One year ago today, I started an Interim Ministry appointment at the Elmsdale Pastoral Charge. The United Church of Canada defines Interim Ministry in this way, “When a congregation cannot continue its mission as usual, interim ministry is a way to take an intentional “time out” to seek renewal and make a significant change in its organizational structure, its mission, or its pastoral life.” It is my first Interim Ministry appointment and I undertook it with anticipation, excitement and a bit of trepidation! I have always had a love of transformation and change and the Interim Ministry Training program cemented that. But what has been the most helpful in this past year, is the Atlantic Jubilee Program in Spiritual Deepening and Guidance that I have been involved in for the past 4 years. It is through what I learned and practiced in that program, and continue to practice, more than anything else, that has helped me stay connected to the sacred and and remain non-anxious in the midst of anxiety.
We celebrated Epiphany on that first Sunday and I passed out ‘star words’ to all who were gathered that morning. To check out how the star words were used this year, check out this post. The star I drew was ‘daring.’ It seemed very appropriate for the beginning of a new ministry, especially an interim ministry. I taped the star to the tape dispenser on my desk where I could see it frequently.
I am not sure of how much impact it had, but I do know that on more than one occasion, as I pondered something that I was going to propose that was outside of the norms of these two very different congregations, I looked at that word and said to myself, “This is exactly why you have been appointed here, part of your role is to challenge some norms.” With the support of a great Transition Team, a wise mentor and supportive colleagues, the two congregations, who are very different from each other, have demonstrated their capacity to engage, change and grow. I have thought of myself as a midwife, helping the pastoral charge through labor pains. I have thought of myself as a gardener, planting seeds that will bear fruit in the future. I have thought of myself as a fellow pilgrim, seeking to follow Jesus more faithfully.
I hope that my daring has been firmly based on my understanding of Jesus’ ministry, where he dared much, accomplished much and suffered much. A key Biblical passage has been from Matthew 14, where Jesus walks on water, the disciples are afraid and Jesus reassures them with these words, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
My star word for 2017 is understanding. My hope is that as we enter the more challenging work of the Interim Ministry, as we embark on changes that are both logistical and transformational, that out capacity to be understanding and compassionate with each other continues to increase as we follow the star.