Posted by Jaime Sanders, Interim Rector of St. Aidan, Portland
An interim rector is a priest who walks with a parish in a time of transition.
When a long-time rector leaves a congregation, there is uncertainty. “Who will we find to minister to us?” “Will I like their preaching?” “Will they support my ministry?” “Can they help us grow?”
There is also grief, as there is at the ending of any relationship. It is sometimes hard for a congregation to understand why their long-time pastor now is not visiting them or even corresponding with them. This is nothing personal – it is in fact required by church canons, and is part of allowing space for a new leader and new pastoral relationships. But there is grief, and this may be compounded if a congregation has also suffered other recent losses, as has St. Aidan’s.
Part of the role of an interim is to minister to a congregation’s grief and other emotions resulting from the transition. We get specialized training on emotions in transition: next month I will be attending a workshop of the Interim Ministry Network, which includes this training.
Transitions also present opportunities.
Transitions present opportunities for exploring and deepening congregational mission. St. Aidan’s mission is to “Spread the Promise of Jesus Christ in and beyond our community through worship, education, fellowship, and outreach.” I look forward to sharing in your worship, education, fellowship, and outreach, as we explore together the Promise of Jesus Christ. (Hint: I think that “Promise” is five-fold.)
Transitions present opportunities for playful experimentation. I will be with you for only a short time in the life of the parish. We can try things together, knowing that if changes don’t produce fruit they can be changed again.
Transitions present opportunities for leadership development. The work of defining the parish in the profile, of searching for and electing a new rector, remains with the committees established for that task. I, as interim rector, do not participate in that work – but I can be a chaplain to the leaders you have chosen to do it.
Transitions present opportunities for ministry discernment. By “ministry” I do not mean simply ordained ministry, but the ministry of all baptized. The unique way in which you and your gifts are used by God to further God’s vision. As we together explore the mission of St. Aidan’s, I will be challenging you each to reflect on your own life story, theology, and gifts, and how Jesus Christ is calling you to use them today. I will also be looking with you at “how things are done,” and how sometimes habit presents an obstacle to the use of gifts for mission.
In this time of change, loss, and opportunity for St. Aidan’s, I am privileged to walk with you as your interim rector.
Since seminary, I have felt a particular call to transitional and transformational ministry. As priest in charge at St. Mary’s, I was privileged to help bring to life a new vision for an aging and dwindling congregation: a vision that is bearing fruit in new families, baptisms, and ministry. The vision was not mine, but – I believe – God’s. I simply helped the congregation listen and follow. St. Aidan’s vision will be different, as the communities and gifts are different. But I believe that God has a plan for St. Aidan’s, and that if we listen, and risk following, you each have a part in that plan.
My part in that plan is simply to walk with you for a short time. I am not a candidate for Rector. That is not my calling. As a transitional minister, my calling is to hold open the space and time for discernment and the sometimes slow-seeming matchmaking of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for the opportunity to walk with you in this time of change and opportunity. I look forward to the journey.