By Rebecca Walton
Our congregation has been in a major transition now for almost exactly a year: saying goodbye to Pastor Scott Thalacker and preparing to welcome a new pastor. Between last year’s annual meeting and this year’s, we have proceeded through most of the major milestones in the process. The Rocky Mountain Synod represents the transition in three phases in its “Moving into the Future” resource. We’ve completed Phase I: thanking Pastor Scott, wishing him well in his new position in New Mexico, grieving our loss, and working with the Rocky Mountain Synod to learn and pursue next steps. As a key part of that process, we welcomed interim pastor Teri Hermsmeyer, who has been patiently guiding us through the ELCA transition process even as she performs the rest of the pastoral duties for PoP.
Just recently, we’ve completed Phase II. We formed a transition team, reflected together as a congregation, and gotten to know ourselves better in preparation for selecting a new pastor who can be a good fit with the flock. The transition team is finalizing its report (or perhaps has recently submitted it by the time you read this newsletter article!), and now the call committee will take the baton to begin the next major step in the process.
We’ve officially entered Phase III of the transition; this is the final phase, folks. Drawing upon the congregational self-reflection and priorities synthesized by the transition team, the call committee will complete the Ministry Site Profile that was begun by the transition team. The Ministry Site Profile is like a congregation’s “dating profile,” which describes our congregation in preparation to seek a good match. (Remember Lisa Greene’s Council Corner article last fall about this step?) Once the Ministry Site Profile is officially submitted, the Office of the Bishop at the Synod level will take 4-6 weeks to review its pool of qualified candidates and select those who seem like the best fit for us. At that point, the call committee can begin Skype interviews with each candidate and begin narrowing the list: deciding not to pursue some candidates further, identifying some for additional interviews, and even requesting additional names from the Office of the Bishop if needed.
As we enter the home stretch of this important transition, I find myself comforted and encouraged by a Daily Meditation sent out recently by Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. He was discussing the divine Trinity as not just an example of unity but also its source. Rohr distinguishes between “unity” and “uniformity” by noting that uniformity is coercive and limiting. Uniformity requires sameness, conforming to a particular mold regardless of fit. Unity celebrates diversity, embracing and protecting difference unified by love. I found this comforting because we are each unique. Yes, our congregation has reflected together on our past (its high points and low points), our present (our strengths and shortcomings), and our future (our priorities and desires). And this reflection is synthesized in the Ministry Site Profile that will guide Phase III. But individually we have some differences relevant to this process. I think about when Tony and I filled out the survey on our priorities for the new pastor, discussing our responses with members of the transition team and another church member. Tony and I have been married our entire adult lives. We have more in common with each other than we do with any other church member. And our responses and priorities were pretty similar. But not identical. Uniformity would suggest this bodes ill for pastor selection. Uniformity would require that we all have identical perspectives and priorities. But unity is flexible. Unity says that different perspectives and priorities are welcome and should be considered throughout the process. That’s encouraging.
But what I found most encouraging in this particular Daily Meditation was the final paragraph:
Nothing can stop the flow of divine love […]. God is always winning, and God’s love will finally win in the end. Nothing humans can do can stop the relentless outpouring force that is the divine dance. Love does not lose, nor does God lose. That’s what it means to be God!
In this paragraph, I am reminded that we can’t screw this up. God is sovereign. Yes, the transition is lengthy and complex and important. And, yes, we want to be prayerful and careful and thoughtful as we round the corner into Phase III. But this process is directed by God—a God who is the source of our own unity, who protects and embraces diversity, and who cannot be defeated. I am expectant and hopeful about the outcome of Phase III, and I look forward to seeing what God has planned for us in the next phase of our life together as a church.
This blog is run by the council members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Logan, UT. For more information, check out our church's website at princeopeace.org.