Pastoral Transition

Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ is in a period of transition as we seek a new pastor following the retirement of our Senior Pastor, The Rev. Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel in June 2023. As our Pastor, friend, and confidant, as we enter into this perfectly normal time of transition, we are grateful for her time with us and the many positive contributions she has made to each of us, to our families, and to our community. Pastor Daniel’s 17 years among us have been very significant for our congregation.

The tradition practiced in the United Church of Christ of “calling” a pastor affirms the active presence of God’s Spirit in the search process. We will prayerfully seek a pastor with particular gifts and skills while recognizing that candidates are also engaged in a Spirit-led discernment process. We will keep you informed on a regular basis as we move toward God’s future as a congregation.

From the Pastor’s Desk

8 February 2024

 

Greetings Friends

After a full month of shared ministry and wrapping our minds around the fact that ours is an interim journey, some church participants may be wondering, when we might begin to see and hear more activity specifically related to the Interim Process. I wholeheartedly appreciate the patience all of you have shown as we have used the initial month of January as a settling-in period. It has provided some much-needed time for me to listen to some of your stories and to share a few of my own. I pray we can all agree that sharing our stories represents one of the most helpful ways to become better acquainted as a faith community.

Some among us have acknowledged that there remain some lingering grief-related issues that will require the passage of time, possibly a prolonged amount of time before they are fully handled, in ways that may no longer impact our lives and the decisions we make from week to week. I am convinced, beyond all doubt, that we serve a God who will continue to stand with us as we begin to envision who God is calling this congregation to be now and to contemplate the gifts for ministry you hope to find in the new Settled Pastor, whom God has already prepared to serve ERUCC during it’s next chapters of exciting ministry.

The time has come to identify a core group of church participants to serve on our Transition Team (the T Team). At the risk of sounding “bookish” I will share with you the same understandings that I’ve shared with my Interim Ministry students over the past several years. We need your help identifying the church participants to serve on the T Team at Fellowship immediately following worship on Sunday, March 3. Please take a few minutes to carefully review the following data, regarding the nature of a Transition Team and the services they will provide. I will share more about this key group during Fellowship on March 3.

[See the attached Sample Ballot that will be used on March 3]

 

The Transition Team

The Transition Team is one of the key components of the Intentional Interim Ministry process. In fact, it is arguably the single most important element. The Team is …

  1. a group of trusted individuals selected by the congregation to guide the interim process
  2. a group of spiritually wise leaders; individuals that members would go to (other than clergy) if they were confused about deep questions of faith
  3. representative of the entire congregation (a microcosm of ERUCC)
  4. a critical component in the process because it communicates that this is the congregation’s work and not simply that of the interim pastor
  5. a model to the congregation in looking for God’s movement among the people as they seek to discover God’s will, purpose and direction for the future of the congregation
  6. the Intentional Interim Minister’s primary accountability group
  7. the group who determines when the congregation is ready to activate a Pastoral Search/Call Committee
  8. a new group with a new life [These functions SHOULD NOT be assigned to any currently existing leadership group.]

This last point (#8) is particularly important. It would be much quicker and easier to simply take an existing group such as the Governing Board (the Consistory) or Interim Search Committee and ask them to serve as the Transition Team. However, there are a number of downsides to such an approach, and these will become evident (as we move forward).

 

Objectives

The Transition Team has several objectives that help the Team accomplish their work. They …

  1. become a safe, trusting, and open group where members can share their disappointments and concerns
  2. customize the Intentional Interim Ministry process and activities to fit their particular congregation’s needs
  3. lead the interim process while other leaders continue the ongoing leadership functions of “running” the faith community
  4. are responsible to recommend to the congregation the activation of a Pastor Search/Call Committee
  5. become a safeguard in two respects:
  • the Team facilitates the congregation’s engagement of the transition work rather than the interim minister doing the work for the congregation
  • the Team prevents the interim minister from being perceived as extending the transition time for his/her own personal benefit.

 

So, What Does the T Team Do?

When the team is formed, trained and ready to do their work, what does that look like on a week-to-week basis?

Actually, there is no way to provide a step-by-step schedule for the team to follow because every congregation is unique in how they function and what they need in order to move into the future in a healthy way. However, a few “universal” points can be made.

  1. The team is established to lead the congregation through the five focus points (Heritage, Mission, Leadership, Connections, and Future). So, the team’s first job is to determine the order they believe is appropriate for their particular needs.
  2. The team will then “design” the way they will engage the congregation to participate in each of these five areas of church health. This will take the form of congregational gatherings, table talks, surveys, skits, interviews, cottage meetings, meals, and any other methods of data sharing and collection the team finds valuable – using methods to which the team knows the congregation will respond. There will be different venues: breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, evening gatherings, weekday and weekend meetings. The bottom line is to discern: how will people participate and when will they come?
  3. Once information is gathered, the team reports back to the congregation, revealing what they have heard the congregation saying, and inviting any corrections and/or additions.
  4. The team then decides if they have reached the anticipated outcomes for a particular focus point. If so, they are ready to decide how to approach the next one. If not, they must decide what else needs to be done to address the particular focus point.
  5. At times, the gathered information leads the team to make suggestions as to things they think will help the congregation change their way of operating or address issues raised by the membership. It is important to stress that the T Team is not a new policy-making group. Therefore, they may make “recommendations” but only the congregation or its elected leaders can ultimately act on those recommendations.
  6. As the team conducts its work, it is extremely valuable to have someone on the team write an on-going narrative relative to each of the Focus Points. That narrative would outline the purpose of that area of concentration, what the congregation did to address it, any recommendations made by the team, and any action that has been taken by the leadership and/or congregation. This information may become an excellent addition to the local church profile.
  7. Once the Search and Call Committee is activated, trained, and begins their search, the transition team will take a hiatus. However, many congregations have found it beneficial to have the transition team to remain in place to help implement and/or oversee, any new recommendations that have been approved by the congregation.

Dr. Marvin L. Morgan, Interim Senior Pastor

Three words are associated with the interim period in a congregation:1 change, transition, and transformation.

 

CHANGE can be defined as the inevitable movement of life’s forces. Inevitable means it will happen, and movement means we will become different. This is true for churches as well as individuals. In fact, for a faith community, the interim period between senior clergy is when change becomes most obvious. We can choose to resist it, fight it, be angry about it, or even deny it, but change will occur; we will become different as life progresses. It is natural for
a congregation to find themselves grappling with the concept of change – especially during the interim time.

TRANSITION is the process by which individuals and congregations deal with change. The late William Bridges, a leading professional on transition, states, “When change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs.” So, we find ourselves asking, “What are the options?” “What can be done to create the best opportunity to handle change healthily?”

Another way of understanding the relationship between change and transition is that change is situational, but transition is psychological. So, it is not change that we resist. We resist the losses and endings that come with transition. With every change, a piece of somebody’s world is being lost.

TRANSFORMATION is the new shape that grows out of this time of transition. Transformation results from individuals and congregations managing change and transition and dealing with the losses and endings. Transformation gives the church new life, possibilities, and energy as the people claim their place and purpose in God’s Kingdom.

The presence of these three elements – change, transition, transformation – is why the interim time in a church is often called a “wilderness journey.” Three biblical characters come to mind when thinking about the wilderness journey.

The Exodus story is about what happened during the 40 years the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness. The story is about transitioning from the end of one experience (slavery) to the beginning of another experience/setting (freedom). In the process of going from Egypt to the Promise Land, the people are seeking, discovering, and clarifying God’s will, direction, and movement in their lives. During the journey, they often move off course. This
is where Moses makes his major contribution — he continues to redirect them and challenge them to refocus their energy on God’s glory.

John the Baptist is the second biblical character that comes to mind when thinking about a wilderness journey. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that this individual came to prepare the way for Jesus. John has a purpose. He believes God has given him the responsibility of pointing people to Jesus. He moves about in the wilderness with a consistent and urgent message. Others try to redirect him, and Jesus even confuses him by asking John to baptize him. Nevertheless, throughout the journey, John continues seeking, discovering, and clarifying God’s will, direction, and movement.

The third person who comes to mind is Jesus himself. Also, in the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that Jesus is led off into the wilderness early in his ministry. He spends 40 days and 40 nights in prayer and fasting. He is earnestly seeking, discovering, and clarifying God’s will, direction, and movement. This is not a simple task and does not come without challenge and pain. Jesus is confronted by Satan and tempted to go in a direction other than that ordained by God. Jesus emerges from the wilderness, but not before he has clarity about what God calls him to be and do.

Notice that Moses dealt with change and transition but not transformation. He led the people through the process of dealing with those inevitable movements of life’s forces, but he did not get to see the new shape that takes place. Moses did not enter into the Promise Land. It would not be incorrect to say that “Moses was the interim leader.” He helped the people become clear about their purpose. He helped them to rethink their relationship with God
and how that would impact their future. It was after his work was completed that the permanent leader emerged.

John the Baptist announced the change that was going to take place and introduced the transition that would have to happen for transformation to occur. Before the transformation really took hold, however, John was put to death. Those who objected to his message of change fought against him. They wanted to keep things the way they were. They were afraid of what would happen to their traditions. They were comfortable with who they were and
heard John’s messages as a threat. Like Moses, “John was also an interim leader.” His purpose was to encourage the transition that was required in order to transform the world. He was not the light; he only pointed to the light.

Jesus, on the other hand, dealt with change. He dealt with transition. And Jesus also dealt with transformation. Yet, the transformation also cost him his life.

You (the members and friends of ERUCC) can only transition through change and experience transformation if you give up the old and take on the new. In Matthew 9:17, Jesus is credited with saying, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

This time period called the “interim” provides congregations an opportunity to put new wine into the fresh wineskins. It gives a faith community the chance to leave behind the behaviors and attitudes that keep them focused on the past instead of the present and the future. It is a time when the people can objectively decide what meaningful parts of their history, tradition and practice will continue to be carried with them and what will be left behind.

Interim ministry also is about seeking effective ways to organize for ministry and recruit, train and develop new leadership. It involves assessing the way decisions are made in the church and determining if there are more inclusive ways to handle these tasks. This is a time to look at how the members of the congregation relate to one another, the surrounding neighborhood, and the wider church. Finally, this is a time for a congregation to discover their
identity apart from the pastor of the church. This is an opportunity to develop a vision that will help meet the spiritual needs of members and enhance their ministry beyond themselves. With this kind of clarity, the congregation can find a new leader who will help them to follow what THEY believe to be God’s will, direction and purpose.

You will hear more and I will say a lot more about The Five Focus Points:

HERITAGE, MISSION, LEADERSHIP, CONNECTIONS and FUTURE

Dr. Marvin L. Morgan, Interim Senior Pastor


1We are indebted to Warren Schulz for introducing us to the distinction of these three words. (Nicholson, Roger S. Temporary Shepherds: A Congregational Handbook for Interim Ministry. Alban, 1998, p. 121.)

NOTE: Content for the above article is used with permission, and adapted from Interim Ministry Course teaching resources, edited by Les B. Robinson, PhD, a faculty consultant, and co-instructor with Marvin L. Morgan, D. Min., The Center for Congregational Health, Division of FaithHealth, Wake Forest University, Baptist Medical Center.

From the Pastor’s Desk – The Meaning of Sankofa

25 January 2024

 

While initiating an “interim journey” within a congregation, it has been helpful to begin with a preliminary step, an important first step that requires support and engagement by ALL church participants. This communication is limited to the introduction of a word that we pray all of us will come to love and appreciate, during the coming weeks and months. Many of you may already be familiar with the word, “SANKOFA” (pronounced SAHN-koh-fah). One of the best ways to explain Sankofa is to review the ways it is symbolized.

What is Sankofa?

Among the world’s continents, Africa stands out as one deeply rooted and rich in cultural heritage, beliefs, and languages. The Sankofa symbol emerged from one such language, which is the Twi (pronounced Tree) language of the Akan people of Ghana.

The word, Sankofa, translated from the Twi language to English, means “to return and get it.” SAN translates “to return;” KO translates “to go;” FA translates “to look, seek and take.” It is used in connection to the Adinkra symbol, which is depicted by a bird flying with its head facing backward, a precious egg held in its beak, and its legs facing forward. An alternate symbol is a stylized heart.

Sankofa is often expressed in the Akan language as sewo were fi nawosankofa a yenki. Which means it is not an abomination to return and take what you forgot. In line with the Sankofa symbol and the illustrated bird depiction, the Sankofa teaches that to record successes and move forward, we have to return to our roots.

In other words, Sankofa translates to gathering good lessons learned in our past and using them to achieve future goals. I hasten to add that this is different from being fixated on the past and resting on our laurels. In the true spirit of Sankofa, the sole purpose of looking back is to inform the present and to help shape a new, yet to be experienced, future. Therefore, each of these symbols show the relevance of lessons learned in the past and how these lessons are useful for future achievements and developments.

Finally, the Sankofa bird symbol also subtly illustrates the importance of family as most of the lessons that form the bedrock of a person’s life are learned at home or among a group of people that are regarded as family.

Peace be with you now and always.

Dr. Marvin L. Morgan, Interim Senior Pastor

From the Pastor’s Desk

18 January 2024 – What is the Interim Journey

 

Last week’s thoughts ended with the phrase: “However, effective and meaningful, change also requires “transition” and it is the “transitions” that many congregations struggle to embrace.”

Three key and significant words are associated with the interim period in a congregation:(1) change, transition, and transformation.

Change can be defined as the inevitable movement of life’s forces. To say change is “inevitable” means it is going to happen, and it also means we will become different. This is true for churches as well as individuals. In fact, for a faith community, the interim period between senior clergy is the time that change becomes most obvious. We can choose to resist it or fight it or be angry about it or even deny it, but change is going to occur; we are going to become different as life progresses. It is very natural, then, for a congregation to find themselves grappling with the concept of change – especially during the interim time.

Transition is the process by which individuals and congregations deal with change. The late William Bridges, a leading professional on the topic of transition states, “When change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs.” So we find ourselves asking, What are the options? What can be done that will create the best opportunities to handle change in healthy and constructive ways?

Another way of understanding the relationship between change and transition is that change is situational, but transition is psychological. So, it is not change that we resist. We resist the losses and endings that come with transition. With every change, a piece of somebody’s world is being lost. For example, several members of ERUCC have already said to your interim pastor, “We no longer have our beloved, long-term pastor anymore. She used to … with us.” And, “Pastor ______ would always do …!” These are normal expressions of grief, and it is far better to hear you express your grief than to have you suppress it. A key part of my job as interim pastor is to help you enable you to openly express your feelings.

Transformation is the third key word. Transformation is the new shape that grows out of this time of transition. Transformation is the result of individuals and congregations managing change and transition and dealing with the losses and endings. Transformation is what gives the church new life, new possibilities, and new energy as the people claim their place and purpose in God’s Kingdom.

The presence of these three elements – change, transition, transformation – is why the interim time in a church often is referred to as a “wilderness journey.”

Dr. Marvin L. Morgan, Interim Senior Pastor

From the Pastor’s Desk

11 January 2024

 

I greet you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

What an honor it is to be invited to serve as your Intentional Interim Pastor. Another phrase that’s used to define clergy who are trained to provide the services I hope to provide with you, is “Temporary Shepherds.” As lovely as the City of Frederick, Maryland is, and it is a beautiful city, I am not here to stay and the interim journey we’ve been “bridged” into by a group of highly capable supply preachers is not about me. This interim journey belongs to you. 

And, although ours is not a settled-pastor relationship, the interim time we will spend together is extremely important. You have chosen to embrace an incredible journey that’s designed to enable the congregation to answer three very important questions:

Who are we NOW?

Who is God calling you to become? 

And, finally, when you are ready to begin a search for a Settled Pastor, Who has God already prepared for you to call? Who among available pastoral candidates is most able to help you to embrace the sustainable future that YOU will have identified?

  • The ancient Philosopher, Heraclitus – In his Theory of Flux or Theory of CHANGE said the only thing in life that is constant is “change”.
  • The well-known philanthropist, Warren Buffet – on one occasion was asked to comment on the key to his enduring success, responded with a single word, that he repeated three times. He said: “Innovate, innovate, innovate.”
  • Now, ERUCC, if “change” is constantly occurring in the world around us, and if innovation has proven to be a key to long-term sustainability and success, does this not suggest the possible need for church participants to open their hearts and minds to the possible need for some changes to occur from one pastoral administration to the next? What we will discover as we journey together is that change is happening and will continue to happen and there is not much we can do about it. Change is an inevitable part of our lives. However, effective and meaningful change also requires “transition” and it is the “transitions” that many congregations struggle to embrace. [TO BE CONTINUED next week.]

I trust and pray God will bless us, as we work and journey together through this important period of transition.

Dr. Marvin L. Morgan, Interim Senior Pastor

A Presentation to the Intentional Interim Minister Search Committee

Fall 2023

 

A Proposed Intentional Interim Ministry (IIM) Process – (18 to 24 Months)

Introduction: (A Brief Overview)

The story of the significance of the “journey in the wilderness” has been with us since Moses led the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to their new home, The Promised Land.

Present day congregations can reenact this powerful biblical story through the process of intentional interim ministry.  This potent time provides the congregation with the same challenges and opportunities which Moses and the Israelites encountered:

  • To leave behind any limiting behaviors and attitudes which keep a community looking toward its past and to decide which worthwhile aspects of history, tradition, and practice will be carried into the future.
  • To see more effective ways to organize for present ministry; to develop and incorporate new leadership; and to find more inclusive ways of making decisions.
  • To take a fresh look at who are the others on the journey with you and how you relate to one another, the neighborhood and community, and other partners in ministry.
  • To clarify your identity as the people of God and develop an energetic vision which will call the congregation to better meet the spiritual growth needs of its members to enhance their ministry, in surrounding communities and the world.

 

3 to 4 Months: Settling In, Getting Acquainted, Selecting and Training a Transition Team

  • An adjustment period for the congregation and the new intentional interim minister
  • Selection of Transition Team Members (members of this team should represent a broad cross section of the congregation) Extraordinary efforts should be made to include some people who may not be current church officers
  • Training Period for Transition Team
  • Transition Team Planning and Action Plan Development

 

3 to 4 Months: Focus Point #1 – HERITAGE [i]

  • Developing a healthy perspective on the service, leadership, and personality of all former minister(s). Carefully putting the tenure of the most recent pastor(s) in proper perspective
  • Exploring in an open manner the total history of the faith community
  • Learning from previous “watershed” events (both highs and lows) in the life of the faith community. Admitting what has not worked and honoring and celebrating what the congregation has accomplished.
  • Deciding what is important from the past that needs to be carried into the future, and what “excess baggage” should be left behind (This is a time to ask, what, if anything, prevents the congregation from venturing out and exploring new ways of being church.)
  • Encouraging an appropriate expression of feelings about the past that allows for grieving, accepting, and moving on
  • Managing conflict (if any) in productive ways

 

3 to 4 Months: Focus Point #2 – MISSION

  • Determining whether the faith community’s image of itself is realistic
  • Developing a new or renewed vision for the faith community
  • Seeing the interim period as an opportunity for renewal and growth
  • Helping the faith community see itself as an entity separate and apart from any pastor, thus separating the congregation’s identity from the personalities and leadership styles of former and future pastors
  • Managing conflict (if any) in productive ways

 

3 to 4 Months: Focus Point #3 – LEADERSHIP

  • Being explicit about lay leadership shifts. Recognizing burnout and dropout of leaders, honoring past leaders and finding ways to keep them involved
  • Considering future lay leadership needs and potentially expanding the leadership base
  • Reviewing the professional staffing needs (What is the right-sized staff for the current and emerging congregation.)
  • Learning about healthy, realistic and open decision-making processes and structures
  • Creating an atmosphere that honors and maximizes the opportunities of diversity in the faith community
  • Updating governing documents such as constitution, bylaws, covenants, job descriptions, policies and procedures
  • Managing conflicts (if any) in productive ways

 

3 to 4 Months: Focus Point #4 – CONNECTIONS

  • Clarifying the faith community’s theological position (or multiple positions)
  • Assessing denominational commitments and involvement
  • Examining the history of the relationship: dollars and trust
  • Developing a healthy partnership with the denominational (judicatory) office
  • Acknowledging the faith community’s tendency to see the denomination through a former pastor’s eyes
  • Becoming acquainted with denominational resources at local, conference and national levels
  • Reviewing relationships with other mission enterprises that are not directly related to the denomination
  • Managing conflict (if any) in productive ways

 

3 to 4 Months: Focus Point #5 – FUTURE

  • Developing wide ownership of, and excitement about, the shared vision for the future
  • Setting clear and shared expectations about the desired personal, professional, and leadership traits and skills of the new pastor you will be seeking
  • Selecting a Senior Pastor Search Committee and Launching the Search Process (Make regular appeals for patience and fervent prayers by all who are part of the Church Family)
  • If a new Senior Pastor is identified, begin bringing good closure of the interim period
  • Begin working on a clean exit for the Intentional Interim Pastor
  • Begin implementing meaningful installation and start-up plans for the newly identified Senior Pastor
  • Managing conflict (if any) in productive ways

[i] The primary congregation development steps used during this Intentional Interim Ministry process are taken or adapted, with permission, from the Center for Congregational Health’s Intentional Interim Ministry Training and Resource Notebook, copyright 2006, 4th Revision 2010.  B. Leslie Robinson, Jr., Editor

(Dr. Robinson is the teaching associate who serves with Dr. Marvin L. Morgan, when he teaches interim courses.)

November 2023

 

The Rev. Dr. Marvin L. Morgan

I am delighted to report that the Intentional Interim Call Committee has called Rev. Dr. Marvin L. Morgan to serve as ERUCC’s Intentional Interim Minister. This past Monday, ERUCC and Pastor Morgan signed the covenant guiding our collaboration over the upcoming 18 to 24 months. Pastor Morgan, who lives with his wife in Atlanta and whose home church is First Congregational Church in Atlanta, GA, will start living in Frederick on or near January 1 in order to lead our first Sunday service in January. He also plans to visit Frederick once or twice between now and January to find housing and begin to gain familiarity with Frederick.

The Call Committee reviewed Pastor Morgan’s profile, contacted his references, reviewed sermons he delivered at his current church, and had two Zoom interviews with him, one with just the Call Committee and a second with ERUCC staff.

Among his skills, knowledge, and aptitudes, our collective discernment is that Pastor Morgan:

  • Has deep experience as an Intentional Interim, having served in this role for seven congregations prior to his call to ERUCC, while prior to that, having served as a Settled Pastor, a Chaplain, a Theological School Administrator, and Teacher, and in other capacities;
  • Uses a rigorous congregational discernment and Settled Pastor call process, and in fact, teaches this process to others as part of his ministry to the broader Church;
  • Is a very caring person who has deep pastoral skills;
  • Is committed to social justice issues, including ERUCC being an Opening and Affirming and Creation Justice Church;
  • Understands the operational and fundraising needs that congregations have and has successfully navigated these roles in prior Intentional Interim and Settled Pastor settings;
  • Is a calm and comforting person who can provide feedback and tell truths in a gracious and caring manner;
  • Preaches sermons based on the Biblical text, which help shed new understandings on God’s message to us.

In addition to thanking Pastor Morgan for his discernment to serve with us at ERUCC, we owe thanks the Central Atlantic Conference Minister Rev. Freeman Palmer for identifying Pastor Morgan as a potential candidate and to Intentional Interim Call Committee members Ave Barr, Robin Cooney, Darryl Glick, Matt Hueting, Marc Kline, and Eric Weakley for their commitment of time and energy in discerning this Call, with added thanks to Will Duncan and Rodney Martin for participating in discussions about Pastor Morgan’s covenant with ERUCC.

I praise God that the Holy Spirit connected Pastor Morgan and the ERUCC congregation. Our work now begins!

Blessings,
Peter Brehm, ERUCC Consistory President