A few years back, training for persons interested in interim ministry was rebranded as “The Art of Transitional Ministry.” Many pastors take this training, not because they are planning to serve as an interim pastor, but because many recognize that the average congregation is often in a state of transition. The training is helpful for ministry in congregations that otherwise appear to be reasonably stable.
Within Central Florida Presbytery, we have experienced a few transitions since the start of 2019:
Karen Crawford left Merritt Island Presbyterian Church for a congregation in Muskingum Presbytery in southeastern Ohio, effective December 31, 2018. This also took Karen’s husband, Jim, out of the presbytery, where he had been serving as chairperson of the Finance Committee.
John Dalles has left Wekiva Presbyterian Church after 22 years of ministry to become the interim pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. John came to central Florida from Pittsburgh Presbytery, so this represents a return home, of sorts. John is a former moderator of Central Florida Presbytery. His last Sunday at Wekiva was February 3.
Maynard Pittendreigh retired after almost 39 years of pastoral ministry, currently as pastor at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Orlando. His last Sunday was February 10, 2019. Maynard will continue in his role as “pastor to the stars,” pursuing his love of astronomy in his retirement.
Les Koerselman retired as pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Vero Beach, where he had served faithfully since 2001. Les’ service to the Presbyterian Church totals 43 years this year following his ordination in 1976. His last Sunday was February 3, 2019.
We wish these faithful servants God’s best in their new forms of service to Jesus Christ.
The congregations these pastors have served are all in the process of seeking interim pastors, trained in the art of transitional ministry. They will help the congregations work through the five essential tasks of interim ministry:
Coming to terms with history
Discovering current identity
Allowing needed leadership changes
Renewing denominational linkages
Committing to a new direction in ministry
I was at Wekiva Presbyterian to preach on February 10, the Sunday after John Dalles left. The lectionary passage for the morning was the familiar story from Luke 5:1-11, the calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, after a miraculous catch of fish. It struck me how Jesus’ call of these disciples fit with the above five tasks:
The disciples had to assess the history (albeit brief) that they had with Jesus to that point. Where had they been, and in what direction was God calling them to go?
Who were they, in Jesus’ presence? Common fishermen? Sinful people with unclean lips (see Isaiah 6, another lectionary passage for the morning)? Something new that was emerging?
Did they possess certain gifts for leadership in Christ’s dawning realm?
How were they connected to the ongoing story of God’s redemption, to Old Testament prophets, people like John the Baptist, and now, Jesus?
Would they commit to a new direction in ministry, to lay down their nets and become fishers for human souls?
We know how that familiar story played out and recognize that the calling of the disciples is our calling as well. What nets do we need to lay down in order to follow Jesus more closely and completely?
I like to regularly point out something that the Book of Order calls all members of our church to do periodically, from G-1.0304, the responsibilities of faithful membership, including: reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful. With Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season coming on March 6, we are on the brink of another excellent opportunity to perform this spiritual assessment.
It is part of our spiritual DNA as Presbyterian to recognize and embrace times of transition as important and formative for our ongoing faith journey. Right up there with our decently and in order mantra is this one: ““The church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God” in the power of the Spirit.“ (F-2.02) We do not need to wait for a time of significant transition nor the arrival of a special season within the life of the church to give thought to who we are and what we are called to be in Jesus Christ, and to increase and make more meaningful this commitment.