Appointment Season

We are, as many of you know, in the midst of appointment season.  This is the time of year when a number of our pastors are preparing to leave congregations and move to new ones and when some of our churches are preparing to say good bye to pastors and receive new ones.  Probably about 15% of our churches experience pastoral change in any given year.

As a part of this process, there is what we call an introductory meeting.  In the introductory meeting, the church SPRC gathers and the District Superintendent brings the new pastor and “introduces” him/her as the new pastor to these church representatives.  It is called an introductory meeting because the expectation is that the Bishop has made the appointment and now we are introducing the pastor to the church and the church to the pastor.  This is an introduction as opposed to an interview.

I have done eleven introductory meetings so far this year and they have been rich times.  I suppose it is a little awkward.  Our system of “arranged marriage” can be a challenge at times!  But I am amazed at how often there is almost an immediate spark in that initial meeting.  A connection, a sense of joy and hope and new life.  The pastor sees, for the first time, into the heart of the congregation he/she is coming to serve. The SPRC members likewise get an indication of who this new clergy person is, along with a glimpse into the future of his/her new ministry.  It is an honor and a humbling experience for me to watch it unfold in that hour or so together.  It really has a wonderfully holy feel to it all.

Oh there are moments during our time together that bring about challenges to be sure.  Someone asks a tough question and we wait to see how it is handled.  Is there grace and an openness to hear one another?  So often as I watch this process unfold, I experience a sense of awe at what God is doing.  I also experience —most often— a fresh sense of hope for that church, for that pastor, and even for the church as a whole.

There is plenty to be skeptical about these days, both inside and outside the church.  There are reasons to doubt and to wonder what will become of us down the road.   As we struggle together around the needs of families and spouses, with fewer and fewer clergy embracing a complete sense of itinerancy, we wonder about whether the whole way we do appointment making will be able to survive or even whether it should.

But even with all this to consider, I’ve experienced eleven nights the past few weeks where I have watched as a new pastor and congregation have begun a dance together and it’s been great!

Peace,
Bill

As The Appointment Season Begins!

Well it’s a new year and the Bishop and DS’s are in the midst of the Cabinet Retreat.  This retreat is the time when the “appointment season” begins.  That is a bit of a misstatement because the reality is that Superintendents are always thinking about appointments!  But this is the time we begin to actually make appointments by having conversations with pastors and churches about changes that will occur in July.

This is my sixth year of doing this work and I am always amazed at how the task looks as we begin.  The room is literally filled with newsprint around the walls listing names of churches and pastors.  As we begin on Monday the work before us seems almost impossible.

But I have always been comforted and encouraged by the amount of time we spend in prayer as we engage each of the sheets of newsprint representing a congregation of people loved by God, and pastors who have given their lives to serve Christ.  There truly is always a sense of the Holy as we give ourselves to the task of putting pastors in churches.

I am grateful for the incredibly gifted people with whom I have the privilege to work.  I am grateful for a gifted and kind Bishop who provides wisdom and humor and guidance as he leads us forward.  I am grateful for my Cabinet colleagues who bring creativity and faith and so much knowledge to this process.  And I am grateful for pastors and congregations who go and come and receive through the appointments that are made.

Ours isn’t a perfect system for the work of matching together churches and pastors for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.  No “system” is perfect.  But I can tell you that so often, so very often, I have seen God work in wonderful ways through this imperfect system.

I am humbled to be a part of it.  Please continue to pray for us and particularly for the Bishop as we all move together through this season.  May God bless and guide us all.

Peace,
Bill