Monday, July 16, 2007

Transitions

As I've mentioned, I'm beginning a new appointment on September 1st. Both here in Oneida, and in Franklin Lakes, NJ, congregations are in a time of transition. This is only my second appointment, and so I don't have a lot of experience with transitioning between congregations, or entering a new appointment, and I have no direct experience of helping the congregation I'm leaving prepare for their own transition.

So far, of course, I've found my transition into Franklin Lakes to be very different from my transition into Oneida. So many factors make that the case, from the pastors I'm following to the transition policies and practices of the conferences, and certainly, because I'm not doing a typical July 1st move this time around. (Franklin Lakes is graciously spending two months without a pastor this summer while I heal from broken-ankle-repair-surgery - later, Oneida will have one month between my departure and my successor's arrival.)

Yesterday, I met with my successor for the first time - and for not the first time. Coming to Oneida as interim pastor is Rev. Carl Johnson, who just finished his term as (my) District Superintendent! So this transition is unusual too because he already knows a lot about St. Paul's from being their District Superintendent for seven years. How strange an experience! What do you tell the pastor following you about the congregation?

I've talked with lots of pastors about this - what do you tell? What do you leave out? What must the pastor coming in know up front, and what is better for her/him to learn when they arrive? Is it "less is more" or just "more is more"? I can see the benefits of both approaches or approaches in between. I believe you can never know a congregation really fully until you know a congregation - through relationship, through time spent working together. But you can get some ideas about a congregation, some clues, some starting points maybe.

I think as a pastor preparing to leave a congregation, I want my successor to know how precious St. Paul's is - how special they are. And I'm lucky, because he already knows that! I know that I was appointed to St. Paul's in part because of their warm reputation. They would be nurturing to a new, inexperienced pastor, my DS knew, and they would let me grow and let me be their pastor at the same time, a neat trick. And I have certainly heard from my predecessor in Franklin Lakes about what a special congregation I will find there. In his conversations with me, that's the underlying tone: "This is a special group of people that I cherish." I guess perhaps that is the best message to pass along through all transition experiences.

What have your transition experiences been like? As a lay person? A pastor? Outgoing? Incoming?
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