First Universalist Society in Franklin strives to be an inclusive community, affirming our differences in beliefs, opinions, and life experiences. However, concern for the safety and well-being of the congregation as a whole must be given priority over the privileges and inclusion of the individual. To the degree any disruptive behavior compromises the health of this congregation, our actions as people of faith must reflect our responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for all our members to grow. The well-being, strength, and reputation of our church depend on a sense of fellowship among the members, friends, and staff, which thrives in an atmosphere of trust, respect, and cooperation. Within such an atmosphere, differences of opinion and their resolution through compromise or consensus can enhance a sense of community. However, differences or misunderstandings that go unresolved and descend into prolonged conflict can threaten the social fabric of our church.
We recognize that conflict may arise from time to time and that, when it does, its management and resolution are paramount. We recognize that such conflict may occur between members, members and staff, members and minister, or staff and minister. To that end we have developed a covenant and a Congregational Relations policy. In addition, we have established the Congregational Relations Committee to identify and follow steps should unresolved conflicts or disruptive behaviors arise.
The main duty of the Congregational Relations Committee (CRC) is to facilitate a culture of respect and effective relationship practices in the FUSF community. Specific duties of the committee include:
• Develop and update CRC policy and covenant when needed
• Publish or present conflict management/relationship development information
• Upon request, provide mediation between conflicted parties at FUSF
• Assist the Board and Minister in addressing disruptive behavior issues
Process for Selection of Committee
The FUSF Board of Trustees appoints the chair of the committee who serves a two year term, renewable for two additional terms. In consultation with the Minister, the committee chair presents a slate of candidates for the committee which shall be approved by the minister and the Board. The CRC is comprised of four or more FUSF members who are mature, trusted, and well-respected within the congregation. This committee requires specific skills such as a background in psychological counseling or training in interpersonal relationships, as well as a common language regarding conflict, effective communication, organizational systems, and church life. CRC members receive at least 12 hours of mediation training and are expected to read related books and periodicals on the subject of church conflict and disruptive behavior.
Meetings of the CRC
Meetings are listed on the congregational calendar and state that 30 minutes at the beginning of each meeting will be open to congregants or staff members. The balance of the meetings are closed due to the confidential nature of the committee’s work. Any congregant or staff member may request a special meeting of the CRC by notifying a committee member. A meeting of the CRC can be scheduled at any time when situations dictate an immediate response. Emergency meetings often include the Minister or staff, a member of the Board and if appropriate, a member of the Lay Ministers.
Congregational Relations Chair–Jim Hill