This last Tuesday Rev. Alan Taylor sent out a letter to the members of Unity Temple in which he said, “After considerable reflection and prayer, I have decided to step down as your senior minister at the end of June. My last Sunday in the pulpit will be June 13, 2021.”
He explained that he is not leaving Unity Temple for another congregation as what often happens in many pastoral transitions. “I’m leaving,” he wrote, “because after nearly two decades of leadership, you will benefit from new energy and fresh perspective—and I am in need of a period of renewal and discernment about my future. My ministry among you has been deeply rewarding and meaningful, and now is a time for a new ministry to take hold and grow among you.”
Rev. Taylor said that he will still be living in Oak Park and that thanks to one year of paid leave provided by the board he will use the time to discern where he is being called in the next stage of his ministry.
Looking back at the 18 years he has been Unity Temple’s senior minister, he said he was most proud of two things. “First, my efforts to cultivate the relational networks that have developed both within UTUUC (Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation), among the Community of Congregations, and in the wider community that have led to strong new connections and partnerships among the greater west side of Chicago.
One example of the relationships Rev. Taylor built with pastors and congregations in Austin is a rally a few years ago at a CPD precinct station on the West Side in which a coalition of Oak Park and West Side church members rallied to protest police violence.
Taylor approached the line of officers standing between the protestors and the police station with a basket of apples. As he gave an apple to each officer, he said that a few “bad apples” can give a bad image to the mostly good apples in the department.
In a recent interview Taylor recalled the incident and mentioned two leading West Side pastors, Rev. Ira Acree and Rev. Marshall Hatch, who were present at the protest and with whom he has done advocacy work for many years.
Taylor then said that he not only added his leadership to the work in Austin but learned important things from his colleagues there. Acree, he said, told me that this wasn’t really about good cops and bad cops but that we need to concentrate on the bigger problem which is racism, and that the police are merely “the gate keepers” of the racist system.
“The second thing I’m proud of,” Taylor continued, “is the opportunity to lead a progressive faith community through spiritual reflection, dynamic growth, and the anxiety that came with dealing with a crumbling historical landmark—a journey that led to the restoration of Unity Temple, the building of the Unity Temple Community Center, and a vital congregation that has pivoted so incredibly well during the pandemic.”
Rev. Taylor used the word “intense” to summarize his 18 years of ministry in Oak Park. Using the metaphor of a juggler, he was keeping three balls in the air: serving the congregation as its pastor, maintaining a very, what he refers to as, public ministry of advocacy, and working around the major restoration of their building at 875 Lake St. which just happens to be a World Heritage Site.
Unity Temple’s board of directors sent out a companion letter in which they noted that “consistent with our bylaws and the Unitarian Universalist Association’s guidelines, we are working with the Association to begin a process to search for an interim Minister. . . .”
The board in its letter to Unity Temple members said, “We share with you our immense gratitude and appreciation for his leadership over the last 18 years, a time of enormous growth and change for our Congregation. During his tenure, we have cultivated our beloved community, restored our building, acquired new real estate, identified our core values and mission, expanded our social justice mission, and more than doubled in membership. It has truly been a golden age!”
Taylor ended his letter to the congregation by saying, “There will be plenty of opportunities between now and the end of June for us to say our goodbyes. I am available for walks, meals, Zoom calls, visits, and small group gatherings. I look forward to meaningful conversations reflecting on our shared life together. In peace and love,”