First Parish in Needham Logo

23 Dedham Avenue
Needham, MA 02492

Open Positions

Director of Religious Exploration (20-hour per week position)

DRE Search 2024 

  1. DRE JOB DESCRIPTION

First Parish in Needham, Unitarian Universalist — a vibrant congregation of 230 adults and 20 children and youth — seeks a Director of Religious Exploration to create, lead, and implement this congregation’s programs for children, youth, and families. We are a dynamic, involved, collaborative, and intellectually curious congregation. First Parish is committed to living out its values in the world as a Welcoming Congregation, Green Sanctuary, 8th Principle Congregation, and Level 2 Sanctuary Supporting Congregation. Our religious exploration programs are central to this commitment to social justice work. 

This will be a 20 hour position with help from an assistant for 10 hours per week. The DRE has the responsibility of nurturing and guiding children, youth, and their parents on their spiritual journeys, while also fostering a sense of belonging and connection within our congregation. As such, the DRE plays a central role in shaping the present and future of our community. 

The ideal candidate will help us continue our beloved programs (such as OWL, Neighboring Faiths, and Coming of Age), while evaluating our current programs for improvements and innovations in collaboration with our other religious professionals, the RE Committee, and our Innovation Team, and in collaboration with other local UU Congregations.. The ideal candidate will also be enthusiastic, creative, flexible, collaborative, organized, and motivational. The ideal candidate will be experienced and committed to Unitarian Universalist religious exploration for our children and youth. First Parish values diversity in its community and staff team, and candidates from historically marginalized identities are especially encouraged to apply. 

Due to lower enrollment in the wake of the pandemic and demographic changes in religious affiliation, we are shifting from having a solo, full-time Director of Lifespan Religious Exploration to a children’s and youth religious exploration team staffed by a  20-hour per week Director of Religious Exploration and a 10-hour/week assistant. We hope through collaboration, innovation, and experimentation, the children’s and youth program — and the directorship position itself — will grow over time. 

Essential Functions

  • Coordinate, support, and administer the religious exploration programs for children and youth.
  • Provide direct instruction to children as part of the religious exploration program, on co-teaching teams with lay teachers and with some programs fully delegated to lay teachers.
  • Recruit, train, and assist volunteer teachers in curriculum development, materials, classroom planning, and consultation around classroom issues and behavior.
  • Serve as Youth Group Advisor/Youth Program Coordinator for the youth group, lead youth group programming including service trips and other gatherings to build and sustain community.
  • Hire, train, schedule, and supervise paid nursery workers (often, First Parish teens).
  • Supervise and support the RE Program Assistant (who assists with RE administration and programming).
  • Bring new ideas from the larger community of UU religious educators and others.
  • Bring ideas and experience for outreach and expansion of our program.
  • Facilitate congregational compliance with our Safe Congregation policies, including teacher safety training and background checks.
  • Provide support for families and parents, including pastoral support when needed.
  • Provide clear, timely, and frequent written and verbal communication with the congregation, children, and parents using a variety of media (e-mail, Zoom, social media, etc.).
  • Maintain religious exploration budget, expenses, files, and registration.
  • Work with senior minister, intern minister, and Worship Committee to plan and implement the Time for All Ages portion of weekly worship and multi-generational services.
  • Attend regular staff meetings.
  • Attend monthly Religious Exploration Committee meetings and provide guidance as needed.

Core Competencies

  • Understands and supports the Unitarian Universalist principles and purposes and the First Parish mission, vision, and covenant, including environmental and social justice (such as our anti-racist, LGBTQ+, anti-poverty, reproductive justice, and immigration/sanctuary initiatives) and multicultural education. 
  • Brings current trends and best practices in religious education and communicates these to teachers, families, and congregational leaders.
  • Demonstrates enthusiasm for religious education, multigenerational congregations, children, and families, and inspires trust and confidence from teachers, leaders, parents, and children;
  • Inspires others and works collaboratively on a staff team, as well as working with the minister as a supervisor and supervising the DRE Assistant
  • Demonstrates excellent written and speaking skills and ability to use computer programs and web-based materials relevant to the position (Microsoft Office suite, Google Suite, Doodle, Sign-Up Genius, Constant Contact, social media, Zoom, etc.).
  • Manages work time well; marshals resources (people, funding, and materials) to get projects completed on time and successfully.
  • Demonstrates sensitivity to different learning and communication styles.
  • Ability to establish rapport with and inspire children, youth, and adults.
  • Ability to motivate and recruit volunteers and provide opportunities for them to grow and develop.
  • Flexibility in adapting to changing circumstances and priorities.
  • Strong skills in administering engaging and developmentally appropriate religious exploration programs 

Education and Experience

  • Bachelor’s Degree with a major in education and/or training and experience in religious education.
  • Knowledge of current religious education models and UU curricula, such as OWL, Coming of Age, Tapestry of Faith, Soul Matters, and Spirit Play.
  • Strong interest in and demonstrated capacity for religious exploration work.
  • Knowledge of moral, cognitive, and social human development, as well as the worship needs of children and youth.
  • Experience working with children and youth.
  • Engaged in professional development (i.e. OWL certification, Renaissance modules, LREDA, etc.)

Job Conditions

The position is hybrid, with remote work possible during the week and mandatory onsite presence in Needham on Sundays. The DRE has their own office, and our classrooms are on the lower floor of our program building. This job is multi-faceted and sometimes requires work under time pressure; however, the First Parish staff culture emphasizes self-care, mutual support, and not over-working.

Salary and Benefits

We strive to meet UUA Fair Compensation Guidelines for salary and benefits for all of our staff members. At present, we’ve budgeted $28,000 for this half-time position. The DRE will have one Sunday off a month and vacation/study leave weeks, as well as professional expenses and benefits eligibility. 

Accessibility

Nearly all parts of the church are accessible for those who use mobility assistance; the chancel and one meeting room behind it have four steps and a railing, and the organ loft is up a set of stairs. We also have an elevator and chair lift. 

An application will include:

  • A cover letter which includes a statement of your faith development philosophy or vision 
  • A resume of relevant education (formal and/or informal), employment, and volunteer experience 
  • The names and contact information for three references 

Deadline:

Applications will be reviewed and considered as they are received. We’ll begin interviewing mid-June and hope that the successful candidate can begin in August.

Address inquiries and applications to: dresearch@uuneedham.org

  1. ABOUT FIRST PARISH

OUR COVENANT 

We gather as a loving community, 

to encourage and comfort one another. 

We gather as a diverse community, 

to support each other in our search for spiritual truth. 

We gather as a service community, 

to live our beliefs through action and care for our world.

VISION STATEMENT 

First Parish in Needham is a vibrant and inclusive congregation in which all are free to grow spiritually and ethically in a supportive community. First Parish offers a wide menu of programs and activities dedicated to:

  • Transformative worship featuring inspirational music and multigenerational services;
  • Religious exploration for all ages;
  • Community-building activities and outreach for fellowship and support
  • Engagement with environmental and social justice initiatives locally and in the wider world;
  • Shared ministries and leadership characterized by an engaged and active congregation that stewards First Parish in its mission with volunteer time and financial support.

MISSION STATEMENT 

The mission of First Parish in Needham is to create a welcoming, diverse, and compassionate religious community that celebrates the sacredness of all living things, nurtures lifelong spiritual and ethical growth, and works for social and environmental justice locally and throughout the world.

FIRST PARISH AT A GLANCE 

  • First Parish was the first church in Needham, Massachusetts, founded in 1711, simultaneously with the founding of the town. 
  • Our first settled minister, in 1720, was Jonathan Townsend, who served for 42 years. 
  • We have 230 members and 20 children and youth enrolled in religious exploration 
  • Our current settled minister, Reverend Catie Scudera, started with us in 2014.
  • We were designated a Welcoming Congregation by the UUA in 1996. 
  • We are a UUA-recognized Green Sanctuary, and in 2010 we became the first house of worship in Massachusetts (and sixth nationwide) to receive Energy Star status for energy efficiency from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
  • We voted to become a Level-2 Sanctuary Supporting Congregation in 2017.
  • We have a highly collaborative and collegial staff team, including the lead minister; ministerial intern; music director; assistant music director; parish administrator; worship livestream producer; sexton; and cleaner.

DEMOGRAPHICS 

The First Parish in Needham membership is mostly from Needham. We are a dynamic, involved, and intellectually curious congregation.

Age: Our congregation has a large contingent of older adults and a smaller number of families with young children. Our congregation as a whole is program-sized yet our RE program for children/youth is pastoral-sized. We are eager to attract more young families to our congregation. We’ve recently hired an engagement coordinator to assist us with this; the DRE will work closely with our Engagement Coordinator in attracting and retaining families with children.

Sexual orientation/gender identity: We have a commitment to being a Welcoming Congregation. LGBTQIA+ individuals and families have found a nurturing community here for themselves and their children.

 

Spiritual orientation: Spiritual orientations listed by our members include: Agnostic, Atheist, Religious Humanism, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoism, and Islam.

Why we come to First Parish: Key reasons members attend include, “community,” along with “celebrating common values,” and “intellectual stimulation.”  We’ve recently started an Innovation Task Force that’s exploring how we can increase engagement among our members.

HISTORY 

To see our full history, including how First Parish was founded along with the Town of Needham, go to our website at https://uuneedham.org/about-us/what-is-uu/#history


In 2002, First Parish retained Rev. John Buehrens as its settled minister. A leading figure in UUism and president of the UUA for eight years, John had been minister at churches in Knoxville, Tennessee, Dallas, Texas, and New York City, and he brought a wealth of experience, skills, and energy to his new post. John helped stabilize the finances of First Parish and grow our congregation. He urged us to undertake our successful capital campaigns, including updating our Meetinghouse and rebuilding our program building with environmentalism and accessibility in mind. He created the Lyceum, our continuing education program, and through his teaching at Harvard Divinity School, brought six students to serve as interns at First Parish. Helping John mentor them was a highlight for the congregation, and we have continued to serve as a teaching congregation. By May 2010, our congregation had grown by 33 percent.

As the church grew in that decade, the congregation became increasingly divided between older, long-time members and younger, newer members with families. To increase interaction between adults and children, First Parish in 2009 formed a Multigeneration Task Force, which issued its report the following year. Many of its recommendations were put into place, including children in worship until the end of the Time for All Ages as well as multigenerational services and activities, with the goal to “build a community with a sense of ownership and partnership across and among all ages.”

In 2011, First Parish and Needham jointly celebrated our 300th Anniversary, with a year-long schedule of events that included lectures, historic displays, tours of historic buildings, a concert, a gala ball, and a special 4th of July parade (First Parish had a float).

In 2014, Reverend Catie Scudera began her ministry at First Parish. As a minister, Catie sees her role as pastor, teacher, and preacher. This includes providing pastoral care, facilitating religious education, assisting lay governing bodies, designing worship, and pursuing social justice work to heal our wounded world and end the oppressive aspects of the wider culture. Her ministerial call is particularly drawn to the vision of creating beloved community, where there is equality after equity has been achieved; restorative, loving justice in the face of broken covenants; and, deep interconnectedness between all members, with an understanding of our “interbeing” with all living beings and the Earth itself. During this time, we have founded a Racial Justice Task Force, become a Level-2 Sanctuary Supporting Congregation, hosted the annual MetroWest Trans Day of Remembrance vigil, and supported local legislation aligned with our UU values such as the ROE Act, public accommodations for trans people, and immigration reform. We founded an invested fund, the Ed Lane Lyceum Fund, to support our adult education programs in honor of our beloved member of blessed memory, Rev. Ed Lane. We have weathered a controversial vote to decline naming Rev. Buehrens minister emeritus, and the Committee on Ministry helped guide us to a process of re-engagement. We founded the Worship Café with YouTube live-streaming in 2017, which was unexpectedly helpful preparation for virtual church during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many religious organizations, as we came out of the pandemic our numbers decreased as congregants felt less connected to the community after gathering only virtually. As we move forward, we’re working to rebuild our vibrant community, increase engagement, and deepen our connections.  In 2023, we started working to redevelop our overall vision and strategy through our volunteer-led Strategic Task Force. The Task Force did research with members of the congregation to better understand their feelings on, and relationship with, our church community. We’re using these insights to begin laying out a roadmap as we look to move into the future.

  1. RELIGIOUS EXPLORATION AT FIRST PARISH

Here at First Parish, we believe that religious learning and spiritual exploration are lifelong endeavors. Since we adhere to no creed or dogma, we believe that each person’s path is a unique and fascinating journey. In this spirit, we offer many paths for religious exploration at all ages: Sunday morning exploratory programs for kids ages 1 to 14; Youth Programs; continuing education opportunities for adults; multigenerational programs and events; justice projects; service work; small group ministries; the Lane Lyceum, which brings notable speakers and topics to the broader community; and Spirit of the Earth, when we collaborate with our Green Congregations Committee to offer environmental programming leading up to Earth Day. Currently, adult programming will be led by the minister, ministerial interns, and lay leaders, while our new DRE will lead programming for children and youth.  We both appreciate many of our traditions and current programs and also look forward to fresh ideas from our incoming DRE for exciting new opportunities and programs and for increased collaboration between children, youth, and their families.

Children and Youth

At the core of First Parish RE is our Sunday morning small groups for children in preschool through 9th grade. We offer RE programming September through June, with small group meetings roughly two out of every four Sundays, special all-kids-together Sundays once monthly, and one multigenerational worship service per month when we gather as one with the adult community. A Time for All Ages, led by the DRE, is included as the first 15 minutes of each service. The RE program provides children and youth with developmentally appropriate opportunities to explore topics that include: UU heritage and history; morals and ethics; community; social justice; health and sexuality; world religions; and spiritual exploration. We encourage wonder, asking questions, critical thinking, compassionate loving, and honoring diversity of beliefs. Our Youth Group organizes a service trip during either February or April vacation week annually. Our Music Director runs a Song Squad for children ages 5-10 and also collaborates with the DRE for our holiday pageant program each December. We are excited about the possibility of more collaboration in the future as well.

Some programs we’ve offered for children and youth:

  • Milestones (e.g., child dedications and bridging)
  • Spirit Play
  • Building Bridges (formerly Neighboring Faiths)
  • Coming of Age
  • Junior and Senior Youth Groups
  • Our Whole Lives (OWL) for K-1, 4-6, and 7-9

We participate in the UUA’s “Safe Congregations” program, and the DRE is a member ex officio of our Safe Congregations Response Team.