A Season of Waiting

Dear Friends,
 
This past Sunday, the scripture was Acts 1:1-11, the story of Jesus’ Ascension and a commissioning of the disciples-turned-apostles. Before Jesus sent them out as witnesses to the ends of the earth, he told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
 
Waiting. It’s such a chore. The apostles probably didn’t even know what Jesus really meant, even though he’d talked to them about the Spirit before. Waiting is rarely easy. We usually know what we want and want to go for it. As children, we couldn’t wait until Christmas morning—but we did! And what an exciting gift we found under the tree or in the stocking. When was the last time you waited with such anticipation?
 
As adults, we often interpret waiting as a waste of time, as not getting anywhere. We murmur under our breath that all “this time” will be for naught.
 
When Jesus told his disciples to wait for the gift, it’s not as if they sat and did nothing for another 10 days. They added to their circle of leadership. They gathered as believers and prayed. When the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they were ready to move out and proclaim God’s word to the ends of the earth, to exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, as our sixth Great End of the Church calls us to do.
 
First Presbyterian Church is waiting for a new pastor. And the Mission Study Team has heard your laments about the length of time it is taking. The Presbyterian Process is a lengthy one. It is not unusual for a transitional pastor to serve a church in transition for 18-24 months before the church calls a new pastor. Even though Pastor Lee left a year ago, I have only been here for 7 ½ months. The Mission Study Team is working hard. They have met 16 times in 19 weeks and have completed assignments in between meetings. Their purpose is to do an in-depth study of the congregation, its mission and ministry, discern where God is leading, create a new mission statement and write a report. When you think of the size of FPC and the variety of ministries and mission work you have been involved in, you may begin to understand the breadth of their responsibility.
 
The past couple weeks they’ve been discussing the church survey results and how those fit in with all the other information they’ve been gathering, including the feedback elders received from their weekly calls earlier in the year, the current programs, the financial health, and well-being of our membership. It is a ton of information to work through, and they are doing it with energy and faithfulness, with an eye to FPC’s future.
 
The Mission Study Team hopes you will join them for lunch and discussion outdoors at the church on Sunday, May 23rd, at 12:30. We will use this time to present some of the themes that are rising from your feedback. There will be large and small group conversation. (More on this elsewhere in The Action.)
The Mission Study Team’s goal is to complete their report by early to mid-summer. The report then goes to Session for approval and then on to the Commission on Ministry (COM) of Salem Presbytery for final approval. I happen to serve on that committee, so I will make sure it gets before them!

Once the Mission Study Report is approved, the COM will grant the church permission to form a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) to begin the work of calling a new pastor. Don’t be alarmed to hear that their work takes time, as well. The church, using the Mission Study Report, will write a Ministry Information Form (MIF). After Session and COM approval, the PNC will begin to receive Personal Information Forms (PIFs) from interested pastors. The PNC will conduct interviews and eventually select a candidate to bring to the congregation for approval.
 
Why is the process so long? It is to give time for the church to discern where God is calling them so they have an idea of the kind of pastor they need to fulfill their mission. God also uses this time so that just the right pastor will be ready for you!
 
In the meantime we wait. . . . We expand and equip our leadership, we consider how God is working in our midst, and we discover where our church’s strengths and passion intersect with the community’s need. And we pray, deepening our prayers for the person God is preparing, even as we pray for the church and world.
 
We wait and watch together. We continue to participate with worship, study, and mission. And we anticipate the gift of the Holy Spirit who will match just the right pastor with this wonderful congregation. Keep the faith!
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor