss the Church Profile with the Senior Minister Search Committee. It will be held Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 1pm in 9T. Please join us.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE FIFTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY NOVEMBER 18, 2012

The Senior Minister Search Committee is in Step 2 of the search and call process: beginning the dialogue with the Congregation. Step 1 involved creating the structure, procedures and covenant of the Search Committee during July and August. Representatives from the American Baptist Churches and United Church of Christ, Riverside's denominational affiliates, anchored the Committee in their experience.

Step 2 began in September when the Committee entered the "listening mode" of the dialogue. In October we scheduled interviews with clergy and staff, program commissions, administrative committees and other groups of the church, including the previous search committee. Communications from the Committee to the Congregation have continued, but dialogue is a two way street. So we are opening it up further with a face-to-face conversation during the Forum on December 2nd.

The Committee works by consensus. It takes time to discover the themes that will emerge from the dialogue, and it is essential that the Committee be as clear as possible about what we have heard. It cannot be rushed. It must be prayerful. From the long conversation Riverside is having about its future comes the church profile, which is the story that we will tell to prospective candidates. This narrative plays a critical role in helping us discern who will be our new Senior Minister.

Secondly, the Committee has scheduled a congregational forum on December 2, 2012 after church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee is mindful of the urge to move ahead. But the denominations have taught us that a successful search and call process takes from 18 to 24 months, and the Search Committee has been at work for 6 months. More than your patience, we ask for your continued engagement and your prayers.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE FOURTH REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY OCTOBER 28, 2012

Phase I: Organizing

The first phase of the Search Committee's work was getting organized and getting to know each other. Reports #1-3 outline our structure and the steps in the search and call process. You can find these reports in the library or by going to the Riverside website, TheRiversideChurchNY.org and clicking on Senior Minister Search Committee.

Less obvious has been the committee's movement from many into one. By virtue of drafting a covenant for the Senior Minister Search Committee and reading it together at every meeting, we have set for ourselves a behavioral standard that builds trust and helps us work together smoothly. The process also seems to be driven by the seriousness of the work before us and by the presence of your prayers among us. Thank you.

Phase II: Listening

Phase Two begins a listening and information gathering period. First, we are meeting with clergy and staff and the previous search committees, and we will send listening teams to the commissions and committees and outside friends of the church.

Secondly, the Committee has scheduled a congregational forum on December 2, 2012 after church.

These dialogues along with the Congregational Survey will lead us as we begin to develop the Church Profile, which is our next major piece of work.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE THIRD REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 16, 2012

Covenant of the Senior Minister Search Committee

At its meetings August 6 and 13 the Committee completed the covenant that governs our working relationships. It is our prayer at every meeting.

Basic Steps of the Search and Call Process

Step 1     Create the Search Committee structure, procedures and covenant
Step 2     Begin the dialogue with the Congregation on the search and call process
Step 3      Present the church profile to the Congregation
Step 4      Publicize the senior minister vacancy open to all without discrimination
Step 5      Review and evaluate thoroughly all candidate profiles
Step 6      Update the Congregation on the search and call process
Step 7      Notify short-listed candidates, thank candidates no longer under consideration
Step 8      Gather additional information on short-listed candidates
Step 9      Interview short-listed candidates for mutual discernment
Step 10    Come to a consensus on one final candidate
Step 11    Invite the Congregation to meet the final senior minister candidate
Step 12    Hold the Congregational meeting to vote on the final candidate
Step 13    Welcome and install the new Senior Minister
Step 14    Thank the Interim Senior Minister and decommission the Search Committee

Other Entities Involved in the Search and Call Process

The Senior Minister Search Committee was appointed by the Senior Minister Committee and approved by the Congregation as limited by the By-Laws to identify candidates for the senior minister position and recommend a single finalist to the Congregation. But other entities of the church are involved in the search and call process as well.

For instance, the Congregational Survey Committee will provide data for the congregational profile. The Senior Minister Committee as required by the By-Laws sets forth in a contract the financial terms of the Senior Minister's employment as approved by the Senior Minister Committee, within the limits of the church budget and subject to approval by majority vote of the Church Council.

These entities will report to the Congregation as is appropriate.

Channels for Dialogue between the Search Committee and the Congregation

But you, the Congregation, and we, the Search Committee need to be in conversation throughout the search and call process. At our meetings August 20 and 27 we set in motion several channels of communication. Through these we will be able to keep you posted on where we are in the process and you will be able to keep in touch with us.

The channels of communication are
  • Periodic reports through Sunday bulletin inserts
  • Latest report through Riverside's weekly email newsletter
  • Archived reports and resources through the Riverside homepage
  • Archived reports in the library
  • Congregational gatherings when appropriate
  • Direct mail letters to the whole membership when appropriate
  • Listening teams when appropriate
  • Visual updates on a Cloister Lounge poster

The Search Committee took a holiday over the Labor Day weekend.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE SECOND REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY AUGUST 26, 2012

Our first report alerted you to the upcoming consultations with the Revs. Rita Root from the United Church of Christ and James Stallings from the American Baptist Churches. We met with them on July 23 and 30. We wanted their advice as ministers experienced in the search and call process and they wanted to reassure us that they will help us in recruiting and vetting good candidates for Riverside. Besides clarifying the specific steps in the search and call process, the Revs. Root and Stallings made similar general recommendations. They are summarized below.

We should spend some time in team building. If the search committee is to act as one and build consensus, we must trust each other. That will occur as we will learn to listen to each other, comfort and respect each other and be accountable to each other about our hopes and fears. To act as one we need to minimize our individual yearnings for the perfect pastor and be open to the leadings of the Spirit in our search for who is best for The Riverside Church.

We should bring you into the search process. If we are to have your permission to do the job you have given us, we must have your trust. We must make sure you are adequately informed about where we are in the search and call process and you need to know we are listening to you. You, on the other hand, must allow us to maintain confidentiality in personal matters relating to potential candidates. The integrity of the process depends upon our discretion and you must insist upon it.

We need to claim our authority. We are a committee of the congregation. No other church body governs our work. We report only to you and you have charged us with recommending only one candidate for your approval. We hope to anticipate your concerns so that they do not arise. But likewise we hope that you will not second guess us but take care of us and encourage us by giving us the kind of positive feedback that will keep us from making mistakes and that will insure a good report to you.

We should articulate how change works at Riverside so that potential candidates can decide whether they are Riverside-ready and we can decide whether their experience is Riverside-right. We should tell the story about the Riverside we know. It should reflect what we have learned from the past but focus on the future. The church profile should be candid about past difficulties but confident in the work the congregation has done during the interim period. We should show candidates who we are and what our passions are. We are not where we want to be yet but we are getting there. We should trust the process.

Together we need to grasp fully Riverside's grand experiment. We are creating something new although what that is we don't yet know. We are doing it in many ways: in the work of the commissions, in the liturgies of our worship, in the process of searching and calling a new senior minister. The work is exciting but also very hard. We must wait upon the Lord. God's vision for us will unfold in the process. We should not be anxious and we need not hurry. Pray and seek the prayers of others. Listen. Look. Discernment is the wind beneath our wings.

We again urge you to complete the Congregational Survey if you have not already done so. You have received a copy in the mail or you can go on line at www.theriversidechurchny.org and click on Congregational Survey.

Please pray for us. Please pray for the church.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

THE FIRST REPORT TO THE CONGREGATION — SUNDAY JULY 29, 2012

The Senior Minister Search Committee has met four times. On July 1, 2012 we met with the Senior Minister Committee for an orientation session. The manuals by the American Baptist Churches and United Church of Christ outline the steps and materials the denominations have found to be successful in the search and call process.

At our second meeting July 10th we got acquainted with one another. Before members assume their committee tasks, both ABC and UCC recommend that search committees take the time to prepare themselves for a process of discernment by sharing their faith development and relationship to the church.

Co-conveners
Secretary
Spiritual guides
Budget coordinator
Communications coordinators
Church profile coordinators
James Reed, Christian Rojas
Gene Melino
Marilyn Mitchell, Robbie Patterson, Pat Pell
Jerome Hairston
Lesley Gittens, Timothy Jacobs, Elizabeth Wheeler
Lois Livezey, Ruby Sprott






We have invited to our meetings July 23rd and July 30th The Rev. Rita Root, Interim New York Conference Minister for the UCC, and The Rev. James Stallings, Regional Minister for the ABC Metropolitan churches, to share their insights into the search and call process. We encourage you to complete the Congregational Survey, a copy of which you should have received by mail. If you prefer, you can do the survey on line. Go to the Riverside Church website and click on the survey link at www.theriversidechurchny.org.

We intend to meet weekly until our new minister is called and to communicate with you regularly through various forms and media. Please hold us in your prayers.

The Senior Minister Search Committee

Frequently Asked Questions
Who Appointed The Senior Minister Search Committee?

Article X of Riverside's By-Laws states that when the office of the Senior Minister becomes vacant, the Senior Minister Committee shall propose a search committee for approval by the Congregation, to identify candidates for Senior Minister. None of the members of the Senior Minister Committee as constituted when the Search Committee is approved may serve on the Search Committee, other than the two at large members who did not hold elective office.

The Senior Minister Committee invited nominations from the Congregation including from persons who nominated themselves and received over 70 names. From this group they chose 12 and recommended them to the Congregation. The Congregation approved this slate June 3, 2012 by a two-thirds vote and the Search Committee was commissioned June 17, 2012.

Who are the Members of the Senior Minister Search Committee?

Co-conveners
Secretary
Spiritual guides
Budget coordinator
Communications coordinators
Church profile coordinators
James Reed, Christian Rojas
Gene Melino
Marilyn Mitchell, Robbie Patterson, Pat Pell
Jerome Hairston
Lesley Gittens, Timothy Jacobs, Elizabeth Wheeler
Lois Livezey, Ruby Sprott







Who are the Members of the Senior Minister Committee?

The voting members of the Senior Minister's Committee will consist of the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Church Council, the Chairs of Budget & Planning, the Personnel and Salary Committee and the Worship Commission, and two (2) members of the Congregation who do not hold elective office, appointed by agreement of the Chair of the Church Council and the Chair of the Nominating Committee for staggered three-year terms. This is according to the current by-laws.

How is the Search and Call Process Decided?

The Search Committee invited The Revs. Rita Root, Interim New York Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ, and James Stallings, Regional Minister of the Metropolitan New York American Baptist Churches to advise the Committee and bring it their recommendations. They made presentations in person and referred the Committee to the manuals prepared by each denomination:

Calling an American Baptist Minister: A Comprehensive Guide for Pastoral Search Committee with Step-by-Step Resources and Search and Call A Pilgrimage Through Transitions and New Beginnings from the United Church of Christ.

The search and call process recommended by these denominations has been tested in many churches over many years and is the one that guides Riverside's Senior Minister Search Committee.

What is the Search and Call Process?

The Senior Minister Search Committee has integrated and adapted the American Baptist Churches and United Church of Christ guidelines. There are many details in each step but the basic actions are

Step 1     Create the Search Committee structure, procedures and covenant
Step 2     Begin the dialogue with the Congregation on the search and call process
Step 3      Present the church profile to the Congregation
Step 4      Publicize the senior minister vacancy open to all without discrimination
Step 5      Review and evaluate thoroughly all candidate profiles
Step 6      Update the Congregation on the search and call process
Step 7      Notify short-listed candidates, thank candidates no longer under consideration
Step 8      Gather additional information on short-listed candidates
Step 9      Interview short-listed candidates for mutual discernment
Step 10    Come to a consensus on one final candidate
Step 11    Invite the Congregation to meet the final senior minister candidate
Step 12    Hold the Congregational meeting to vote on the final candidate
Step 13    Welcome and install the new Senior Minister
Step 14    Thank the Interim Senior Minister and decommission the Search Committee

What is the Senior Minister Search Committee Covenant?

By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we the members of the Riverside Church Senior Minister Search Committee solemnly covenant with one another,

  • To prayerfully seek God's guidance in all we do;
  • To be mindful of our commitment to the congregation and to be guided by the Leadership Covenant of the Church Council, May 1996;
  • To give equal consideration to all candidates regardless of their age, race, gender, nationality, marital status or sexual orientation;
  • To show respect and loving kindness to those with whom we disagree, to avoid and forgive words spoken in anger or in the spirit of accusation;
  • To always be respectful of a person's self worth;
  • To rely on prayer in times of disharmony or disagreement so as to re-focus on our purpose;
  • To work together cooperatively and effectively until the completion of our task;
  • To practice active listening with respect for all opinions;
  • To create an atmosphere that welcomes full participation in all conversations;
  • To maintain the confidentiality of all candidates and all discussions about them;
  • To be transparent in the communication of process and procedural matters;
  • To keep before us, as best we discern it God's call for the people of God we serve in this place.

We thoughtfully and prayerfully bind ourselves in covenant with one another and in Christ our Lord. We pledge to read and reaffirm this covenant as a prayer at each meeting.

Is the Interim Senior Minister Involved in the Search Process?

Riverside's Senior Minister Search Committee seeks many ways to stay tuned to the concerns of the Congregation. Both the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ recommend that the Search Committee listen to as many persons as possible who care about Riverside, including the Interim Senior Minister, but that he not be involved in the actual process.

How Does the Senior Minister Search Committee Stay in Dialogue with the Congregation?

The Search Committee has opened a number of channels of communication:

  • Periodic reports through Sunday bulletin inserts
  • Latest report through Riverside's weekly email newsletter
  • Archived reports and resources through the Riverside homepage
  • Archived reports in the library
  • Congregational gatherings when appropriate
  • Direct mail letters to the whole membership when appropriate
  • Listening teams when appropriate
  • Visual updates on a Cloister Lounge poster
How Long Does The Search And Call Process Take?

Both the United Church of Christ and the America Baptist Churches tell search committees to expect an 18 month to two year process. Members should trust the process and not be hurried. Both the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ are confident that search committees who follow each step thoroughly will achieve good outcomes.

Since the Senior Minister Search Committee did not begin its work until July 2012 the Congregation should not expect a new senior minister before the end of 2013 or early 2014.

How Does The Senior Minister Search Committee Publicize The Senior Minister Vacancy?

Riverside is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ. They will publicize nationally Riverside's opening through their "job listings." The search committee may decide to purchase ads in journals such as Christian Century and members and friends of the church may recommend persons for consideration. The process also allows clergy from other denominations to send in their profiles but the Committee will vet all profiles of short-listed candidates through the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches.

Why Does The Senior Minister Search Committee Recommend Only One Finalist And Who Approves That Finalist?

Article X of Riverside's By-Laws states that the Search Committee shall recommend a single candidate for the position of Senior Minister to the Congregation for approval at a meeting of the Church called for that purpose.

The call of a Senior Minister must be approved by a two thirds vote of the qualified members of the Church present and voting at a special meeting of the church as a Religious Society called for that purpose.

The By-Laws do not so state, but if the Congregation does not approve the finalist for the position of Senior Minister, the Search Committee would ask to step down and the whole process would begin again with a new search committee.

Who Sets The Compensation Package For The New Senior Minister?

Article X of Riverside's By-Laws states that the financial terms of the Senior Minister's employment shall be set forth in a contract, within the limits of the Church's budget, approved by the Senior Minister Committee, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Church Council. Thereafter the compensation of the Senior Minister shall be disclosed in the budget and will be subject to revision from year to year upon the recommendation of the Senior Minister Committee through the Church's budget process consistent with the Senior Minister's contract subject to approval by a majority vote of the Church Council. Disclosure of the Senior Minister's compensation shall include and separately identify all forms of compensation, including but not limited to salary and benefits and any extraordinary payments by the Church to the Senior Minister.

Can The Interim Minister Be A Candidate For The Senior Minister Position?

The short answer is: No. For several reasons the interim minister is not eligible for this position. The Senior Minister Search Committee follows the search and call processes recommended by our denominational affiliates, The American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ. The manual, Calling an American Baptist Minister, states the following:

The church should not call the interim minister to be pastor. Inevitably, if the interim minister is competent and caring the question will arise within the congregation: Why don't we just call the interim to become our pastor? Experience over many years in many congregations of many traditions has taught us that usually this practice proves not to be in the best interests of the church or the interim minister. It can sabotage both the interim minister's work and the work of the Pastoral Search Committee, often raising anxiety and polarizing the church. From the unique vantage point of being neither a church member nor a candidate for the position the interim minister can be relatively free and unbiased in taking actions necessary for the ongoing life and ministry of the congregation.

The United Church of Christ manual Search and Call: A Pilgrimage Through Transitions and New Beginnings, makes a similar rationale:

The interim's candidacy compromises the principles of parity and open access to opportunities by denying unknown candidates with comparable skills the chance to be seriously considered by the pastoral search committee. Because the congregation knows the interim in ways it cannot know other candidates, the interim has an unfair advantage over others.

An interim minister's candidacy may subvert the importance of matching a candidate's gifts for ministry with the ministerial needs of the church. The ministerial needs of the church during the interim period are significantly different than they are during the settled pastorate.

Although the interim minister cannot be a candidate for Riverside's new senior minister, we certainly encourage you to send us recommendations of other eligible candidates or urge them to contact us once we have publicized the vacancy.

How Can Members And Friends Nominate Candidates For The Senior Minister Position?

Church members and other friends of Riverside may recommend individuals for the senior minister position by Sending a letter by

  • regular mail to The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10027, Attention The Search Committee;
  • By emailing the Search Committee at SMSearch@TheRiversideChurchNY.org;
  • By hand-carrying a letter to the Search Committee and dropping it into the box next to the security desk.

Please include in your recommendation

  • Your name, contact information and affiliation with Riverside;
  • The full name, mailing address, phone numbers, email addresses of your nominee;
  • A short statement on why you think this individual is a good candidate for the senior minister position.