Reflection Connection

Reflections

January 23rd Reflection
January 23, 2015
By Rev. Alan Mead
I read a blog entry on Huffington Post today, written by Mark Osler, relating his current experience in a church with an interim. Mark’s experience is negative and a conclusion he draws is that the transition process in congregations should be shortened considerably. I do notice that the author mentions in passing, and then glosses over, that the former rector left in a “messy” situation and that the two former associate clergy left soon after. Yikes! One interim, skilled or not, working a miracle in that congregation, seems to be a lot to ask. Perhaps this is something that must be the work of the entire congregation and not fall on the shoulders of the interim pastor. This is the kind of blog entry that makes sense on the surface; but when questioned more deeply, is not as simple as the blog entry would imply. My guess, and it’s a blind one, is that after a “messy” departure of all three clergy this congregation didn’t have, or didn’t want to commit the monetary resources necessary to have both a trained interim experienced in these kind of issues and conflicts, plus have new staff/clergy associates to keep the ongoing programatic and worship dynamic going strong in this parish while the interim engages the leadership and congregation in resolving/accepting whatever has happened and may currently be going on.This is a larger debate, whether anyone is completely right or wrong, than many of us would like to admit and, in some adjudicatory and congregational practice there is a scarcity of resources to really address and resolve underlying issues. Further, at least in the Episcopal Church, some dioceses are seeking different models, one of which is to place a priest in charge time certain (2 to 5 years) with the option of the congregation calling the priest as their next settled pastor. While this will work, at least on the surface, and does keep the bishop more in control, I do wonder if any clergy who is not specially trained in resolving conflict and, who wants to be called eventually as the settled pastor, will really do the hard and perhaps unpopular stuff necessary to deal with whatever is there, allowing it to once again go under the surface and lurk beneath, a secret always ready to pounce.Feedback from differing viewpoints is welcomed and encouraged. My own bias is that a trained and competent interim can be the most important asset an adjudicatory or congregation can have. It seems to me that larger issues that are often not answered involve paying for that level of skill and experience and finding resources to keep assisting clergy in multi-staff parishes during time of crisis is the best way forward for all.In my personal experience the transition time can be as creative and productive as any time in a congregation’s history. Discovering and appreciating the life, ministry and history within a congregation is a joy not only for the interim pastor; but for the congregation as well.
January 19th Reflections

January 19, 2015

By Rev. Alan Mead
I remember a conversation with my father’s Uncle Eddie that took place at his kitchen table just after his wife Charlotte’s funeral. I was rector of a small parish in upstate NY and my father and I had traveled to be there as soon as we heard the news. The funeral was beautiful, with Gospel music and a church packed to overflowing with people. My family and a few others who had traveled to be there were the only white people. Later, as we sat around Uncle Eddie’s kitchen table I listened carefully as my father and his cousin and Uncle Eddie spoke softly of family. Stories that were all new to me and gave definition to parts of my family that I didn’t know very well. I asked Uncle Eddie about his church and his community and why I didn’t see other white people. Uncle Eddie responded that he and Aunt Charlotte had moved there when they were married and raised their daughter in this house in Queens. They became active in their church and he became a lay leader, Sunday school teacher and pastoral visitor. He said that in the 1960’s a black family bought a home on his block and soon another black family moved to his neighborhood and within a short time after that every other white family had left that neighborhood. He said his neighborhood and his church became almost totally black. And then he said something that I will always remember. He said when his neighbors changed he and Charlotte decided they would have new neighbors and as his church changed they would have a new church family, and as his friends moved he would make new friends. I reflected on the love I had seen expressed for Uncle Eddie by his neighbors and church community and realized suddenly that he was one of those ordinary heroes who make a difference in the world by simple example as he lived through a time of profound transition.
January 18th Reflection
January 18, 2015
By Rev. Alan Mead 
Samuel became one of the great prophets in Israel, an individual whose primary job description would be to listen for the word of the Lord and proclaim what he heard. I find it encouraging that when Samuel first heard the Lord speak to him, calling him to service, he didn’t recognize the voice of the Holy, not once, or twice or even the third time! He thought his teacher was speaking. It was only after his teacher, Eli, advised him that it may be God speaking, that Samuel was able to imagine something greater than his expectations. Intentional interim ministry is centered in listening and recognizing the voice of the Holy in the midst of history and story in congregations and other faith communities during times of transition. As Samuel learned through his mentor and his experience to recognize the voice of the Holy, may each of us engaged in transition and interim ministry find encouragement as we connect with one another and share our experiences not only of recognizing the Holy; but also in helping others to hear and appreciate the many stories in congregations that quite naturally emerge during transition. In our stories we find the congregations story, and the voice of the Holy.
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