Settled Minister Search NEWS

The Settled Minister Search Team (SMST) welcomes and appreciates congregant’s suggestions. Please include your contact information:

NEWS  |  We have a new Settled Minister!

On behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wilmington North Carolina, the Board of Trustees is very pleased to announce that Alyssa Lee has been called as our new Settled Minister. Following the May 19, 2024 service, members of the congregation unanimously voted to approve Alyssa Lee as our next UUCWNC settled minister.

The Settled Minister Search Team with our next settled minister Alyssa Lee

– Cornelia Maxted
– Elizabeth MacLeod
– Thea Hagepanos
– Alyssa Lee
– Sara Jarvis
– Bob Harootyan
– Stephen Axhelm
– Dan Wheat-Rivers
(May 2024)

Alyssa Lee
Prior to attending seminary and serving as Minister for a small congregation in Massachusetts, Alyssa served as an attorney focused on civil rights and employment issues. She also served as a legislative liaison for a number of state agencies. Alyssa, her husband Eric and son George will be relocating to Wilmington, and will start work August 1, 2024.

NEWS  |  Here’s The Latest: 

 Dear Members and friends of UUCWNC,
The time is almost here!  Alyssa Lee, our Ministerial Candidate will be delivering her Sunday Sermons on the Chancel THIS Sunday, May 12 and again on May 19th, just before the Congregational Vote. In addition on
  • Wednesday, May 15 (noon – 2PM) we’ll have a BYO Lunch and Chat with Alyssa in the Sanctuary and on
  • Saturday morning, May 18th at 10AM (Sanctuary and Zoom) we’ll have a hybrid Q & A .
All of these are excellent opportunities for you to Meet and Greet our Candidate.  A calendar is in the Foyer near the Sanctuary, and we’ll issue another email NEXT week as a reminder.
We’re so pleased to welcome Alyssa to our spiritual home.  Please attend one of the several opportunities we have to get to know her better as she spends this very special week with us.
Thank you,
Thea Hagepanos
for The Settled Minister Search Team

The Settled Minister Search Team thanks everyone who participated in the Fall 2023 survey. We’ve compiled the responses into the summary below.

Brief Summary

Key Results from the Congregational Survey of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wilmington, NC (UUCWNC)

Settled Minister Search Team (SMST) – November 2023

The UUCWNC SMST developed a Google Form congregational survey that was heavily based on the UUA’s recommended example, with some edits and additions. As a result of 206 emails sent, a total of 107 responses were received, 88% of which were from UUCWNC members. The sample was determined to be representative of UUCWNC membership, which is predominantly White, two-thirds female, very well-educated, financially comfortable overall, and mostly retired.

Primary Roles of the Minister

Of 15 different responsibilities listed in Question 27, the top two minister roles that respondents value the most were “providing inspiring and challenging Sunday services” (95%) and “providing pastoral care to support emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being” (70%). More than half of the respondents (51%) also desire a minister who will “help the congregation imagine its future and promote change.”

Congregational Involvement and Activity

Revisiting those same 15 roles from Question 27, Question 28 asked whether each role is a shared responsibility, mostly the minister’s responsibility, or mostly the congregation’s responsibility. Results indicate our congregation clearly desires a minister who pursues a collaborative ministry that embodies a partnership with the congregation’s members. Eleven of the 15 roles are seen as shared responsibilities between minister and congregation, namely: leadership in the larger community, connection building within the congregation, leadership development, pastoral care and assistance, vision work, supporting families/multi-generational, governing the congregation, teaching classes, encouraging social justice, managing the physical plant, and fostering growth. Only four roles are seen as “mostly the minister’s” responsibility: Sunday services, rites of passage, staff supervision, and interfaith relationships.

Positive Perceptions

Respondents have notably positive perceptions of many aspects of the congregation, especially its leadership and the potential to grow and change. Other strongly positive perceptions are the congregation’s shared values of a caring community, strong intra-congregation relationships, spiritual health and practicing UU values (e.g., social justice), experiencing and modeling acceptance, and future growth in membership.

A Participatory and Caring Congregation

These and other findings from the congregational survey were mirrored by the results of the 15 cottage meetings and focus groups conducted by the SMST. There was a clear consensus that UUCWNC comprises a highly participatory and caring congregation that will welcome a new minister who is committed to a ministry that embodies a collaborative culture and policy-driven partnership with its leadership, enhanced by strong pastoral care, community outreach and social justice, and a vision for the future that promotes a larger and more diverse congregation.

A few thought-provoking results were also discerned:

  • Some respondents (29%) are somewhat or highly concerned about the financial sustainability of the congregation, but this concern was more likely to be expressed by respondents who were unsure of how funds are spent.
  • Most respondents (80%) felt that a sense of humor is very important in a new minister.
  • Many respondents consider music to be a very meaningful or spiritual component of Sunday service.
  • A majority (52%) do not want the level of participation by congregants in Sunday services to be greater than its current level and 60% prefer services whose content is “about half spiritual and half intellectual.“

Overall, the SMST’s research indicates a highly involved and committed congregation that seeks a minister who will be a strong partner and leader in all aspects of UUCWNC’s ministry, one that is expected to retain its strengths in Sunday services, congregational activities, religious education, and community involvement. Congregants also seek higher levels of pastoral care, a larger and more diverse congregation, stronger financial well-being, expanded technologies, and an improved physical campus.


Looking back

During the late Summer and early Fall last year, the Settled Minister Search Team (SMST) conducted 15 Cottage Meetings and developed a Congregational Survey which received over 107 responses.  We gathered and analyzed the information and found the following:  This Congregation is interested in a minister who provides “inspiring and challenging Sunday services and “pastoral care to support emotional, spiritual and physical well-being”.  More than half our respondents also expressed a desire for “a minister who will help the congregation imagine its future and promote change”.

At least as importantly, this Team observed a general impression that ours is a committed, involved and caring spiritual home reflected in those surveys and meetings as well.  In Alyssa Lee, our UUCWNC Settled Minister Search Team believes we’ve found a minister to reflect and grow this Congregation in the ways it wishes.

Looking forward

1)  Remember to save the Week, at least a portion! (Candidating Week May 12 thru May 19th).  Alyssa will be preaching May 12 AND May 19, with a number of Meet and Greets, SMST meeting appearances, a couple of meal opportunities where members of the Congregation are invited and our BIG day May 19th, where the Congregation will vote on Calling her as our next Settled Minister!  Plenty of information about this important vote will be shared in the April 28th Worship Service, which will be led by members of the Search Committee.

2)  Signup lists will be available on Sunday morning in Dobkin Hall, for anyone interested in assisting with activities during Candidating Week (May 12 thru 19).  This could include: food preparation and serving; cleanup; setting up for shared meals; parking assistants; tidying the grounds and building ahead of our guests arrival and the all-important “all-purpose” volunteers who we can put in ANY situation!

We, the members of your Search Team – look forward to this transformative and hopeful time in our Congregation’s history.  Thank you for lending your thoughts and energies to this process.

Thea Hagepanos

For the Settled Minister Search Team

April 7th “Announcement of ‘possible’ minister’ Alyssa Lee”
by Thea Hagepanos

To View the YouTube video of the Announcement
Click Here

NEWS  |  Completed Steps in the Search Process: 

Sent via Email to Members:

Through this past year, the Settled Minister Search Team followed the many steps of the UUA search process, which included training sessions, gathering input from all of you through cottage meetings and a survey, collecting numerous documents, and packaging “us” into our congregational record. Searching ministers went through similar steps to package themselves. Once we had our list of interested names, we interviewed each other, checked references, and eventually met with each of our finalists, here in Wilmington, so we could talk more and they could look around. This was followed by seeing each of them preach at a “neutral pulpit” – a congregation with which none of us are connected. After all of that, we gave our choices to the UUA while the ministers gave their desired Churches list to the UUA – and we MATCHED!

* So, now what happens?!*

The search team will share more information about our Candidate each week, leading up to welcoming them and their family for a visit with our congregation Sunday, May 12th through Sunday May 19th.  Our Candidate will present a service both Sundays, and be engaged in meetings, forums and get-togethers throughout that week. These will offer a number of opportunities for the Candidate to meet with many of us while providing members and friends time to get to know the Candidate in preparation for the congregational vote to call our next Settled Minister. This will be done at a special congregational meeting following the service on Sunday, May 19th.

Thank you,

The UUCWNC Settled Minister Search Team

Announcement by Thea H. from the pulpit and via Zoom:

On behalf of the Settled Minister Search Team, it is my GREAT pleasure to inform you that we have chosen a Settled Minister Candidate for the UU Congregation of Wilmington, NC!   We’re very pleased to be matched with a candidate who’ll be bringing valuable life experience, intellect and heart to our wonderful Congregation.

     As there are a few administrative and organizational steps to finish, we plan to officially introduce our candidate to you next Sunday. So, stay tuned!  Each week, we’ll be sharing a bit more about our Candidate and the steps our Congregation will be taking ahead of Candidating Week, currently set for May 12 thru 19th.

     Thanks for supporting us as we’ve walked this path.  We look forward to your joining us in completing the process, as we begin our next chapter together!

From The UUCWNC Settled Minister Search Team (SMST):

We have now completed meetings with each of our pre-candidates during rigorous weekends of getting to know one another well. We can report that they bring a deep commitment to Unitarian Universalism, an inclusive concept of Beloved Community, and welcoming, optimistic energies. As we continue this process, we’re guided by the findings of our Congregational Survey and Cottage Meetings.

This congregation agreed we wanted a minister who would deliver thought-provoking and inspirational sermons, collaborate with us in a shared vision of ministry including pastoral care, provide a warm and welcoming presence which invites people in, support Social Justice in community activities and sermons, and use their administrative skills to help us grow.

In the coming week, SMST and all other congregational search committees will submit their rank-ordered lists of pre-candidates to UUA. Minister candidates also submit similar rank-ordered lists of the congregations they have visited. UUA staff then review the lists to discern minister/congregation matches. As we have been doing, we will keep you informed as the next search milestones are reached.

Our team continues to work in harmony and alignment as we move through this process. We are honored to be representing the needs and values of this vibrant and caring Congregation. Thank you for providing input this past fall, and for your confidence in our continued work.

Sara, Dan, Thea, Bob, Elizabeth, Cornelia and Stephen

Message from the Settled Minister Search Team

On behalf of the Settled Minister Search Team, we want to update you about our progress in this important effort. We remind everyone that UUA guidelines require that our work remain confidential in the interests of BOTH the ministers AND the congregations involved in search. However, we can share with you that the Team has thoroughly reviewed the available information about ministers who have expressed interest in our congregation and completed the initial Zoom interviews with them. We have also interviewed those ministers’ references.

As you know, the Team conducted 15 cottage meetings and a detailed Congregational Survey, which provided wonderful information about who we are, what we desire in our next minister, and where we want this congregation to go in the future. Much of that information was contained in the Congregational Record and the Survey Report that were included in the documentation available to ministers who are in search. The Board of Trustees has received these documents, and they will be shared with the congregation later this spring. We are pleased to say that everyone who has seen the documents has expressed enthusiasm and encouragement for our future.

The survey received 107 responses – nearly 90% of which were from members. We are happy to share a few key findings that inform our search process: A significant majority want a Minister who will deliver inspiring and challenging Sunday Services, provide Pastoral Care, work with our great teams & committees, reach out to the community, and help the Congregation imagine its future and promote the changes we desire. One last take-away from the Survey: We really like and trust each other! The bonds of friendship and spiritual community we’ve forged together are a KEY ingredient in keeping this Congregation the terrific group it is! We are taking all of those bonds and that great energy and information with us into the next steps of this work.

And what can our Congregation do to help? Two (2) things! First, please get involved in our Stewardship activities this April. The Generous Life Team will be providing more information within the next couple of months. And Second – Keep being the vibrant, actively engaged Congregation that we are so proud to represent. If you want ideas about where to spend your energies, our February 11 Team/Committee Fair will be full of them!


Thea Hagepanos – for the Settled Minister Search Committee

9/19/2023 | Congregational Survey Questionnaire

Dear UUCWNC Congregant,

Let us hear from you!

Have you submitted your completed Congregational Questionnaire? The Settled Minister Search Team (SMST) reminds everyone to complete the online survey form by clicking this link. Your responses are due by midnight, Sunday, September 24th.

Make sure your experiences in our congregation, your preferences for our new settled minister, and your hopes for our ministry in years to come are shared with the SMST. Your input is necessary for us to create our Congregational Record, which will be reviewed by ministerial candidates.

Everyone who received the original survey email on September 8th is receiving this reminder because all submissions are anonymous. There is no email tracking of survey responses. So, if you already responded, thank you! If not, plan to spend about 30 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

Be sure your voice is heard!
Complete the questionnaire by clicking this link. And remember to click the “Submit” button at the end.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact  and a team member will respond.


The Settled Minister Search Team

Questionnaire PDF document

9/08/2023 | Congregational Survey Questionnaire

Dear UUCWNC Congregant,

As you know, we are seeking a settled minister to lead our congregation in years to come. This effort is being led by the Settled Minister Search Team (SMST), which is responsible for describing our congregation and its history, and accurately representing the congregation’s desires regarding our next settled minister. The congregational survey questionnaire is a key element in that effort.

The information gained from this survey and our numerous cottage meetings will enrich our Congregational Report, which is the initial way that ministerial candidates learn about our congregation’s characteristics and desires.

For these reasons, it is vital that as many congregants as possible complete the questionnaire, which should take 30-40 minutes for most people. The deadline is Sunday, September 24th.  SMSC members will be at church on Sundays to answer questions and assist in any way possible. We will have print copies available on Sundays, but it would be most helpful if you complete the questionnaire online.

Note that your email address is not tracked, so all responses are purely anonymous. Please be as honest as possible. The SMST needs to fully understand your experiences in this congregation, along with your hopes and desires for our ministry in years to come. But if a question makes you feel uncomfortable or is not applicable to you, you may skip it. If you have questions or concerns, please contact and a team member will respond.

Thank you for completing this important survey.

Remember, your questionnaire must be submitted by Sunday, September 24th.


UUCWNC Settled Minister Search Team

If you wish to preview the questionnaire or print a blank copy, please open the attached PDF document.

Please begin the online Congregational Questionnaire by clicking this link.

9/07/2023 | Congregational Survey & Cottage Meetings

Congregational Questionnaire & Cottage Meeting Poster displayed in Lobby

Plus the following announcement appeared in the UUCWNC Weekly Digest Sept 7, 2023

Important Announcement on our Settled Minister Search

Our Congregational Questionnaire will be released TOMORROW, September
8th! The Settled Minister Search Committee (SMSC) is asking each Member and
Friend of this Congregation to please fill out the Questionnaire before Midnight,
Sunday, September 24th – so we can add your ideas to our collective wishes for our
next Settled Minister and our future direction!

The Questionnaire is comprehensive and takes about 35 minutes or so to complete
(times may vary based on contemplation style!). Look for an email from “Minister
Search” in your inbox on September 8th, then just follow the instructions to
complete the Questionnaire/Survey. Remember to hit the “Submit” button when
you finish (We want to RECEIVE your answers)! Your responses to this
Questionnaire are confidential and will remain so. Also, we’ll have members of the
Search Committee available for assistance with Questionnaire completion after
Sunday Services, if you should have any concerns or logistical issues.

* IN ADDITION * our Committee will be holding conversations with members
throughout the remainder of September. These Focus Groups will be taking place
on Sunday afternoons, after Service AND during selected Committee/Team
meetings during September. We want to hear from as many congregants as
possible! Please “stay tuned” for when these Focus Groups are happening and
check out our “Searchin’ ” Poster in the Lobby, our Weekly Digest, Sunday Service
Announcements and your email in-box for more information!

See you soon for our Conversations,

Thea Hagepanos
for the Settled Minister Search Committee

8/18/2023 | “Beyond Categorical Thinking” 6:30-8pm

“Beyond Categorical Thinking

The Settled Minister Search Committee invites ALL Congregation members to join us for two Zoom meetings, “Beyond Categorical Thinking”.  These meetings, led by UUA, are held by all Searching Congregations to encourage us to think differently and more broadly as we consider our choices of ministerial candidates.  This interactive and informative program takes place Friday, August 18, 6:30 – 8pm and Saturday, August 19, 9:30 – 11am.

Please attend both sessions if you are able, though one is better than none!

To prepare for the meeting, please fill out this 5-minute questionnaire, then read and have available this document for the meetings.  Use this Zoom link to join.

This information can also be found on the website; the link is also available on the calendar.

Thank you,

Thea Hagepanos
for the Settled Minister Search Team

8/19/2023 | “Beyond Categorical Thinking” 6:30-8pm

“Beyond Categorical Thinking

The Settled Minister Search Committee invites ALL Congregation members to join us for two Zoom meetings, “Beyond Categorical Thinking”.  These meetings, led by UUA, are held by all Searching Congregations to encourage us to think differently and more broadly as we consider our choices of ministerial candidates.  This interactive and informative program takes place Friday, August 18, 6:30 – 8pm and Saturday, August 19, 9:30 – 11am.

Please attend both sessions if you are able, though one is better than none!

To prepare for the meeting, please fill out this 5-minute questionnaire, then read and have available this document for the meetings.  Use this Zoom link to join.

This information can also be found on the website; the link is also available on the calendar.

Thank you,

Thea Hagepanos
for the Settled Minister Search Team

The Settled Minister Search Team (SMST) welcomes and appreciates congregant’s suggestions. Please include your contact information:


The Settled Minister Search Team

– Dan Wheat-Rivers
– Elizabeth MacLeod
– Cornelia Maxted
– Sara Jarvis
– Bob Harootyan
– Stephen Axhelm
– Thea Hagepanos

with Rev. Dr. Kathy Hurt
(July 2023)

Note: The UUCWNC Board of Trustees and our congregation are committed to supporting our strong Settled Minister Search Team (SMST) which reflects diverse life experiences and heart-felt connections to our congregation.