Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Effective Foundation of Interim Ministry Through Agreements

One of the reasons interim/transitional ministry can be effective is because of the contract/agreement that is made between an interim pastor and the congregation. Boundaries are important in any healthy relationship. Currently as your interim pastor, we have a set of boundaries that comprise an agreement between First Lutheran Community Church and me.

The boundaries for interim ministry work on different levels. The first level of agreement is a level of trust between the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA and its interim pastors. Interim pastors provide ground level pastoral, theological and leadership support to congregations who are making a transition between their former pastor and the newly called pastor. As the word "synod" literally means "journey together," the Southwestern Washington Synod places trust in both an interim pastor and congregation to navigate the challenging waters between pastors. It doesn't mean congregations are incapable of making a transition, but it does affirm that at our best, we work together to serve God and others in any circumstance, and that includes during a pastor transition.

On another level, the specific agreement between interim pastor and congregation is set up so that the interim pastor is able to offer candid observation about a congregation so that the congregation may make a more faithful discernment about its mission and ministry. Candid observation and unique action is supported in agreements between interim pastors and congregations through statements in the agreement that the interim pastor will not be a candidate to be the congregationally-called pastor. This agreement creates space for candid observation and unique action in that the interim pastor is not serving in an extended interview with the congregation, and therefore can act in a way that is not muted for fear of not being a candidate for the pastoral opening, or fear of dismissal.

On yet another level, interim pastors in the Southwestern Washington Synod work together to help any congregation in the synod make a faithful transition between pastorates. In order for those pastors and congregations to make a faithful transition, this basic level of agreement needs to be upheld that the interim pastor will not be a candidate. I believe in the service and work of my interim ministry colleagues with their congregations, and would not want to do anything that would compromise transitions for congregations in the ELCA, or any congregation I serve for that matter. I will not be a candidate to serve as the congregationally-called pastor of First Lutheran Community Church of Port Orchard.

It is flattering to know that the people of First Lutheran Church affirm the ministry we share. It beats the alternative. My hope is that you will put your energy towards prayer for the ministry of the congregation and finding your niche to help the Transition Team, future Call Committee, staff, Council and your fellow sisters and brother in Christ navigate this time of transition. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as your interim pastor. You have been a blessing in my life and ministry, giving me new energy and hope for whatever it is that God is calling me next. I hope I am able to reciprocate.

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