Thursday, May 14, 2009

Endorsement for Rev. Laurel Hallman

After much consideration I have decided to endorse Rev. Laurel Hallman for President of the UUA. This was not an easy decision as we have two very fine and well qualified candidates for this position but in the end I decided that Laurel's message, engagement with the board and experience lead me to support her.

I offer this endorsement to the congregations in the PSWD, not to influence your own informed vote, but rather because I believe you should know where I stand on issues important to our Association. As always I invite your comments and questions.

However this may all turn out I will support whomever is our next president in this work because it is the work that all this is about. Below is my endorsement statement to Laurel's campaign:

Endorsement for Rev. Laurel Hallman

Two plus years ago when I first heard Laurel would be a candidate for UUA President I had to confess the only thing I knew about her was she was a minister of the large church in Dallas. That was it. I decided I needed to find out more and one of the first things I did was read the Berry Street Essay she delivered to her colleagues in 2003. I was moved by what I learned. The deepness of her experience, her intellect, her compassion and her reverence for language and the power of language came through clearly to me. In her essay, Laurel said that her work in preparing a lesson or sermon is “…to speak to the depth of human experience”. This is what I expect our president to be doing. This is not easy to do but I am convinced Laurel is up to the task.

What I have observed in the past year of seeing Laurel at our board meetings is someone who is keenly observant and engaged in the work and who understands the inability we sometimes have when we “live more deeply than we think”. She has challenged us to find ways to articulate that, which is deeper than what we can speak, and she stands prepared to work collaboratively with the board, the staff and most important, our congregations in this struggle.

Challenging times are here with us now and will be for some time to come. When we are most challenged we need the wisdom, insight, experience and passion that Laurel brings from her lengthy and successful ministry. I am pleased to endorse her candidacy for President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

With deep appreciation for all those who serve others,

In faith and trust,

Tom Loughrey
UUA Trustee from the Pacific Southwest District


Anonymous said...

Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman; A Results-Oriented Leader

UUs broke ground by electing Bill Sinkford eight years ago; UUs now have the ability to elect the first woman to the presidency of the UUA. What a watershed moment it will be, 145 years after Universalist Olympia Brown became the first female minister of a denomination.

As a 17-year member of the First Church of Dallas (1stUDallas) and a former member of the church council, RE teacher, leader of Intereweave group, and numerous committee groups, I have had a first-hand look at how the Rev. Laurel Hallman has managed to grow a mid-sized church into one of the top five UU churches in the country.

If growth in our churches is the deciding factor for delegates, then one only need look at 1stUDallas for answers. Laurel Hallman is consistently effective, working collaboratively to adjust priorities and channel the resources of a tight but growing budget into a more flexible operational, planning and control model. Membership at 1stUDallas has doubled, from 550 to more than 1100 active members and friends. And Laurel has done this in the middle of the Bible belt, an impressive feat.

If long-range visionary planning is the key, under Laurel’s leadership we have consistently set strategic goals as a congregation, for five years, ten years and longer, and have changed the focus of the church to accomplish them. Our most recent strategic plan, Chart & Compass 2010, transforms our church in five areas: Caring for one another, making a distinctive Contribution to the character of public life, Curriculum—educating ourselves and others; Communication—spreading the word; and Capacity—embracing change. Close to 500 families and individuals have pledged more than $6 million toward the Chart & Compass Capital Campaign, to support this vision.

If knowledge about policy governance and knowing how to shepherd an institution to a new operational model is it, one need only look at the dramatically positive changes in our church governance. Our simplified process has allowed 1stUDallas to focus on larger issues, so that leaders can evaluate what steps are needed to help us realize our long-range vision. This all occurred when we moved to the Carver policy governance model. We no longer have overlap of functions, and there is a more accountability and clarity in the management of the organization. The board provided clarity as Laurel challenged the church to go beyond multiculturalism and diversity to counter racism. Cohesive messages from the pulpit, along with active groups and effective programs have positioned the church to create lasting formative effects on the mind and character of our membership. Most important of all, our lay ministries are empowered and ever growing.

If social action is where the decision point is, Laurel has provided the same leadership and guidance: whether it was publicly speaking at g/l/b/t events, challenging the Dallas City council to provide more police and working with the school board for improvements in our public schools, as a founding member with Ernesto Cortes of Dallas Area Interfaith (almost two decades ago), or as a strong member of the North Dallas Shared Ministries, which focuses on providing effective, appropriate, and efficient assistance to a large segment of Dallas’ poorest population. Her commitment to social causes has provided community change through Hearts and Hammers, Habitat for Humanity, For the Love of the Lake, voter registration, school books and supplies, mentoring, tutoring and a host of others in the four social action areas this church is fantastically active in: Peace, Democracy, Environment and Social Justice. To help bring awareness to the many lay-led programs in 1stUDallas, she established the dedication of 1st Sunday collection to benefit these causes, raising more than $175,000 so far.

If wisdom built on years of experience leading organizations and institutions is key, one only need look at her resume to see that Laurel has a consistent and well-documented history of executive leadership in large and growing organizations. Her tenacity and her tenure of 30 years in ministry give her special insight.

If religious education is the fulcrum, it’s important to know that Laurel came out of the teaching profession; her teaching experience helped her create Images for our Lives, a religious education program which is among the best in the UUA. 1stUDallas was instrumental in the dialogue and curriculum building process of “Our Whole Lives”; 1stUDallas also committed $150,000 to the creation of the forthcoming “Tapestry of Faith” curriculum. And Laurel created “Living By Heart” a program for spiritual deepening used at 1stUDallas and throughout the denomination. The proof of how well 1stUDallas handles RE is in our quadrupled retention and growth of youth within the RE programs, and our consistently popular and growing adult RE program in the last several years.

Or perhaps it’s thinking outside the box, figuring out how to further our UU call to service in the community. As a result of the demands upon programs and facilities, we are in the midst of a $7 million dollar capital campaign to strengthen programming, outreach, and infrastructure. 1stUDallas is also creating the first Center for Policy Dialogue in the Southwest, focused on supporting open public dialogue on a variety of issues affecting our society, bringing differing groups together to work for positive solutions.

Laurel Hallman is the leader who has the ability to both create this kind of vision and to communicate it in an inspiring way. People see her excellence; they connect with her and her vision emotionally, and are inspired to commit themselves to the shared goals she lifts up. Laurel sees and communicates the big picture and inspires others to work together to make it happen.

Given the impressive results under her leadership at 1stUDallas, we should all look forward to the election of the Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman.

by David Aspinall
First Church of Dallas
17 year member

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