"Our historic urban church was at a crossroads, as many urban churches have been. There was a division in the congregation between older and younger members. Older members had fond memories from when they were young adults in the 1950s of a prestigious, country-club-like family church. Newer members were mostly young urban professionals, many single, interested in social justice issues.
"We all fell victim to the heresy of consumerism, thinking that the religion ought to change itself to suit our desires, when in fact we should have been willing to be transformed by God. Now that I look back on it, I can see that we basically left God out of the process.
"In the end, the younger generation's candidate was elected. But unwilling to accept defeat, the older generation schemed to have the election invalidated. The poor young pastor who had been elected had already announced his resignation to his other congregation. He was left in a horribly embarrassing position.
"Many years later now, the parish in question is a struggling shadow of its former self. However, the young pastor was called to another parish in a nearby diocese, where I am now a member, along with my best friend from the staff of that other place. Our new parish is vibrant, with a congregation who warmly embrace all who come through the door; it is better than it could ever have been at the former parish."
"I was on a search committee last year. My advice...give the Holy Spirit lots of room to work. Pray and pray and pray for your new candidate. I believe God has already chosen the person and the search will be a time of discernment for all involved."
Choosing a Bad Preacher
"Some years ago our Unitarian Universalist church needed a new minister. The Search Committee did all the legwork, then invited their nominee to meet the congregation and give two sermons. They were pretty awful sermons, dry, boring, like term papers! Little did I know that this candidate had already been decided upon by the Search Committee (i think this is true in most UU churches). The vote was a mere formality... He has turned out to be a fine minister in other ways, but he still can't preach his way out of a paper bag!"
"Somtimes it seems after unending searches thru bible-college lists, letters mailed out and many hours searching thru the resumes submitted that there are lots of good candidates, but if you are in the position of living in a rural area with limited resources, the candidates with the best qualifications are not available to you. That leaves you with choosing from those willing to work for less... The young people are looking for youth oriented. The "mature" people are looking for someone like they always had. Some churches call for a very high percentage affirmitive vote to call a minister. It seems like it can go on for ever.
"Recently I have been a member of a church where I am not in the inner circle. They went thru this for over a year. Finally the chairman of the board got tired of looking and actually went before the congregation and declared that the candidate was going to be selected. It was a very poor choice and has actually split the church. That board member is no longer attending church and It is a real challange to re-instill any kind of confidence in our church in my small rural community. It takes lots of faith and love and christian committment by those left to get it back."
No Such Thing as a 'Perfect' Pastor
"I am not trying to be facetious but when has anyone found the 'perfect' pastor?... Truth of the matter is...that there are none. Pastors are men just like the rest of us.
"We ought to remember that the next time we expect him to perform perfectly. Time spent criticizing him might be better spent in prayer for the awesome task he performs. He is simply a person who has a devine call trying to the best of his ability to carry out his commission. Many times he makes mistakes. Most of the time he does a good job.
"I am a member of a church that has 'run off' 3 out of the last 4 pastors it has had. Most of the stuff that they were discharged for was ridiculous. We have a 'reputation' among ministers of our faith...that we can not keep a pastor. I am thoroughly digusted with the deacons whose responsibility it is in our denomination to try and work dificulties out with the pastor. They have failed to do their job and the whole church suffers. They have 'fought' or opposed the pastor over minor differences. The church that follows that course of action loses its 'witness' among the 'lost'...or unbelievers.
"I still hold membership there but my wife and I have not been attending...we have been looking around for somewhere else to worship. But you know something...it seems to be common now days to 'run the pastor off for the stupidest things'. We are really disgusted with the whole business. It seems those in authority...namely the deacons simply do not have a clue to the damage they do not only to the pastor and his family but also to others in the congregation."
A Painful Loss
"We've been through three search processes since I've been at St. Peter's. Each time we've had an interim who was not to be considered a candidate for the rectorship. The process of calling a new rector took about a year which was good in many ways.
"Our bishop usually gives us a choice of three or four candidates once we're ready to begin actual meetings with and have visitations from prospective clergy. It's painful losing a rector who's been in place for a long time." --mumcat37
"I would urge that your parish have an interim rector, and that your interim period be at least 10 months. Since you are losing a longtime, much beloved rector, this period of "separation" is necessary in order that whoever becomes your next rector is able to function without being in the shadow of the previous rector. This interim period will be invaluable for your parish to go through a discernment process -- where have you been, where to you want to go, who is the right person to take you there? There are priests who specialize in interim ministry and dealing with the issues that always come up, e.g., conflicts which may have lay dormant under Beloved Past Rector have a way of popping up to the surface, often with no warning, after BPR has left. Priests who specialize in interim ministry know to anticipate these conflicts, and can help your parish work through and resolve these conflicts before they become unmanagable.
"Mum mentioned that the process in her parish took about a year. Personally, I think that's a good idea. Choosing a rector is a lot like a marriage -- the shotgun weddings have a high failure rate, and while "divorce" is possible, it would be at the expense of divisions in the parish, people leaving, withholding pledge $$$, etc. This is even more important when you're losing a rector who had a long, happy tenure."
"once the moving van arrives at the rectory, your rector is gone. History. I realize it sounds harsh, but I have seen situations where a previous rector still shows up for services, officiates at weddings, etc. Not only is the new rector having to deal with even more of the previous rector's "ghost," but when there is conflict with the new rector (and there will be the inevitable comparisons-always unfavorable to the new rector) disgruntled parishioners will want to bend the ear of the previous rector. This is not to say the previous rector cannot maintain friendships with individual parisihoners, but those friendships should be maintained discreetly. Most priests understand this, and will maintain that professional distance after their departure. Probably the best example of this was the rector of my church when I was growing up. When he announced his impending retirement in a pastoral letter, he lovingly but firmly told his parishoners that while he loved them and would continue to pray for them, he would not be hanging around any more, nor would he be available to officiate at weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. He told his flock that it was time for them to move on to a new priest."
No Two Clergypeople Are the Same
"I would also suggest that you be very aware that the new person will have his or her own strengths and weaknesses, different from the one you have now. Don't think of this as an opportunity to get A, B or C that the previous guy didn't have. They new guy will have his own As, Bs and Cs...don't expect all the good stuff the old guy had to come automatically. It just doesn't happen. I know that sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many folks are disappointed because it doesn't.
"I served on the search committee that brought the current pastor to my previous church. A great match, he's been there almost 11 years and has done miraculous things."