Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
My time with you is growing short, September 30 is fast approaching. People are wondering about what is happening with the call process for a new pastor; their concerns are about the period of vacancy, how will Bethany proceed forward, who will be in the pulpit on Sunday mornings, how long will it be until Bethany will call a new pastor, etc.?
Looking back, I probably did not serve the best interests of the congregation by announcing my retirement so far in advance. I believed that by giving eight months notice, the congregation could get the “process” started and thus reduce the period of pastoral vacancy. However, I was wrong. There needs to be a break and a period of “transition” between pastoral calls. My ministry here at Bethany must come to a close and the congregation must discern its future ministry. Then the congregation can determine the spiritual gifts that the future pastor will need to undertake that desired ministry.
People are becoming anxious, six months have passed since I announced my retirement and nothing is “happening.” The impact of the coronavirus has increased the level of anxiety as we all wonder what the future will hold; the uncertainty produces additional fear over the actual threat of the virus itself.
So, what is happening with this call process? Well, the congregational workshop, which was scheduled for this past March, is not to be conducted until after my retirement here at Bethany; probably after the first of the new year 2021. That workshop is something that our Regional Dean, Pr. David McGettigan, and District Dean, Pr. Steve Shipman, will lead the congregation through. It is an opportunity for the congregation to get a positive start on the call process, and Pastor McGettigan has led a number of congregations through these workshops in his time as Regional Dean.
Pr. Shipman met with the congregational council at their last council meeting, June 8, to lay out the process for the congregation going forward. Pr. Shipman pointed out that the congregation’s priority should be to continue the many fine ministries of Bethany and work for a celebratory and uplifting conclusion to my time with the congregation. In addition, in the month of August, he and council will work on supply pastors and who will handle pastoral care, funerals, weddings, visitations, etc. during the interim; also, that the call committee should be in place by the end of my call.
Pr. Shipman stated that, even though the NALC has a much better selection of pastors and pastoral candidates in both quality and quantity than the previous denomination, Bethany should be prepared for a year or more after my retirement until another full-time pastor is called. The coronavirus has slowed things down; but it is important to have some separation before bringing a new pastor on board. He reassured council that Bethany will not be on its own during this time; Pr. Shipman expects to be working with the council and call committee, helping to find people to provide the ministry leadership needed in the interim.
On the surface, it may not appear that anything is happening; however, the process is on schedule. I/we attempted to forge ahead and expedite the process … but we must allow the call process to take its full course in the best interest of Bethany and its ministry.
In Christ’s service,