As you are hopefully aware by now, you will have opportunity to meet the candidate for call to be pastor of Good Shepherd at a Meet and Greet between services on September 8. The congregational meeting will take place after one worship service on September 15.
My last Sunday as you Interim Pastor will also be September 8. I will formally begin my duties as Interim Pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church in Nevada, Iowa the following day, September 9.
Everybody knows you need a pastor. But what do you need a pastor for? As you know, I preached on that very subject the day your call committee was installed back in March. As you anticipate calling a new pastor, I thought it would be good to revisit that question.
Pastors serve the congregation and the wider church through a specific office. It’s called the Office of the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Pastors don’t come into that office by their choice alone. They are called to that office both by God and by the church. They are called to be pastors of a specific congregation by that congregation. They are called by the synod or the churchwide expression when they serve in a specialized setting. For example, my call to interim ministry comes from the Synod Council.
All Ministers of Word and Sacrament are called to preach the Word, administer the sacraments of baptism and holy communion, and provide pastoral care. In congregational settings they officiate at weddings, funerals and various other rites such as affirmation of baptism (confirmation). Most pastors assume a teaching role of one kind or another. The ELCA also expects pastors to encourage qualified persons to consider service as a pastor or deacon, to impart knowledge about the ministries of the wider church, to witness to the Reign of God in the community, nation and world, and to call for justice and proclaim God’s love in the world. All of the above are roles we associate with the pastoral office.
But that list ignores one other critical role of the pastor in the congregation. The pastor leads the people of God in articulating and living out the congregation’s mission. Healthy congregations focus on their mission; the unique ministry to which God has called it. And healthy congregations expect their pastor to be in conversation with them about that mission, and to organize them to fulfill that mission. That’s a bit different from the unhealthier places where pastors are expected to be no more than peacekeepers responsive to the wishes of members alone.
It’s my hope and prayer that the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd will focus on its’ mission in partnership with a new pastor. May God bless you as you begin a new relationship with a new clergy leader.
Duane E. Miller
Interim Pastor (through September 8)