The Panoramic Journey
Among the important items I brought with me to Ebenezer in September, 2016, was this important resource, Temporary Shepherds: A Congregational Handbook for Interim Ministry. The author retells the experience on a 30-mile hike in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
“We came upon the perfect spot to set down our packs and catch our breath, a lookout point with a panoramic view. From this vantage point we could look back whence we had come, now several miles in the distance. We could also look out across a beautiful valley 2,000 feet below us, as well as toward our destination to the north where the massive Camel’s Hump beckoned. It was a moment which we could always remember—appreciating where we had been, enjoying where we were and anticipating where we were going.”
Isn’t that a great description of the interim journey you and I are sharing? Our perspective a year-and-a-third into it, though not from the vantage point of a mountain, is the same: (1) appreciating where we have been, (2) enjoying where we are, and (3) anticipating where we are going.
Before I arrived in mid-September, the congregation had said farewell to Pastor Brooks in July. It was important for the members of Ebenezer to come to a sense of “closure” with him as their pastor. Helpfully, in conversations I heard stories from Ebenezer’s past and what had been. The stories included times of struggle, and times of achievement and pride. The stories included decisions that were difficult to achieve, and accomplishments that spoke well of faith-hardiness. The stories included incidents in Pastor Brooks’ tenure, as well as in the tenures of his predecessors.
Most were telling me that Ebenezer had appreciation for where it had been in its long history, telling me the congregation understood the tenure of one pastor has its own uniqueness, its own memories, and becomes part of history.
The tenure of one pastor shapes the identity of Ebenezer for a time, but only for a time. And time moves on! You can now see that “appreciating where we have been” must move to “enjoying where we are.” “Where we are” is a time of coming together as a congregation in mission and ministry, reaching out to draw others to Christ. Ebenezer’s regular programs of faith formation, outreach and fellowship have faced challenges of “numbers,” but have served their purposes well and always with enthusiasm and commitment. Council and other expressions of lay leadership have been strong. Each worship service has been a thing of beauty. I see many smiling faces every day. We are enjoying where we are.
And now there is a faithful sense of “where we are going.” As a congregation we have experienced the time of interim as a journey towards who we will become. The excellent call committee is performing its function faithfully. Their work will lead them to recommend a candidate for the call to serve Ebenezer as its next pastor. The council will have the task of recommending the candidate to the congregation, which will then vote to call the next pastor to lead Ebenezer into its “God-preferred future.”
Barely out of the driveway, impatient children often ask, “Are we there yet?” Maturity is knowing that a journey takes place in careful steps of preparation, direction, safety, and arrival. The “destination” of the interim journey is the arrival of a new pastor. “Are we there yet?” No, but we’re making good progress!
That’s the panoramic view of the interim journey. I think it’s beautiful.
Pastor Mel Amundson,
Interim Senior Pastor