Occasionally We Rub Each Other the Wrong Way

Occasionally We Rub Each Other the Wrong Way

My People,

We are a community in covenant with one another seeking to dwell in peace. Most of the time we get along remarkably well, but we aren’t perfect. Occasionally, we rub each other the wrong way. Even when we mess up, though, we agree to return to the covenant and work things out as best we can.

In that spirit, the UUCC Board of Trustees at its February meeting discussed at length our congregation’s grievance process and whether we should have a standing committee on ministry. I was pleased that BOT members referred to our Seven UU Principles for guidance during our dialog, especially the Second and Fifth principles.

It quickly became obvious that such matters are inherently nuanced, and that not every potential scenario can be fully addressed with a set of rules. Ultimately we must put our faith in the wisdom of people grounded in open communication, mutual trust, good faith, and open and fair processes.

At the conclusion of our session, the executive team and board of trustees had reached consensus on several points.


  1. When people have concerns or constructive criticism about how a paid staff member or volunteer is performing a task or conducting herself/himself, we strongly believe it would be best if the concerned/aggrieved party were to communicate those concerns directly to the person involved as a first step. This is the most efficient and honorable way to address a concern or give feedback.
  2. If a concerned/aggrieved member or friend does not reach a satisfactory conclusion through direct dialog with the answerable party, and the concerned/aggrieved person desires to take further action, it is reasonable to speak to the answerable person’s supervisor. The executive director and senior minister directly or indirectly supervise all paid staff. In the case of volunteers, it may be appropriate to speak to the senior minister, executive director or a member of the board of trustees. If the concern pertains to the executive director or senior minister, please contact a Board of Trustees member. If the concern pertains to a board member, please contact the president of the congregation. If the concern pertains to the president, please contact the first vice president.
  3. If a concerned/aggrieved person is uncomfortable communicating directly with the answerable person, he/she may contact the senior minister, or other leader (see above) as an initial step. People in such situations should know in advance, however, that Rev. Paige, Maureen Harris and BOT members are unwilling, except in very rare cases, to carry unattributed concerns/grievances to answerable persons. If the concerned/aggrieved person is unwilling to have their concern/grievance attributed to them personally, the matter will simply be held by the supervisor or board member, and the answerable person will not be informed that it existed. The board of trustees supports this stance.

Committee on Ministry

Given the above structure and procedures, and because the BOT oversees the senior minister under our system of policy-based governance, the BOT decided that it would be more efficient to have the BOT function as a committee on ministry rather than create a standing committee.

We hope all members share our view that these positions and procedures promote “Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations,” and “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregation.”

In Faith,
Frank Hazzard
UUCC President


  1. Katherine Rose

    I applaud the Board for taking up this issue and fully informing the congregation of the consensus position reached. I also think that this process as described assures that the most experienced members will be involved in any discussions of conflicts. It also is important for members to understand that taking responsibility for their relationships, although frequently uncomfortable, is a wise course to take. It allows for growth.

  2. Rae Tyler Millman

    Thank you, Frank, for so clearly and persuasively put forth the agreed to position of the Board. It makes eminent sense to me.

  3. Laurie Coltri

    It’s good that the Board has taken this step. It recognizes that, in the recently-published words of Liz James in UUA World,* sometimes our beloved religious communities can be “pain in the neck communit[ies].”

    What about confidentiality? I read and re-read the “Concerns/Grievances” statement or policy several times. The closest thing to a promise of confidentiality that I’ve been able to find is this sentence in item #3:

    “If the concerned/aggrieved person is unwilling to have their concern/grievance attributed to them personally, the matter will simply be held by the supervisor or board member, and the answerable person will not be informed that it existed.”

    I’m very comfortable with the relational maturity that this provision demands. However, it isn’t a confidentiality provision. As a mediator, I often heard from individuals in sensitive conflict situations. Such persons often feel very vulnerable, and need an explicit affirmation that their comments won’t be spread around to others without their consent, particularly in this era of social media. I think a confidentiality provision would affirm and support the sacred nature of our relationships with one another. I don’t expect that anyone currently in a Board or Staff role would ever abuse a nonconfidential relationship, but feel that persons having concerns or grievances, especially if new to UUCC, would be put off by the process unless it is confidential.

    Along with this consideration, I feel the policy should also explain what will happen if the concern or complaint raises an issue of safety, or includes information about the possible commission of a crime or act(s) of harassment.

    * https://www.uuworld.org/articles/people-who-put-windows?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=hootsuite&utm_content=2018-02-21

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