During this church year, three other colleagues and I are together offering worship services and pastoral care to a neighboring congregation in suburban Seattle whose minister has gone to another settlement. They decided not to go into search immediately nor to get an interim minister, for a number of reasons too complicated to describe here.
Three of us are preaching for them during the year; a fourth is providing pastoral care. We haven't worked out the details of the arrangement but I'm intrigued by the concept of their approach to the year. They have a theme for the year which is open enough to give us preachers a lot of leeway, but the purpose of the year is to take a long hard look at who they are, where they are, and where they want to go.
I preached there today and had a good experience; I also spent some time after the service talking with the worship co-chairs about the year. We are planning to bring all four ministers plus some of the church leadership together to talk about how we might fulfill their hope of getting a clearer look at themselves and discerning a path.
Several years ago I precandidated with this congregation but chose another opportunity instead. Later I was interested in them again but things didn't work out. This time I have signed on for something rather unusual---to preach for them ten times during the church year, to give them ministerial support in this way, but not to advise them or counsel them about actions of their leadership. In a way, it sounds utopian because of not having to be involved with anything but worship, but I'm wondering how it will work out in practice.
They have had some ups and downs with ministers and this affects the context in which we four will be operating. We each have very different styles in the pulpit. We will be expected to refer pastoral care situations to the pastor-minister and the cares and concerns committee. I'm both excited and a little puzzled about how this will work, but I'm looking forward to it.
It may turn out to be a workable model for other congregations who are in discernment about ministry. I'll keep you posted.