A Message from Rev. Jim Hanisian
A MESSAGE FROM REV. JIM HANISIAN
Since my ordination almost 47 years ago, I have probably consulted with well over 50 different congregations. They have ranged in size from one with an average Sunday attendance of 16 to one with Sunday attendance of over 1000. Most of my work with them has been in the areas of clergy transition, conflict, strategic planning, stewardship, and empowering the laity for ministry. In all those years, the church has learned much about how to keep congregations healthy.
There has been some confusion about how St. James will move forward through this time of transition. In talking with Vestry and members of the staff, one thing we all need to do is use the same terms. You are, and have been, in a period of transition. Transition begins several months before the departure of the Rector and continues through the first year after the new Rector’s arrival. It is rare that transition takes less than 18 months. Some have gone on for as long as five years.
At St. James, you have been led by a Priest-in-Charge. That is someone who is called to ensure the continuation of the pastoral ministry of the parish. Jay Sidebotham is currently serving in that position. He will do so until an Interim Priest can be called. An Interim is someone who has specific training in transitions. They usually serve through the election of a new Rector, but leave a month or so before their arrival. Your vestry has been working with Bishop Skirving to identify some candidates for that position. The hope is that the Interim Priest will be in place by the first of the year. (People have asked if Jay could be the Interim. The answer is yes, if he wants to be. However, once an Interim finishes the work, they must leave the congregation. Jay also has agreed to serve as Priest-in-Charge, but wants that to end so he can continue as a member of the parish and resume his semi-retirement and other work.)
How long is the term of the Interim? This really depends on the situation. For example, in cases where the Rector has left under unhappy circumstances, the period can be longer at the discretion of the Bishop and Vestry in order to allow time for reconciliation and healing. In cases of a long term pastorate (defined as 12 years or longer) the period can also be longer to allow for the congregation to get separation from the previous Rector.
There is a tendency for some to think that things should be put on hold during the time of transition to wait for the new Rector to arrive. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have learned that the transition time is a prime time for congregational renewal and for leadership development. The roles of the Vestry and the Staff are crucial if the transition is to be successful.
The job of the Vestry is to :
Ensure that the pastoral ministry continues as smoothly as possible
Discern God’s will for St. James for its future (This will inform the Search Committee for Rector about the kind of person they should be looking for.)
Create an organization that increases the chances for success in living into God’s will
Call a Discernment/Search Committee for a new Rector when they and the Bishop agree that it is time to do so
Elect the new Rector and arrange for the terms of that call
Continue with its regular duties as leaders of the congregation
The job of the Staff is to:
Maintain the program of the congregation
Provide for regular worship
Work with the Vestry to discern God’s will for the congregation
Continue with the responsibilities they were called to fulfill
I have been called to assist the Vestry and Staff with their work in the transition and also to share with the congregation, as a whole, some things that would be helpful throughout the time of transition.
My specific roles are:
Lead the Clergy and Vestry through a process of discovering ways to make St. James a stronger and growing “ministry center.”
To lead a process of discernment of God’s will for St. James
Preach and teach once a month so I am both visible and available to you
Because we do not know who the Interim Priest will be, I will be around through December to begin this work. Depending on the person called to be Interim my time will either end with their arrival or continue past it, working hand-in-hand with the Interim.
Please keep the Staff and Vestry in your prayers. They are doing a great job of handling the increased responsibilities of this transition period.
Tags: Who We Are