This is the Interim

a newsletter article

With great celebrations and sad farewells we’ve said good-bye to Senior Pastor Tim Hansen and Lisa. Yet it’s not truly an ending, for three reasons.

First, we acknowledged in the synod’s sending service “Your influence on our faith and faithfulness will not leave us after your departure.” This is always true to some degree of the ripples we create in each other’s lives; even a brief encounter can have long-lasting impact. Certainly we can say that we’ve been changed forever by Tim’s service as a pastor here, by the developments and directions of his ministry, by the important “kairos” moments he’d shared in our lives and the Word of God he brought into those situations. That connection doesn’t just disappear or fade away; it is not ending.

Second, we believe and trust “The End” has not yet come. There’s a saying that “all ministry is interim ministry.” The point is that pastors serve a congregation for a while, but then the congregation continues on. In another way, it’s not just for pastors. All our life is in the “interim.” We live in the “now and not yet.” Jesus has risen, we proclaim, and that good news is already reshaping our whole lives. And yet we don’t have the culmination of our resurrection and the fullness of God’s kingdom. We still exist in times of sadness and separation and disappointment and sin. We still look forward to the never-ending ending, when tears will be wiped away and death will be no more.

Most apparently then, life plain and simple continues on. St. Stephen’s carries on. We strive forward, still and ever accompanied by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Even in busy days of summer that have us distracted and pulled to relaxing vacations or hectic schedules. It persists through routines and even through chaos when we feel that the ground under our feet is lost. Amid these gaps, while we wait for the future, we continue. This is the interim.

So a few notes entering this new feeling of interim:

  • Your Ministry Board is dedicated and diligent, working hard to ensure the best directions and to keep you informed. Their strategy for the Transition Team will serve us well.
  • I’m excited that Kathy Gerking will be our Interim Senior Pastor. Her gifts will be good leadership and caring guidance as we navigate the way ahead together. It sounds like you can look forward to meeting her later this month.
  • For you: Quite a number of you have expressed care and concern for me. Thank you for that compassion. My pastor letters aren’t normally so full of connect-the-dots lists, but as you’re wondering how to be helpful, here are some suggestions and requests:
    • Please come to worship. Being community together is most important as we proceed.
    • Thank you for stepping up to help out. Striving to drum up excitement and to fill vacancies is a bad drain on your staff. Motivate yourself to help in worship by leading prayers or making coffee for fellowship. Get into a Sunday School classroom or the nursery. Help in the office. Weed a garden. Join a Ministry Team.
    • That also is an invitation to read, to pay attention, to stay up-to-date. I know that’s been harder when the postal service has let us down, but there are many ways we try to connect with you. The better you engage, the less we have to repeat.
    • There’s also the financial invitation. We’re striving to be as wise and thrifty as possible in staff, facilities, and ministry expenses. But this is not only about whittling things down. Good ministry—for you, this community, and the world—takes funding, and we’re short right now.

Please do what you can to support our congregation in time, talents, and treasure, as we say. It will make the interim go smoothly and the welcome of another pastor better.

With that weightiness, how about a benediction—a good word—of God’s blessing. Hebrews 13:20-21 is used in the departures of graveside committals and the inaugurations of ordinations and installations, so perhaps it serves for the time of interim:

May the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do God’s will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen

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