Interim Ministry, Vision

Not By Sight

(Thinking about the texts for Proper 6*)

So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9, NRSV)

At the end of 1998 I dropped out of seminary, because I could not figure out how to go fast enough to finish in a reasonable length of time without moving my children away from their father or myself away from them. When I returned to seminary in 2000, after a dream convinced me I had placed a period where God had placed a comma (yes, yes, a UCC reference), I had come to believe it would all work out somehow. Having children even that much older made a difference, and I imagined it would continue to get easier, even though I didn't know how it would look, ultimately.

We walk by faith.

Two years later I began my search for a pastoral call, and amazingly there were three full-time ministry positions open within a reasonable drive, and they were all considered appropriate as a first call, and all three interviewed me.

I say "amazingly" because as I look back I can see how truly unprepared I was despite my degree and my approval for ordination pending a call.

Churches walk by faith, too, when they take on an inexperienced pastor.

Seven years later, I'm in my third position as an Interim Minister. I never imagined that would be my calling. I'm still not sure whether it is or not. I like doing it. I enjoy the tasks associated with church transitions, the evaluation and the reflection and the visioning and the almost inevitable reorganization. But I miss things I had in a settled call, too.

I'm walking by faith, not by sight, considering all possibilities as each interim position comes to an end.

People say to me, "You're such a good pastor, you should have your own church," and while I appreciate the compliment, I worry that they see Interim ministers as somehow "less than," when in fact it is a specialized ministry and, for some of my colleagues, a calling. But that is not always true. Sometimes it's a place-holder. Sometimes it's a retirement supplement. And sometimes it's a last resort.

I'd like to think I've been called to each of the churches I've served or am serving as Interim Minister; I'm simply called in a different way than a settled pastor.

But that's hard to explain sometimes, to others and even to myself. I would appreciate a chance to have a chat with God about what the long-term plan might be.

Really, wouldn't you?

I wouldn't mind knowing, at least I think I wouldn't mind knowing, whether my path will be a series of short stays or end in a long unfolding, whether I will stay in my house or move away, whether I will walk my dog on a beach or in the woods or on city streets. I wouldn't mind walking a trail with a map instead of depending solely on the sometimes difficult to find blazes.

We walk by faith and not by sight, and we hope that we're reading the messages the right way, and we take the next step and hope it pleases the One who calls us, however indistinctly, wherever we are, wherever we are going.


*Although I'll be preaching less at my current job, I plan to continue reflecting on the week's lectionary passages.