A Word from Us…

Below you will find thoughts, updates, and articles from our staff.

A Bridge Across – May 17

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“We need to talk.”  The four most dreaded words in human relationships, right?  Spouse to spouse, fading romantic partner to hopeful romantic partner, supervisor to supervisee, leadership transition team to the congregation, God to any of us.  The “need” to “talk” usually signals a conversation the target talkee would rather avoid.  The accompanying emoticon would be something like :/.

“We need to talk!”  The four most eager words in human relationships, maybe?  Yes!  Between old friends missing each other, the family member bursting with good news for another family member, coworker to coworker anticipating a job move, leadership transition team to its congregation, God to any of us.  The “need” to “talk” says, “Let’s find a good place and time and make it happen!”  The emoticon this time around would be 😀 .

The LTT is asking you to join them in what they hope will be the latter, a broadly smiling kind of conversation.  You, they, and I will talk about University Baptist Church and your priorities for your church.  The conversation will be about describing qualities you value in the next Senior Minister.  There will be discussion about the congregation’s share of the work ahead with whomever God should lead to Charlottesville as UBC’s next Senior Minister.

I can’t tell anyone how or what they should feel; so, most definitely, do not give me happy and eager, if in fact your true response is angry and bothered, which it may very well be.  There’s been some tough sledding for the congregation, hasn’t there?   There have been meetings, surveys, and voluminous reports full of stats and descriptions.  You wonder whether change is afoot and if those changes will be to your liking.

For those of us in this second, displeased group, a simple emoticon doesn’t begin to say what we would, if we could, put into words.  But, either of these two conversations to which the LTT is inviting everyone is meant for you, too.  The LTT and I hope to help everyone put into words their feelings, thoughts, and recommendations.

These last two weeks, I’ve written of each one testifying, offering the stewardship of your Christ-self.  These gatherings are the venue for you to offer your best, honest witness in the most responsible way you know to do that.  What you will add is the continuity of your participation and the creativity of your desires for UBC.

Please bring what you should bring, in the Lord’s leading, to one or the other of these essential meetings.  Do it for the well-being of our congregation in serving the larger call of God for University Baptist Church.

~Your Senior Minister in the Interim,



Proposed Changes to UBC Bylaws & Leadership Manual

UBC Church Council

Church Council has considered ways that UBC might become more inclusive and broaden its base of candidates who will be eligible to serve on committees, teams, councils, etc.  Council also considered how we might allow candidates who have demonstrated their Christian maturity, skills, willingness, potential, abilities and commitment to UBC to be nominated to positions of leadership. Finally, Council has considered a change which will allow Associate Members to vote on various church matters. 


These proposed changes will be discussed at a Church Conference on Wednesday, May 25.  You can read these proposed changes at here .


A Bridge Across – May 10

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Baptist congregations are not debate societies.  I know this claim may stretch the limits of credulity with you, but it’s the truth — we are not debate societies.  Rather, we are testimonial communities.  We exist to bear witness with one another and with our larger society of how we’ve experienced God in Jesus Christ.  You testify to your experience, and I testify to mine.  We don’t debate those experiences.

What we often fail to do, however, is to encourage one another to give our current, ongoing testimonies of our experience of God in Jesus Christ.  We act as though the Apostle Paul wrote, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will leave well enough alone and just make sure you arrive safely into Heaven at the day of Jesus Christ.”

What the Apostle actually wrote was, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 1:6)  Paul emphasizes God starting with you where God finds you, God continuing to work on/with you every day following, and God finally finishing up on/with you at that future day.  This is what I referenced last week as your “Christ-self” in the making.

God isn’t investing all that good stuff in you and me just for our benefit.  God is doing that good, ongoing Christ-work in order for you and me to testify!  So, as I wrote last week, we need your Christ-self bearing witness, and if you’re absent, then you will deprive us of something vital that God intends for you and your fellow

UBC’ers.  During these interim months, your church family will need:

Your Faithful and Honest Witness, Shared Responsibly.  Christ will not send an email (see attachments) for us to read.  Christ will speak through us together.  We each will listen respectfully and patiently.  We may ask one another questions to clarify and expand our understanding of each other’s witness.  What we will not do is debate the other’s witness.  We will trust the other to speak with humility because we know our witness is partial and biased.  So, we will do our best to sort the chaff from the wheat before we speak (that’s the “responsible” part).

Your Continuity and Your Creativity.  The truest experience of Christ will show continuity with our previous experiences of the Lord — we have to do with the same Lord, timeless in being, the same yesterday, today and for all time (per Hebrews 13:8).  What is not timeless is our grasp on Christ’s true self; we will learn new things, grow in new ways, be surprised by how different Christ is from our previous take on the Lord (That’s where the creativity comes in.).  It’s Jesus Christ creating in us, and we’re discovering new things about the Eternal Christ at which we’d never guessed before . . . exciting, stretching, invigorating, discombobulating stuff!

Please make this offering to God:  be an active participant in this testifying community we call University Baptist Church.

— Your Senior Minister in the Interim,


Leadership Transition Team Update

Leadership Transition Team logo

The Leadership Transition Team (LTT) has moved on to its remaining charges. These are:

  • Recommend when the Associate Minister position should be filled,
  • work with the Senior Minister search committee to clarify responsibilities, and
  • prepare a summary of characteristics of a Senior Minister to be recruited.

    More details about these tasks can be found in the presentation materials from the town hall.

Regarding the third task, the LTT will hold congregational conversations to build on the work that the church did for the 2011-2012 transition team report, the 2015 questionnaire, and the leadership retreat. These conversations are meant to help the church understand its past, present, and future and prepare for where God is calling us for the next stage of the church’s life.  Please plan to attend!

Congregational Conversations

  • Wednesday, May 11: During the evening fellowship program, Rev. Dalton and the LTT will lead an initial discussion and prayer time about the interim and transition period.
  • Sunday, May 29: Rev. Dalton and the LTT will facilitate small-group conversations after worship (time and details TBD).
  • Sunday, June 5: Rev. Dalton and the LTT will facilitate small-group conversations before worship (time and details TBD).

Note that the May 29 and June 5 events will be the same.  You need to attend only one of those two; please plan for whichever is more convenient.  We will also conduct off-site conversations as needed for people who are not able to make either event.

A Bridge Across – May 3







Short of a log thrown down across a creek, bridges are a construction of many elements, each one working with the others to support the whole structure.  No single beam or cable can carry the full weight.  Together, though, we’ve all seen how the span of intertwined parts is strong and graceful.  The same is true for a congregation traveling the Interim Bridge.

The Interim Minister is most definitely not the bridge across the expanse of time until the next Senior Minister is called.  The Interim Minister is one component.  I know you know this, but it helps to point out this fact.  I’ll add all my 5-foot 9-inch frame can offer, but that doesn’t begin to reach nearly high nor far enough.  (We won’t go into the matter of circumference…not relevant to this conversation.)

You are an essential part of forming the bridge the UBC family needs to successfully cross the interim time.  How many things I could list that I might wish to ask you to contribute!  You may think it’s got to be some part of the usual three-point stewardship pitch:  time, talents, and money.  As tempting as this trinity of institutional self-reliance can be, these are what any secular nonprofit group might ask of you.  So, no, I’m not talking about the stewardship of your stuff.

What your church needs from you is the stewardship of your Christ-self.  “Christ-self” is not a Baptist word, so allow me to go on.  What I need and ask of you in these transition months is your witness as you yourself experience and know Christ.  No one else can take your place.  Your absence means that something essential goes missing from the bridge; it cannot be as strong, nor as graceful.  Seriously. We suffer from your absence.

Christ is not into emailing, tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Linked-Ining, any more than Christ was into printing presses, mimeograph machines, rotary phones, or IBM Selectrics (although those Selectrics were pretty sweet machines when they came out).  Christ is into you:  “you in Christ and Christ in you” is our Lord’s one and only Plan A.  Period.

All else are mere tools of a moment, as dated as last year’s software and as short-lived as this year’s tradeshow guru.  What is eternal, what is of lasting worth, is you.  For now, I’ll simply list two foundational elements of your Christ-self we need here to make UBC’s Interim Bridge work.  I’ll expand on these in next week’s Word:

Your Faithful and Honest Witness, Shared Responsibly;
Your Continuity and Your Creativity

~Your Senior Minister in the Interim,


Upcoming for Sunday, May 1

Sermon:  “Little Sabbath, Big Sabbath/Old Temple, No Temple” – Rev. Gary Dalton.

Scripture: John 5:1-11


A Bridge Across – April 26







My article last week about interim ministry spun off the metaphor I found in a photo taken when Karen and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Today, I’d like to offer a few more details, beginning with my ministry title.

Senior Minister in the Interim.  Prior to your calling me, you probably heard my position described as “Interim Senior Minister”.  That straightforward description carries different connotations, depending on your prior experiences with such folk.  “Consultant” may be foremost in many peoples’ minds.   Certainly, “interim” emphasizes the temporary nature of my calling to University Baptist Church.  So, you may wonder, why the change-up in word order?

What’s gained in reworking the title is this. “Senior Minister in the Interim” puts first what I understand my principle work with you to be.   Above anything else you expect of me, you should expect me to be your Pastor.   A congregation needs someone whom God has gifted and called to care for them, extending comfort to those in crisis, encouraging its members each to follow our Lord, preaching and teaching from the Bible the truths God revealed and worked out, foremost in the ministry of Jesus Christ.

With your shared faithful witness, University Baptist Church will offer our surrounding community a clearer sign of God’s beckoning love.  For however long the Lord may extend this grace to me, I seek to share this witness as your Pastor.

“Help me help you!  Help me help you!”  (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.)  These lines are an almost-cliché exchange in many a drama and comedy.   Essentially, it means, tell me what you need to be your best, and I’ll do whatever I can to help you get it.   Now we’re moving more to the consultant-share of my ministry title.

My agenda is no agenda.  Instead, I rely on you to let me know what University Baptist Church needs over these months to best prepare for calling your next permanent Senior Minister.   Organizationally, I will rely on the Leadership Transition Team and the Deacons to interpret for me what all those interim tasks should be.  I will look to the Church Council and other standing committees to offer their assessments of what needs to happen.  I encourage you personally to let me know what you yourself think should happen in the interim.

My agenda is no agenda, butI do not come to you as a blank slate, wiped clean of all ideas about what should go on in a Baptist church.   I am full of assumptions, formed by nearly 61 years of Baptistification and 32 years of ordained Baptist ministry, plus a healthy cross-pollination of other influences of varying degrees of pedigree.  I will do my level best to channel all my Baptist stuff along the furrows you’re already plowing and never work crossways to the direction in which the Spirit of Christ is leading you.

Happily, your Senior Minister in the Interim,



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