One of the items of discussion that comes up frequently in an interim time is the above question. And while the normal time for a transition, such as having an interim, selecting a search committee, and calling a settled pastor ranges from thirteen to fifteen months, parishioners want to know the progress of the search committee.
Having said that while the "normal" range is the above time frame, the interim and the leadership of a congregation must decide together when they have addressed all those items the congregation needs before beginning the search and call process. The last thing any congregation wants to do is not be prepared to call a pastor without being in a position to move forward. The covenant between pastor and congregation is somewhat like the "marriage covenant" we talked about in our message last week from Jeremiah 31. Pastor and congregation sign more than a contract or "call agreement." They agree to work in a positive way to deal with communication, conflict, visioning, etc. in the same "personal and intimate way" God takes the covenant promise with humanity.
The problem exists over and over in congregations when they simply want to move as quickly as possible to get their new settled pastor, so things can "get back to normal." If a congregation does that before they are ready, search committees are left to present the story of their heritage and ministry in a way that "paints a far better picture" than it probably is at that moment.
I get that people feel that a transitional time is "chaotic" and want to get on with a settled pastor. However, my task are to ensure this community of faith, its leadership, and the search committee is as prepared as possible before a candidate and a congregation say "yes" to their marriage together. We have gotten a great start on that with sharing our stories of how we got to Spring Creek. We have dreamed about what we hope the future will look like here. We have sat down and spoken and listened to what has pained people in the past, and hopes for how that pain can be avoided in the future. We still have work to do to be able to set those benchmarks in front of us to have as smooth a transition as possible. As well, it is imperative that we review our vision and mission, ourgovernance structure, policies and procedures, as well as a moreefficient way of storing our data.
Some people have gotten the fear that when my year's contract is completed, Spring Creek will have to begin again to search for an interim pastor. While my contract is twelve months and ends on Sept. 30, that does not mean that I necessarily leave, and you start the process over. My previous experience with congregations and their leadership is that around ten months I remind the Council of when my contract expires, and if they choose so, can extend it for six months, one month, or whatever time frame might be needed until a settled pastor arrives.
The analogy I use with congregations is much in line with what the Lenten Season is about. Our altarscape reminds us that a time of transition will feel like a desert wilderness. We may feel like we are dying as a people. We hunger and thirst for the "Promised Land" of a settled pastorate. We feel like we may be wandering to places we don't want to go. Moses and the people of Israel knew that feeling. Their interim/transition time was forty years!
However, as we continue our journey to the cross and then the empty tomb, we as "Easter people" know that something new and better is coming! We covenant with God, with our Conference and the Prairie Association, with our search committee, with one another, and with prospective candidates to be at the place where God will make all things new for Spring Creek, and it will be in God's timing. We do not take this journey alone. In a Resurrected Savior we are assured that God continues to be with us at all times.
So we travel on this wilderness journey known as an interim time, to the place where God will lead us to the person who will guide us as pastor into the future as a community of faith.