Where We Are in the Process
April 7, 2013 PNC Report
The PNC is pleased to report that we have completed our team visits to observe our finalist pastors in their home congregations. Rather than select only two or three for in-depth interviews, we have decided to bring four of them here so that the whole committee may participate in face-to-face discussions. These visits will occur over the next month.
Because of this schedule, we must also tell you that we will probably bring our nominee before the congregation for your approval later than we had hoped. Our best-case target date for this congregational meeting, God willing, is mid-June: and this is best-case, assuming that all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in the most timely manner possible, so it could well be longer.
Despite this delay we know that it is better for us to take this extra time to aid in our discernment rather than rush our decision. We will continue to work diligently and listen carefully for God’s leading as we meet with our finalists. We ask for your continued patience as we finish the task you have set for us – and for your prayers, for us and for our candidates, their families, and their congregations.
It is especially important to preserve the confidentiality of our discussions at this stage of our search, so we cannot give any further details of our finalists’ visits, or our progress in the process; but you can be sure that when we have news for you (and we hope it will be good news!), we will share it as quickly as we can.
February 3, 2013 PNC Report
Since you elected us last April, your Pastor Nominating Committee, or PNC, has been hard at work in a careful process of spiritual discernment to identify and call our next head of staff. In the PC(USA), the process of calling a pastor is a three-way partnership between our church, through the PNC; our Presbytery, through its Committee on Ministry; and the pastor who is chosen from among many candidates to receive our call. All of us have been earnestly seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit throughout this journey.
Today we can report that we have narrowed our search to four finalists. These individuals include both men and women and are diverse in their ages, backgrounds, and experience.
We have arrived at this point after first writing our Church Information Form based upon the results of our Mission Study and then gaining approval by both Session and the Committee on Ministry. We received responses for over 170 potential candidates and carefully reviewed each individual’s Personal Information Form. We progressively narrowed this pool to arrive at a final group of fifteen candidates, as we reported to you in early November. Since then, we have listened to three to six sermons, and interviewed up to six references, for each candidate. Based upon the results of these efforts, we conducted videoconference interviews as a committee with eleven of the candidates before ultimately deciding upon our finalists.
Our selection criteria have been drawn directly from the Mission Study: we are looking for a person that provides compelling preaching and has the ability to create inspiring worship experiences; possesses a heart of extraordinary compassion and pastoral care; has a drive to reach out to young adults, families, and youth; shows a vision for stewardship that encompasses time and talent in addition to treasure; and has demonstrated a skill for team building and leadership for both staff and laypeople. Of course each of these candidates is unique, and none of them is perfect, which is why the committee is relying upon the Holy Spirit to guide us as we weigh these decisions.
Our next step is to send teams to visit these four pastors in their home congregations over the next few weeks to observe their worship services and hear them preach in person. Following these visits, we will select two or three to bring here for in-depth interviews before deciding upon who to call. All of our candidates are outstanding pastors, so these decisions will be difficult for us.
When we do decide to extend a call, the pastor we have chosen will in turn have to decide whether he or she feels truly called by God to this church. It is possible that our sense of call will not be mutual; in that case, the Pastor Nominating Committee may decide to offer the call to another of our finalists.
Once our call is accepted, the candidate and the PNC will meet with the Committee on Ministry to review the suitability of the call and the pastor’s membership in Presbytery. The Committee on Ministry will then authorize Session to convene a congregational meeting for the PNC to present the nominee and the congregation to vote on the call.
After the congregation has approved the call, our new head of staff will need to give appropriate notice of their departure to their current congregation and arrange their move. Typical times range from four to up to twelve weeks. This will be one of the points that the PNC will negotiate with our nominee, with the aim of having him or her come on board as quickly as feasible given their individual circumstances.
We know that your most pressing question is, “When will you be finished?” Understanding that many tasks remain which are not within our control, our best projection is that we will be in a position to bring forward a nominee for the congregation’s approval in the late April to mid–May timeframe. Assuming you approve of the call, and taking into account the need of our new head of staff to give appropriate notice, this means that we will likely welcome our new pastor sometime in the mid-June to early July period. With Mike’s retirement set for early May, Session is developing plans to call an interim associate pastor who will continue on after the new head of staff arrives. If needed, following the end of Charlie’s contract, Session could secure additional temporary pulpit supply and pastoral care for a short period.
We can assure you that the PNC will continue to diligently work through the necessary tasks so that when God's leading is clear we are ready to act. The members of the PNC are also bound by our commitment to confidentiality to protect information about our process and the candidates we have been considering. So while we ask for your continued patience as we finish the task you have set for us, we also ask for your understanding when it may seem as though we are not providing full information.
The PNC is very much aware that this process can be tiring and trying for all of us as we wait. We can't help but notice that Lent is quickly approaching, that part of the liturgical year when we remember Christ’s time spent in the wilderness being tempted. We realize that this time here at OPPC can feel like we are in a similar wilderness time and we are being tempted. We may be getting tired of the whole process and are tempted to get angry. We may be frightened by all the “what if’s” and tempted to give up. Things feel weird right now, and we may be tempted to avoid all the strangeness of this “in-between” time and just stay home until the new pastor is here. Suffice it to say, change is hard.
The Good News is that God has promised to finish the good work He has begun in us. We can rely fully on Him at this critical point in the life of our church family. Let's commit to staying alert for the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to resist the temptation to grow anxious or weary. Let's lift each other up in prayer, word, and deed as God is about to do a new and exciting thing in our family of faith. Let's make ourselves ready to embrace with open arms this new chapter in our life together.
We have not arrived at this point in time by accident. We are here because it is God's will, God's plan for this congregation and for each of us. We ask you to earnestly pray with us that God will continue to prepare us – and the person He has chosen for us – so that we all will be ready when our call comes.