Since Rev. Blaikie’s retirement 2 ½ months ago, congregational life has continued in a healthy way. You journeyed through Lent and celebrated Easter. You supported one another during moments of joy and times of sorrow. You cared for the sick and extended help to those in need. You continued to make offerings of your time, gifts, and presence in worship and praise of God, and in support of Christ’s ministry in and through Saint Andrew’s, including its various ministry groups and committee.
I understand there are questions and even some anxiety regarding the future of ministry at Saint Andrew’s. A number of you have wondered why a search committee is not yet in place, or why is it taking so long to find another minister. Although reasons were explained at the onset of the vacancy, ongoing communication is critical and session and I are committed to providing more frequent updates.
The delay in establishing a search committee was intentional. You have just ended a ministry relationship that endured over a quarter century. A grace period needed to be put in place to allow time for transition. This vacancy also began during a critical time from a worship perspective, i.e., Lent and Easter, and our attention was rightly focused on Christ’s death and resurrection.
The pastoral search has often been compared to dating and the calling of a minister, marriage. The task of calling the right minister is difficult and is not comparable to staffing a position in a business.
In Psalm 127, the psalmist writes, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” The search for a new minister must be grounded in the search to discern what is the will of God. The search is a spiritual exercise and our call as a congregation is discern God’s will for Christ ministry’s in and through this congregation and to trust that God will provide for the ministry to which we have been called. This is about seeking God’s will and God’s provision. It is a Christ-centered task, not congregation-centered (i.e., rooted in our own agendas and judgment).
In anticipation of the work to be undertaken with a pastoral search – and the spiritual nature of this task – a grace period was established with a goal of putting the search committee in place this fall. The reasons for doing so were to give the congregation time to pray, to grieve, to reflect on its mission and values, and to ensure that the congregation is ready (in terms of congregational relations, stewardship, and spiritual health) in order to move forward in the search. This time would also allow us to address certain pastoral and leadership needs within the congregation, making space for individuals to consider affirming and growing in their faith by way of becoming a professing member (an act which would impact their role in elder elections and calling a minister) as well as conducting elder elections.
At Monday’s session meeting, the session decided it would postpone elder elections until the fall and establish a search committee this month. Session recognized that congregational life has been moving forward post-vacancy in a healthy way. Establishing a search committee now would provide opportunity to train the new committee and enable the committee to develop an action plan for gathering information over the summer to feed into a congregational analysis and church profile that will be circulated when we begin advertising the ministry position.
Note: Although we are prepared to move ahead in the establishment of a search committee, the search committee to be formed has much work to do before it can proceed to advertise the vacancy. When we have a completed profile – and assuming the preliminary work undertaken by the search committee continues to affirm the congregation is in a health position to move forward with a posting – the Interim Moderator – on session’s behalf – will seek Presbytery’s support in the fall to begin the search. If the congregational analysis and preliminary legwork undertaken by the search committee suggests that there are matters that need to be addressed before beginning a search, the session will revisit next steps and seek Presbytery’s counsel as appropriate.
All that being said, the session will meet on Wednesday, May 17 with the goal of establishing a search committee. What should a search committee look like?
- Members must be committed to discerning the voice of God speaking to us.
- A commitment to prayer is essential.
- Members should be objective (for example, perception should not be biased by previous pastor, personal agendas, etc.)
- Members should be individuals who not only care about the church and its future, but also wish to grow in faith (the search committee experience can be spiritually renewing)
- Members should be humble and teachable.
- Members must be discerning and diligent. The search committee is not evaluating only the candidates (the candidates are also evaluating the congregation). The committee must also examine the congregation to discern what sort of candidate is needed and they must be able to understand and the tell the story of the congregation, including its needs and its values.
- Members must be able to persevere as the search process takes take and commitment and can sometimes involve obstacles.
- The committee must have a balanced representation of gender, age, and ethnic mix, as well as nature of congregational ties (e.g., professing member adherent, relatively new, longer-term relationship with congregation, representation in congregational groups).
If you would like to be considered for the search committee, please speak with one of the elders.
As a congregation moving forward, your commitment is needed in these ongoing areas:
- Your faith example helps tell the story about your congregation’s values and ministry. Faithful worship, prayers, offerings of gifts and presence, fellowship building, and serving help make for healthy congregational life and relationship with God.
- Providing input into the congregational analysis that will help form the congregational profile to be circulated to prospective candidates.
- Pray for the formation of your pastoral search committee. Pray for patience and that we would all wait for God’s timing. Pray that all will have the mind of Christ and that decisions and behaviors will be faithful to the Word of God. Pray for wisdom to choose the right minister. Pray that God would prepare your minister and for the congregation that your new minister will leave. Pray for unity. Pray that we will conform to God’s will and experience the joy that God’s provision provides.
- Pray for spiritual direction. Even in transitions and waiting, there are opportunities for renewal. There are opportunities to prepare for a new chapter in ministry, just as we prepare for a marriage or birth. Now is a great time to be more intentional about nurturing stewardship needs, reflection on our ministry values, and growing in service.
I pray that this update will offer some insight and clarity.
May God bless us and guide us as we continue worshiping and serving.
Rev. Wendy MacWilliams