Cause a Commotion

This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, the day when Christians remember the story in Acts 2 of the Holy Spirit whooshing around the disciples and causing them to speak in different languages so that everyone there can understand them. It’s a story of confusion and chaos as much as it is one of newfound empowerment and purpose for the early church.

With June also comes Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQ+ identity that began with a riot at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 in New York. In the midst of yet another raid, the crowd of patrons began heavily pushing back. It’s a story of confusion and chaos as a people facing discrimination and persecution gain a sense of newfound empowerment and purpose.

These stories both tell of movements arising out of commotion. Eventually comes the new paradigm, but often not without an upending of what came before.

The fire of both Pentecost and Pride became too big to ignore, and through the passion of those who felt it, the old began to burn away to make room for the new. And even today, such a commotion-causing fire is needed for each.

The church needs it to discover who it is post-pandemic, as much of what worked before doesn’t engage or appeal in the same way now.

As powers and principalities are discovering a newfound audacity for marginalizing LGBTQ+ people, organizers and supporters need that renewing flame as much as we ever have.

May spirit and fire continue to cause the sort of commotion that leads to life-giving change.

Summer Reading 2023

The warmest and most vacation-y part of the year is imminent, and with that comes a need for a new reading list.

I enjoyed most of what I put on my winter/spring list, and I hope for more of the same for this new one.

So here’s what I’m thinking for this new upcoming season.

  • Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING: Healing, Chilling, and Living with the Tao Te Ching by Jessie Asia Kanzer
  • Seek the Singing Fish by Roma Wells
  • Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
  • Search by Michelle Huneven
  • Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman
  • Acceptance: A Memoir by Eli Nietfeld
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
  • The Tao of Wing Chun by John Little
  • The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg

I like going a little more fiction-heavy during the summer months, so I’m planning on a lot of novels, and then a few other things sprinkled in.

What are you planning to read this summer?

I have a few recommendations if you need some.

Yes, Your Church Needs an Interim Minister

Various church traditions have different ways of handling pastoral transitions. Some have an appointment system, where denominational leaders tell clergy where to go in the event of a vacancy or because it’s otherwise time to make a move. Others have a succession system, where an internal candidate is trained for the position while the current minister is still leading the congregation. 

I am part of a tradition where, more like in the non-church world, open positions involve a search committee receiving ministerial profiles, interviewing candidates, and presenting their selected candidate to the congregation for a vote.

(This last point, of course, is the difference from non-church workplaces. Imagine if the entirety of your potential co-workers voted whether to hire you or not. I digress.)

You may be able to imagine how long this search-and-call process can take. Unlike the other systems I mention where the reception of a new minister is immediate, this can take some time. Depending on the context, it can take at least a year, possibly two, and maybe even longer.

In the meantime, many churches call an interim minister to lead them while their search committee does this work. Historically, this would be a seasoned minister, usually retired, who would keep the pulpit warm in the meantime. And in post-WWII American Christendom where churches didn’t worry much about numbers dropping, this would be fine.

In more recent times there has arisen the concept of the “intentional interim minister.” This is one who has been especially trained not just to preach, teach, and give pastoral care during a pastoral transition, but also to help the congregation intentionally prepare to receive their next minister. They lead churches through conversations about where they’ve been, where they might like to go, and to do the work of honestly assessing themselves to improve the chances of the new minister having a good partnership in ministry with them.

Situations that may especially need an intentional interim include:

  • Churches that have just concluded a 20+ year ministry with a beloved pastor and need time to grieve and move on;
  • Churches that had their previous pastor leave under less-than-ideal circumstances, such as misconduct or abusive members;
  • Churches whose history of conflict has simmered all through every pastoral tenure since the original incident;
  • Churches whose formerly robust resources and ministry are eroding, whether they realize it or not;
  • Churches that insist that everything is fine and there’s nothing wrong and they can’t wait to call their next pastor.

I think that last one about covers it.

Many churches may insist that, no, really, everything really is fine and there really is nothing wrong and they really are ready to move on. And yet under the surface, one of the other situations may be brewing. More commonly, churches may be wondering about their future, noticing the larger changes in the culture around them, noticing that the pews aren’t as full as they once were. 

A rush to call a new pastor in the hopes that they will solve these unspoken anxieties is a setup for disaster. Such a rush may also help serve the denial that the anxieties and issues are there.

The interim minister is charged with making space for churches to do important internal work that they may otherwise avoid. The conflict might not be so blatant and the needs not so obvious, but the loss of a minister may bring these thoughts and emotions more to the forefront of people’s minds. The interim time is an opportunity to voice those wonderings and work through them openly and honestly. 

So yes, your church really does need an interim minister. They will help you do the holy work of self-reflection so that future ministry partnerships have a better chance to thrive.