In the In-between

A little over a month ago Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, the Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of Philadelphia, was our guest preacher on Sunday morning. Ruth spoke about a time of transition in the lives of the Israelites as they left Egypt behind and headed to the Promised Land. The trouble was they found themselves in this in-between time in the wilderness, which was uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and uncertain. As more and more time passed in the wilderness they grew more and more anxious about what was next, where they were headed, and how long it would take them to get there. Ruth warned that these feelings would creep into our own minds as our congregation headed into a time of transition in leadership and that we too would feel anxious and uncertain about what the future would hold.

I know that some of you are feeling in the dark about where we are on our transitional journey so I wanted to write a post that would help shed some light on our path and help put minds at ease.

First, where are we? In March an Interim Search Committee was formed and is led by our chair of the Personnel Committee – Tom Barford. Tom and his team worked quickly and carefully to draft a job description for the Interim Pastor position and after receiving the proper approvals posted the job description. Through a process of discernment and interviews they found a front-runner for the position. At this point we are in the final stages of the process when the Presbytery does their part of the work. Once we receive final approvals we will be able to share more information with the congregation soon about an interim pastor.

Even before an interim pastor joins us it is helpful to understand what this person is called to do. On the PC(USA) website they provide this information…

Like all pastors, Interim/Transitional Pastors offer to the congregations they serve:

Worship leadership and preaching
Pastoral care
Work with the session to provide for the life and ministry of the congregation
Administrative work including supervision of other staff persons
Staff support for programs and committees of the congregation

In addition, an Interim/Transitional Pastor leads a congregation during the transition time after an installed pastor has departed, helping the congregation prepare to welcome the leadership of a new installed pastor. Interim/Transitional Pastors understand the dynamics of a congregation in transition, including feelings of grief, loss, and, sometimes, relief or anger.

Interim/Transitional pastors will help the session provide for continuity of essential programs, and may assist the session in assessing needs for changes in programs and ministries of the congregation.

Some Interim/Transitional pastors have special skills and experience that can help a congregation recover from a time of conflict or after the disclosure of clergy sexual misconduct or other trauma.

Essentially, the interim pastor stands with us in a time that is in-between. Their role is to help continue the work and ministry of the church while also helping to move us forward.  An interim pastor typically serves a congregation for about a year while we undergo a search process for our next called pastor. This search is done by a special committee known as the Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC).

I am all too aware that these times of transition can seem overwhelming, but I want you to remember two things. First, God is with us. Yes, we are in a time of transition. Yes, we had a beloved pastor with us for 22 years and now he is serving somewhere else. But friends, turn to your scripture and you will see time and time again God doing amazing things in times of transition; Moses to Joshua, David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to the disciples. God is present and the Spirit will guide us as it has always led the people of God. And second, this church, Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, has stood for over 200 years as a faithful witness to God in the mission field of Bucks County. This is not the first time of transition this church has faced and it will not be the last. 

I will leave you with this piece of scripture. In the beginning of the book of Joshua the Lord is speaking to Joshua as he is about to take over the role of leader, which was previously held by Moses. The Lord says to Joshua, “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)