Introducing Our New DRE – Jamila Batchelder

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I am excited to introduce to you our new Director of Religious Education, Jamila Batchelder.

Many of you may know Jamila from her long time involvement in many facets of our congregation – from teaching in our RE program in the Schweitzer class, to volunteer youth advising and coordination of our high school youth program, to facilitating chalice circles for a group of parents and a multi-age group, to acting as worship associate.

From these UUCC experiences, Jamila brings a deep love of Unitarian Universalism and an understanding of our programs, our worship life, and congregational dynamics.

From her personal life, she brings a multi-faith background, knowledge of many wisdom traditions and spiritual practices, and profound theological grounding.

From her professional life, Jamila brings experience as an educator, a researcher, and a coordinator of youth programs, and a proven track record of creative collaboration that is based in relationship and committed to getting things done. As one reference expressed: Jamila brings out the best in people and makes volunteering easy and fun.

As you can see from her Philosophy of RE statement, Jamila brings a clear and exciting vision for our program, one cornerstone of which is ensuring that our program is deeply informed by the needs of our young people and families.

Jamila is extremely conversant in developmental needs across the age span and has the skills to help ensure the inclusion of children and youth with many learning styles and needs. She brings with her an attitude of empathy and an intuition that we feel confident will serve each unique UU child as they learn and grow as individuals.

Her promising vision for our RE program includes collaborative, multi-generational ways for our community to develop ever-deeper connections across every age. She also aims to provide support for families who wish to further extend UU principles and practices at home. As Jamila stated poignantly in her interview: “As Unitarian Universalists, we may not always be able to give our children easy answers. Therefore, we must be willing to give them ourselves.”

I look forward to having Jamila as a partner in ministry as she brings her many gifts to the professional staff of our congregation.

Jamila will begin work with us officially on November 17. Look out next week for a message from Jamila, and keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities to chat with her about your hopes for our Religious Education program.

To learn more about our search process and our efforts to mitigate bias, please keep scrolling!


The Search Process

In our governance structure, the hiring and supervision of staff is delegated to the minister. It is highly advisable for the minister to consult with stakeholders about their needs when preparing to make staffing decisions. Particularly with program positions such as Director of Religious Education, best practice involves engaging a team of stakeholders as a Search Team in an advisory capacity. Though the Search Team does not take a binding vote, or make a final decision, their input is invaluable throughout the process.

In August I convened a Search Team to advise me in the pursuit of hiring a new Director of Religious Education. This Team included representation from the RE Team, the YRUU advisors, Parents of current RE participants, and those with historical/institutional knowledge of our programs. The team consisted of Joe Collins, Paul Ladehoff, Tracey Milarsky, Dennis Murphy, and Chelsea Otten.

Together this team examined our job description, determined it was up to date, and considered how we might weigh our priorities for the position. We advertised the position to the congregation, to the Columbia community (particularly through the local college and university job boards), and to regional and national UU networks.

Knowing that we might be considering a church member candidate, and that inevitably such a candidate would have many different relationships with individuals in the congregation and on the search team, we engaged our UUA Regional Staff early and often for advice about creating a process that was as fair as possible in our context.

Together, we created a covenant for mitigating bias, which is included below. The team worked diligently to hold one another accountable to this covenant, and I feel confident that the advising I received from the team before making a final decision was careful and deeply considered.

I thank everyone for their patience in a process that was lengthened by careful work and the reality of juggling busy volunteer schedules.

DRE Search Team Covenant for Mitigating Bias

When considering a church member for this position, we do hereby covenant to mitigate our personal bias in these ways:

  1. We will not discuss anything about candidates or the process with others outside the search team, especially the candidates themselves.
  2. We will be consistent in process with all candidates, asking the same questions in the same ways as much as possible, knowing that follow up may be necessary.   
  3. We will verbally remind ourselves prior to each interview and conversation about a candidate to set aside bias as much as possible.
  4. Prior to each interview and conversation with a candidate, we will name our emotions surrounding the interview, conversation, or relationship, and we will go through an exercise of setting aside those feelings for a time.
  5. We will consider both strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.
  6. We will consider relevant knowledge about the candidate in relation to church experience but will endeavor to consciously set aside personal relationships and feelings related to those relationships.
  7. In discussions regarding a candidate, we will hold one another accountable to our covenant, naming when we hear comments that engage bias or feelings that could become bias, and seeking to balance those comments with further considerations.