I interrupted my pastoral letter series on “Steps in Good-bye” to share my challenging health news. Your cards, letters, flowers and words of encouragement have been an amazing blessing. My family and I have felt surrounded in prayer and are grateful for our faith community. Today, I want to offer a third step in this process of transition.
Step Three: Creating Space for A New Pastoral Relationship
I recall an ancient Easter bit of wisdom that has been repeated in a variety of stories. A student and teacher are engaged in conversation. The student is excitedly sharing all of the things he knows on the present subject, while the teacher listens. The teacher offers the student a cup of tea. As the teacher pours, the student continues to recite information until he notices the cup is full. The teacher continues to pour the tea until the hot water flows on the student’s hand and he withdraws the cup. The student points out that the cup is full. To which the teacher responds: “Exactly, your cup is so full, you have no room to learn.”
Welcoming a new pastor means making space for a new relationship. If we are so full of ideas, information, agendas… then we have no room to receive the person, gifts and imagination of this new member of our family. We will certainly have ideas about how things should continue, what things should change or directions we should take. That is natural. But the conversations will evolve over time and are secondary to the relationship of appreciation, care and respect.
I know in my ministry, the least helpful thing I heard upon arrival at a new church was, “Rev. XXX did it this way.” Now there are times a pastor seeks to understand what a congregation is used to, how special traditions are celebrated… In response to a request, information is helpful.
New pastors want to hear where you are growing in your faith journey, what has nurtured you and the areas where you are hoping to grow. As Rev. Sturgess arrives, he will also be seeking to build a relationship with your Leadership Team, not only to understand the mission, direction and ministries of the church, but to build the spirit connections and working relationships within which his ministry will develop. Communicating with your Leadership Team is an effective means to share in building that future together.
Finally, make space to enjoy your new pastor’s gifts. Enjoy refreshing differences without feeling disloyal to the past. Look for ways to be affirming. Express appreciation. Reserve judgment, and allow for a time to discover new channels of the Spirit. Lift up your pastor in prayer.
May the Spirit attend you in the exciting adventure of faith ahead.
Pastor Mark Ulrickson