We started the liturgical year a month ago, but January always feels like a fresh beginning. Folks make resolutions just before New Year’s Day – lose weight, exercise more, spend better quality time with family are among the top ones. As your interim pastor, may I suggest you prayerfully consider planning for a bit more quiet time in your schedule. Listen to God; listen to your heart; listen to others and give thanks to God for the blessings you have. Pray about your participation in the life and ministry of St. Paul’s. During worship on Epiphany (6 January) weekend you will receive a stewardship request inviting you to consider where you may serve in the congregation.
The Transition Team will be meeting early in January – starting work on the MSP and other items for the BIG packet that will be sent to Bishop Bartholomew. The TT will be creating a poster of all the steps required during the interim process. There is no absolute time line as every congregation is different and works through the process in its own time. So I share with you an important passage from the New Jersey Synod Pastoral Call Process Manual: A congregation’s calling a pastor is not the same as a business or organization’s hiring an employee. This is not so much about finding a particular person to do a particular job as it is about entering into a relationship. A pastor brings a previously affirmed commitment to Word and Sacrament ministry into a specific community, and there promises to care for and nourish the congregation and to stand as a faithful witness for the sake of the Gospel in that place.
In so doing, the pastor brings the care and concern of the whole Church; indeed, the whole Church is concerned for the faithful proclamation of the Gospel in that place. The pastor is ordained by the whole Church both to provide for the baptized members of the congregation, and to lead and enable those same disciples in their witness and service to the community in which they are placed.
We believe the Holy Spirit works through the Church – in the work of bishops and synod staff, mission districts and their deans, congregation councils, and call committees – to establish, renew, and change these relationships between pastors and congregations of God’s people. To that end we are called to be constant in prayer for trust in and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to understand that it is God’s intention for us that we are trying to discern, and not the satisfaction of a two-thirds majority of congregational wants.
You want to call (not hire) the pastor that is the best for St. Paul’s in the years to come. This is not a process to rush, but rather to be deliberate, thoughtful, and prayerful so that God’s will and mission is carried out. Some of you may be ready to speed along but others are in need of significant healing. The system of the congregation was hurt and it takes time for the whole community to heal. There are many good pastors in the ELCA and I have no doubt our Bishop will be diligent in identifying one for you. Please continue to pray for the council and Transition Team as we work through the interim process.