For I Know the Plans I Have for You...
Those words are found in the book of Jeremiah when his task at hand is to help God's people see there was hope and a future, and that God was going to be faithful in that journey. The back story is that the Babylonian Empire had crushed the Israelite army and took the citizens and leaders into exile. So, when Jeremiah offers hope in the midst of hopelessness, the people of God could look forward to what might be. Of course, then he drops a bombshell that their exile would be for seventy years before they would return to their homeland!
In my interim ministry, every congregation I have served can relate to their plight. Of course, during a transitional time, seven weeks, seven months, or seven years sounds like too long. The good news is that congregation I have served has followed the process set out before them through the United Church of Christ and the conference they were in, and the local association they were apart of working together (covenanted) to move through the process in God's timing until a candidate for a settled pastor was available.
I am always hesitant to answer the question asked of me by parishioners, "How long is the average interim time?" No matter how I respond, I tell the person it is always different for each congregation and each situation they were in before the interim time, how they work through process, and how they search for the candidate that will help them fulfill their vision at that time and place.
I also tell every congregation I have served in interim ministry that all of us need to be working in God's timing, through God's vision, and in covenant with all who are a part of the search process. The good news for Spring Creek is that our wait will not be the same as those in exile in Babylon!
I ask that you hold fast to the process, God's timing, searching for God's vision, and covenanting to all work together in the same journey and in the same way. God offers us a way to do that from the very beginning:
11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile — Jeremiah 29:11-14
In the "Moderator's Moment," (included below) Barb suggests what this looks like through the words of Nelson Mandela and working together. I encourage you to heed her words.
Thanks to Rev. Jill Flynn for being on call while I was away on vacation. I am also thankful for the Personnel Committee who hired Kathy Blosser to be our new administrative assistant.
The Possible Impossible
Nelson Mandela wrote, "It always seems impossible until it's done." It must have seemed that way to him after having endured all those years as a political prisoner in South Africa only to emerge and be chosen the first black leader of that country. We see other examples that illustrate his point around us every day. There was the seemingly impossible rescue of the Thai soccer players. We see cancer patients who embark on a lengthy course of treatment and emerge healed. We landed a man on the moon and are planning for manned flights to Mars!
Right now our church is working through the required process to call a settled pastor. The steps are many and detailed and at times seem impossibly long. As you know there was a meeting of the committee leading this effort on July 25. At that time an overview of the process was discussed and some projects were assigned and begun. If you are interested in moving this process along, contact Mike Carr and get involved. Attend the meetings [the next one will be Monday, August 20 at 7p.m.], share your ideas, and help with the work involved. Pray.
As long as we keep moving forward together and in faith, it will be done, and we will be able to say, "It only seemed impossible.".