Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Back

After five years with little effective leadership, our church called a pastor who seemed to be ideal, and the implication from both the call committee and the candidate himself was that it was a done deal. The official call was extended --- the candidate declined!

The call committee got back to work, and this past Sunday announced the name of a new candidate --- the pastor who had served the congregation five years ago!

This was a big surprise to most of us, and my first reaction was that we can't go back to the past, even if that was good. This pastor was with the congregation for a long time and was successful and well-liked. When he left, many of us felt a bit abandoned. We got over it and moved forward though a year of an interim pastor, two+ years of a pastor who had many brilliant talents but no administrative ability, and now we're near the end of a one and a half year interim pastor. When our ideal candidate turned us down, we felt rejected all over again, and the prospect of spending another year, with a third iterim pastor, going through the search for another candidate, was very discouraging.

What the call committee and the church council have come up with looks good on paper. Our old pastor is nearing retirement age. He has brought his present congregation to a point where they need an energetic long-term pastor to guide them through a massive building project (a high-rise, city-center building in collaboration with a developer). We need a short-term, experienced pastor who can stabilize the congregation, begin to move us forward again, and help us to find the right long-term pastor. It looks like a good fit.

But I have negative feelings I can't quite understand. It may be the realization that we can't go back to our previous relationship. Both the pastor and the individuals in the congregation have gone through independent experiences, and none of us are the same people we were five years ago. Or maybe I am disappointed that we won't have the exhilaration of getting to know a brand new pastor and having high expectations --- at least for awhile. Or maybe I'm still nursing a tiny grudge that this pastor left us five years ago.

My mind tells me we can make this work. There will be adjustments on both sides, but at the moment, everyone is open and flexible. We'll see what happens.

I have a couple of trips coming up that are also about going back. The end of May, I'll return to Ohio for a sentimental journey. Since we sold our parents' house last summer, this will be the first time I'll visit my home town without a home to go to. Next week I'll be in Los Angles, visiting places we knew when we lived in the area 45 years ago, but also exploring new places. I plan to blog that trip, so stay tuned.


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