St. Peter’s Lakewood Ohio is looking for full time interim beginning in January. St Peter’s is a congregation with an ASA of 150. They have recently completed a capital Campaign and finished the building project that followed the campaign. They have enjoyed a longtime rector, who is happily retiring, after delaying to see them through the beginning 6 month of the pandemic. The warden remember the last transition as a happy and healthy time, and we are hoping for a repeat. For more information please contact me at email@example.com
The world turned upside down in second week of March 2020 as our slow response to the deathly impact of what is now simply called COVID unfolded. At that time I was in the middle of the fourth month of an eight month appointment as the Interim Rector of St. Timothy’s, Wilson NC.
The week began on Sunday with what turned out to be the last time we worshipped in the church as well as the last time I was physically with the amazing Youth Group. That Sunday evening we made a short video to support the search process with the young people speaking directly to the next rector with their hopes and dreams. The last time to physically meet with the Vestry was on Tuesday. We celebrated our three plus months together with a supportive Mutual Ministry. The work within the search process that focused on the updated website was reviewed and approved. Wednesday found over fifty people gathered, again for a last time, to sit at tables and work with me on the importance of The Rule of St. Benedict. Then Thursday came as did the Bishop’s directive that changed parish life. Over the next two days, much adaptation to a new reality slowly unfolded. My week away to teach a gathering of Interim Ministers was cancelled. My ZOOM and video production skills were put to the test. Caring and loving from a distance became my norm.
However, the memory of what our March video proclaimed was always a part of those meetings as my time with St. Timothy’s would end in July. The Youth decided June 28th would be our last meeting as summer was approaching. How to say goodbye?
I contracted for packages of custom-made M&M’s. Each package contained red, green, and yellow M&M’s that were imprinted with one of the following expressions: ST.TIM’S, LOVE WINS, YEA EYC, FR BILL. The M&M packages were mailed to the Youth with an invitation to the final meeting along with a request to watch a movie on Netflix called “The Healer.” This invitation was also sent by text and email.
About eleven of the Youth were able to gather on ZOOM that final evening. We talked about the theme of the movie and then opened our M&M packages and shared a form of chocolate communion. An awkward, and for me, tearful dismissal concluded our time together.
A story such as this written by a practitioner such as myself can easily fall into the realm of proclaiming competence. COVID has challenged so much of how we engage our work. There is so much more that grounds what we do than practical application of theory or even the care and concern offered as a pastor when the world, indeed, seems to be upside down. I learned later from the father of one of the newest Youth members that she was extremely excited to receive her package of M&M’s and the invitation to the meeting. It meant that she was finally old enough to be in the Youth Group. Sometimes unexpected outcomes such as this one are the mark of the Holy. It should not surprise me, but it does.
The Rev. Dr. William Carl Thomas, IMEC Vice-President
Download a printed version of this reflection here.
As a former Diocesan Transition Minister (DTM) for over a decade, I quickly learned that staying in touch with my former colleagues was key to landing a new position. I have found, however, that things have changed a lot since the pandemic has taken hold of the church, our dioceses, and our churches. Recently, I had an Interim lined up, but then the DTM called to inform me that when the rector, who had announced his/her retirement, realized that COVID meant not being able to say “good-bye” face to face with members, s/he decided to postpone the retirement until they could gather again. As more time passed, and it was evident that COVID wasn’t going away anytime soon, s/he decided to postpone retirement all together, so s/he could shepherd his/her beloved congregation through the pandemic.
When I inquired with the DTM if there were any other upcoming retirements that s/he might need an Interim, s/he informed me, there were, but they all also had decided to stay on “to get their parishes through COVID.” When I started checking in with other DTMs, I heard this story time and time again. And there was another story as well. Many of the dioceses had closed or were closing down their search processes! And those were the DTMs I was able to reach, yet another wrinkle. My, how things had changed in a few short months.
What used to call for an email stating I’d call them in a week to see how I could be of service, accompanied by an updated resume and OTM, now would require a different approach.
I needed to:
- make contact with many more DTMs, and be patient knowing that I may not hear from them at all, even those I knew well
- settle on talking to the receptionist, not the DTM, and asking if s/he could get a message to the DTM, or if I was lucky, get the DTM’s cell phone
- open myself up to offering my transition skills for positions that were not what I had previously imagined
More than anything, my search required patience, persistence, and perseverance. Every time I was met with a “not right now,” I asked if the DTM knew of a colleague somewhere else who was looking for someone. Receptionists became my best friends, my connectors to DTMs who were working from home and did not have the technology to forward phone calls. My biggest stretch was opening myself to using my transition skills beyond what I imagined I would be doing until I retired.
I had heard that the ELCA had a shortage of trained Interims. With a quick phone call to the Church Pension Fund, I learned that the ELCA now pays 18% into our pension fund and we earn a year of credited service, the same as in an Episcopal position. I made contact with the closest ELCA Synod and found that they were in need of trained Interims. Soon the Synod Bishop was on the phone with the bishop I had just served under, and he and his regional minister (DTM) wanted to set up an interview!
I also opened myself up to Priest-in-Charge positions in dioceses that saw the first one or two years like an Interim and the second or third year as a time of discernment to see if the relationship might become permanent. While it took me a bit of imagination to open myself up to the possibility of becoming a rector, I knew that those early years were all about transition work and the Focus Points from our IMN (Interim Ministry Network) training that we use as trained Interims. Discernment would come later and who knows what God may have in mind.
I was delighted to find that things began to open up for me once I began to see possibilities in other ways of offering my gifts and skills. I actually was once again “in demand!” I suspect this is the way of our future as Interims. Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance will be the key to landing each new position. The landscape of transition ministry is in transition itself. Who knows, maybe learning how to search for a position in a new way, is one of the gifts of COVID.
The Rev. Debra J. Kissinger
IMEC does not share your data with anyone outside this site. We use your information for the purpose of internally supporting IMEC. When you post an available interim position on IMEC-Online.org it is simultaneously posted on our Facebook page. The data you provide in your post is posted on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/IMECPage/)
New Posting Facility for Transition Officers
Transition Officers may now post available interim positions using the form located under the Resources tab by clicking on Transition Officer’s Posts. Detailed instructions will are forthcoming in an email to Transition Officers. However, the ability to post is live and intuitive. When a Transition Officer post, the post will automatically appear on our Facebook Page, @IMECPage. We hope this will be helpful to Transition Officers in filling positions, as well as perspective interims seeking placements. Here is a link to the page: https://imec-online.org/toposts/
Peace and Blessings,
Rev. David Starr, Secretary