The first week in a month is always filled with lots of meetings in the life of our congregation. It also means my mind is a jumble of thoughts and ideas that come from these rich opportunities for conversation and exploration. At the Board meeting this week the Pastoral Relations/Transition Support (PRC for short) team came to talk about the ideas we've been noodling around with as we come into the half-way point of this interim time.
Yep, it has been nearly 18 months since we started to journey together as pastor and people. Some days it feels like that can't be true since (cue the music) "we've only just begun..." Other days it feels like I've been here in this comfortable pastorate with you for a long time. The reality is that both are true. 18 months is a blink in the ministry of any congregation and 18 months is a long interim. Or it WAS before the Pandemic.
This is why the PRC came to share some thoughts with the Board this week. In the BC (before Covid) days we would be forming the Search Committee right about now, looking toward a completed profile by year's end, receiving candidate profiles during the first half of 2024, and (hopefully) offering a call for a settled pastor mid 2024. With a 90-day transition typical for a start dates, that gets us to the end of my three-year interim agreement with you.
But that was BC.
Things are different AC. The systems and stability that allowed a traditional interim process, even a long one like we've committed to, are not there for many congregation's post Pandemic. Add our need to develop new bylaws and heal from some past transition traumas and we have a need for more time to insure that (as I have said to a number of folks) the plane gets to "cruising altitude." I define this as a place where you are strong in your identity, both as a congregation and as a partner with the wider UCC, where you have a clear sense of mission, and the structure to support your capacity to live into it. It also means you are ready to wholeheartedly welcome the person that God is readying to take you into the next season of joy and passion and vitality here at FCCUCC!
The PRC and I brought our wondering to the Board to begin thinking collectively about where we are and what we might want to do to both honor the interim process as well as the agreement we signed 18 months ago. We don't feel ready to recommend the formation of the Search Committee. And while a traditional interim BC was typically 18-24 months, the three years we agreed to 18 months ago doesn't feel realistic based on where we are today.
In talking to Rev. Tyler Connoley, our Central Pacific Conference of the UCC Conference Minister, he has encouraged to be in discernment and to trust the Spirit to guide us as we move through the interim season. This mirrors the guidance that many of my colleagues are getting from their denominational leaders. Time on this side of the Pandemic has changed how we do interim work and trusting the Spirit to guide our process is more important than adhering to an historic timeline developed BC.
I will be publishing my "State of the Interim" report in the coming week, and we will create some opportunities to be in discernment together about what still needs to be accomplished, how we can do this work in the most healthy and supportive way possible, and what you need, as a congregation, to get to "cruising altitude".
For now, the wheels are up but the seatbelt sign is still on. Let's keep climbing and trust that God will pilot us all the way!
In joy as we share this journey,