Tag Archives: pastoral transition

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

There are as many ways of saying goodbye, I suppose, as there are routes to be taken to the sea. Think of this: we have had nearly eight months to get our minds around the idea of my retirement and departure as your pastor. Eight months! We have had time to chat with one another, study options, talk about accomplishments, remember both good and bad times and all within the loving context of this church that is so much a harbor to us. We travel toward the sea, we return to this harbor.

Most goodbyes, as you well know, are not so intentional. People leave our lives abruptly and there is not time to tie up loose ends. But we have had this remarkable time of intention and in that time our leaders have bravely taken on the tasks associated with finding a pastor. And during that time we have continued to BE the Church—as we experienced so brilliantly this past Sunday in the Christmas music program provided by our choir and musicians. And as we have experienced in worship, Sunday after Sunday, never missing a beat; gathering for prayer and a Word from God; baptizing, communing and living within the sphere of the Gospel.

This does not necessarily remove the sting of departure. And truly, that sting becomes most poignant when absence is finally encountered—my office, for example, empty of books and the various artifacts of my faith from candles to crosses. It looks and is empty. What we must do our best to remember is that we navigate our lives within the narrative of good news that is Christ. And we know that he had conversations with his disciples about his departure. He would tell them things like, “I must leave but I am not leaving you as orphans in the world.” And he said, “Let not your hearts be troubled…” I encourage you to read the entire 14th chapter of the Gospel of John. You will find much to encourage and comfort you there.

The presence of a loved one—a family member, a friend or yes, an old pastor—is like a lingering perfume. They may leave us but they are never truly absent. And that holds true for me as I and Melinda come to terms with a new routine that will not include worshipping at Riverside (and let me just say that if we think about it, we can understand why best practices include a pastor stepping out of the congregation s/he has led—I would find it difficult not to be your pastor and you would find it difficult not to respond to me as pastor and that, dearly beloved, would lead to frictions that simply do not need to arise as you make a way into a future with a new pastor). The gift of your presence remains with us. We will call on that when we are missing you and of course, we will commend you to God who, through the Holy Spirit, will provide you peace that passes all understanding. God be with us ’til we meet again. ~Pastor Bledsoe

Models of Pastoral Transition

Pastor Bledsoe addressed in his first sermon back from Sabbatical, the examples of leadership transition with Moses and Elijah–both examples of an authoritarian style of transition where a leader selects his successor. This may never have been a “model” but an example. Indeed, it is not what we strive for in today’s analytical style of sorting through qualified candidates for any position.

Sunday August 18th, Part II of Biblical Models of Transition will be preached and we’ll look at the selection of the apostle who replaced Judas the Betrayer. You can read Acts chapter 1 and be prepared. Again, the question will be: is this a model for our church or any church to follow? You’ll have to show up and listen to the sermon to know what “this” is.

We are trying to sort through what, if any, biblical instructions there are for selecting the next pastor. How are we to be guided? But to put our process in a nutshell, perhaps we should simply become familiar with what our church constitution says should happen when a pastor resigns (retires). ” Vacancy – Whenever the office of Pastor shall become vacant, or be officially pending, without delay it shall be the duty of the deacons, in conversation with at least one of the Baptist conventions with which the church is aligned–the Executive Minister of the D.C. Baptist Convention, and/or the Alliance of Baptists and/or the American Baptist Churches, USA –to select a minister of the Gospel to fill the vacancy.  A Pulpit Committee of no less than five members shall be nominated by the Deacons and elected by the church in order to search out and present prospective candidates for the office.  … [Article VI.1.c]

Currently, our two boards have been meeting with a consultant, Rev. Paul Clark, and have led the congregation through listening sessions. Sometime in the early Fall, we should be ready to nominate and elect the search committee. What is YOUR role? You and I are to be in prayer, practice patience, be discerning and we ought each to ask ourselves what we are prepared to do in order to make any of our “wants” for the next generation of leadership to become reality. What will you support? What will you show up to do? Because the Church is not the pastor but all of us. Let us be guided by the words of the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi: “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” The Good Shepherd is our First Pastor, our First Shepherd. Amen.