From the Pastor – September 2013

ChurchDrawing-300dpi.JPG.w300h192Dear Members and Friends of the First Presbyterian Church,

       The time in which we live is by pervasive changes.  The old cultural paradigm has gone, and the new hasn’t yet presented itself into recognizable form.  Our whole world is in transition; these days everything is “interim.”  Change is now our cultural context and we have to adapt to it.  But the good new is…)if you know anything about me, you know that I love to focus on the good news of the gospel) is that Jesus came into the world of healing, liberation, and deliverance; all of which implies change.  He empowered people to think and act in ways that expressed the kingdom of God, a reality very different from what prevails in society.  Jesus was about transformation, not stability.  He had a short-time or “interim” ministry on earth but one with effective an eternal results.
     Interim ministry is a relationship that I enter into with a congregation, promising to be present; to pastor and listen, to reflect, lead, coach and guide.  It is an awesome thing to be in such a relationship, one that I honor and hold with great respect.  I have had the opportunity to get to know a good number of you.  You are a courageous and caring people.  I am delighted to be doing the exciting work of interim ministry with you.
     The interim period is a dynamic and rich time of transition but it is no walk in the park.  It is a time when the congregation is discerning who they are and where they want to go.  Often attendance, giving,k and energy decline during the interim period, increasing the discomfort in an already anxious people.  In essence, congregations are struggling to “find themselves” before they find the next pastor.  Effective interim ministry helps churches to see a time of change as a gift from God that makes them better able to undertake mission in Jesus’ name.
     Studies done by the Alban Institute and the Center for Congregational Health have shown that the interim period can be a productive time to address key issues in a church’s life.  Addressing these issues will improve the health of the church, while fine-tuning the understating of the type of pastoral candidate that should be called next.  In the past, the interim period was used exclusively for find the new pastor.  However, with changes to the PC(USA) Book of Order, the interim minister can now be considered for the position of installed teaching elder.  For some congregations that is a sigh of relief, for others it further complicates the process.  Should they keep the interim minister or look for another?  That becomes another question to answer in the already difficult process of discernment.  To answer that question on my end, I am open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  If the call is extended, I will answer the call, if it is the will of God.  We are in a partnership with the Holy Spirit to discern what is next.
     Fundamental to my understanding of ministry is that it is a shared enterprise.  Ministry is not something I do, but rather a relationship that I enter into with the members of the congregation.  My primary calling is to be a pastor; walking with you, being present with you, and helping you to discern what is divine and holy in your midst, basically to help you understand what God might be saying to you.  I believe that God is always speaking but we need to learn to what that looks and sounds like.  Most of us have never had God speak to us from a burning bush , and if we want to keep the friends we have we would never share such an experience J However, God does speak to us through various means, he uses people, nature and the extra ordinary and ordinary things in life to get our attention.
     Every congregation that finds itself in transition is different and has different needs.  The is no one size that fits all answer.  It takes a lot of seeing and listening to what a congregation, corporately and individually, is saying to be an effective interim minister.  Hearing and discerning what your needs are, your hopes and dreams and understanding your fears from the past and of the future will take a bit more time.  In the meantime, my goal is to help you as a congregation and as individuals deepen your relationships with each other, and with God.  It is my hope that the many dimensions of my ministry; preaching, teaching, facilitating, counseling, will help you see and hear what is holy, divine and central in your lives.
 In Christ Service,
Reverend Terri Cissé
Interim Pastor

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