Post Election Reflection

Dear Friends, Family, & UU Family,

I write to share some initial reflections following the historic election that just happened in our faith. We did it! We elected a woman president for the first time, and I congratulate Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. My wish for Susan’s leadership and my wish for all of us who share in the leadership of our faith is that we demonstrate spiritual depth, courage, compassion, and creativity in the days and years ahead. Go Susan!

There is a tremendous list of people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. People who supported me, endorsed me, donated to my campaign and cheered me on, and people who supported the overall campaign process. I will name some of them here.

First, I want to thank the UUA Presidential Search Committee (PSC) – Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson and Religious Educator Liz Jones (Co-Chairs), Rev. Wayne Arnason, Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford, Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, Elandria Williams, and Jacqui C. Williams. It was an honor when you encouraged me to apply and an even deeper honor to receive the phone call when you asked me to say “Yes!” to your nomination and request to run alongside of Rev. Sue Phillips. It was heartening to hear that you had confidence in our vision, skillset, and passion for our faith and that you were unanimous about putting forth our two names as candidates.

You did it too. At the GA 2010, we democratically voiced our desire for the vetting of presidential candidates and for broadening who could serve as our President. Five of you were elected to the PSC and two of you were appointed to design and lead this new process at GA 2013. You spent 2 ½ years on our behalf creating a new process to thoroughly and thoughtfully vet candidates, sharing greater clarity about the role of the president, running the selection process, and imagining a very different kind of campaign. In many ways, it’s not surprising that we veered from the groundwork you laid down this first time around. For one thing, there wasn’t a plan in place for what to do if one of the nominated candidates withdrew, which happened when Sue stepped down. The campaign season then returned to many of the old ways of doing things, while retaining pieces of the vision for something different.

As a leader who has engaged in institutional change and at the forming edges of our faith for a long while, I am grateful to have been a part of trying something new. Suffice it to say, we have learned a lot through this process – I know you will be interviewing us about it, so all of us can share in those learnings – and I may share future postings as I reflect on the past two years of my involvement. Thank you for the considerable work the seven of you – a diverse leadership group – did to open our minds and to allow us to experience something new to the degree that was possible this time around. I do not take it for granted, that all of the ultimate candidates were engaged in a vetting process with you, and that this resulted in moving us towards our first elected woman president. It would be to rewrite history to say that your role in this outcome wasn’t important.

I lift up the names of women who have had the courage to run before us – former Moderator Sandra Caron (the first and only lay leader to run so far, who too often doesn’t get mentioned), Rev. Carolyn Owen-Towle, Rev. Diane Miller, and Rev. Laurel Hallman. Thank you for paving the way.

Second, I am deeply indebted to the team of people who saw in my candidacy a vision for our future. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Rev. Meg Riley and Rev. Emilie Boggis are among the people who get the credit for planting the seed – that who I am, what I have done, and what I hope to do – could be a match for the Presidency. The Presidential Search Committee’s repeated encouragement of me to apply made a difference here as well.

There are some on my campaign team who I must mention because their contributions helped to make the campaign all that it was. I have a vision of collaborative, more inclusive leadership for our UUA, and I was delighted when Religious Educator Kim Mason and Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson agreed to be co-campaign managers. I also benefited greatly from lay leader Lynda Shannon Bluestein’s wisdom from campaigns past and all she poured into helping me get elected. Lori Stone Sirtosky added her invaluable social media & technology skills – yes, you would be lucky to hire her for your project. The Core A-Team also included Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Rev. Kimberley Debus, George Hays, Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn, RevShawna Foster, Jerry Fried, Aisha Hauser, Rev. Meg Riley, Rev. Edward Scott Sammler-Michael, Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons. The congregation I serve was most definitely part of the team – Thank you to President David Palmer, the whole Board of Trustees, to my staff colleagues – Tim Atkins, Mandi Huizenga, Jamie Boyce – too many lay leaders to name – for all the ways you stepped up to both support my campaign and to support our shared ministry when I was traveling. You are all an amazing gift in my life, and I count you as one of my blessings every day. In addition, I was supported by mentors like Rev. Marlin Lavanhar (my internship supervisor), Rev. Terry Sweetser who I worked with at UUA Development, and former President Rev. John Buehrens who was generous in discussing our collective past and our hopes for the future. My home congregation of All Souls, NYC, where I have worked for nearly a decade came out early with their endorsement and enthusiasm, which meant everything.

Thank you to all the leaders from the centers and from the margins of our faith who supported me in meaningful ways – from DRUUMM, BLUU, LREDA, current and former Youth and Young Adult Leaders, former UUA Staff, religious professionals & lay leaders of small, midsize and large congregations, community ministers, and committed UUs working in emerging spaces of faith and in our justice movements. Thank you for all the ways you showed up, volunteered, contributed, donated, and shared your belief in me and what we could do together. Thank you to those who voted and to those who helped but do not get a vote (a further subject for another post). While I didn’t win this election, your faith in me fuels a hope that I will find ways in the days and years ahead to contribute to the holy work of igniting faith, empowering change, and advancing justice in our faith and in the world.

Third, I offer my gratitude to all the people outside of the Presidential Search Committee, my team and key supporters, who created opportunities for you to meet and get to know the candidates through regional forums – Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs (Board Secretary), Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti (Election Campaign Practices Committee, Chair), and Jim Key (Moderator) stand out here. While I have known Susan for a long while, I have enjoyed getting to know Rev. Jeanne Pupke throughout the campaign.

Finally, I must share my deepest gratitude for my partner in faith, in family, and in life – David Snedden. I hope that our larger UU Family recognizes the gift you also are to our movement in your own right and long before we met. To my whole family – the Millers and the Sneddens – thank you for all the ways you made this possible.

So. Much. Love. To You. My Family. My Friends. My Greater UU Family of Faith. You inspire me and challenge me, and you bring me hope on my best days and my worst ones.

With gratitude,

Alison

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