Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Dawn Breaks on “Offer Day”

It is an interesting part of being an Interim Minister, that you come to love a congregation, that you have ministered among them, that you have hopes and dreams for them, that you are an intimate part of a religious community… and you know that you are only there to prepare a place for the person who comes after you. You spend your days wondering how the ministry you are living with a congregation is preparing them for the “one who comes after”.

As an Interim Minister, I am “pre-fired”. Both I and the congregation know, and knew pretty well at the beginning of our relationship when that relationship would end. I have a set series of tasks and goals that the congregation and I have agreed to do together, projects and plans that will hopefully leave the congregation in a bit of a healthier place than when I arrived. As a 3rd year interim, I have been (and still am) able to move beyond the traditional “Interim Tasks” of helping a congregation grieve the last ministry, and into some very specific focused goals for this particular congregation.

And yet, every step of my relationship with them, there has been a third party. There has been someone else in our conversations, in our meetings, in our planning, in our dreams, in our goals, in our vision together… someone more than I and the congregation. For at every moment it has been my task to remind them and prepare them to make room for the “one who comes after”.

There is a peculiarity in loving a group of people, knowing you do not get to stay with them, and knowing that your time with them is not only in service of them, but in service of their relationship with someone else. The reality of regularly thinking of the ministry that is to come after me has fundamentally changed who I am as a minister. In a sense, all ministry is “interim”… all ministers are “pre-fired”, even if they do not know the end-date as well as I have. We ministers say that, but we do not always understand it… we do not always grasp the implications of all ministry being for only an interim.

What this year of interim ministry has done for me is set the pattern in my ministry and in the way I think of ministry that I believe I will always be thinking not only of the ministry I am engaging them in now, but of how my ministry with a congregation prepares them for the next minister. How the patterns and systems I am building are not only healthy for the time of my ministry, but through-out the ministries that are to come. The reality is, all of us ministers are there for a time, and then we are gone. The ministry of each congregation is much, much more than any one of us… and it is even more than all of the congregation at any one time. The ministries of our liberal faith extend both into the past, and into the future… and as the current keeper of a ministry it is part of my task to be the “voice from the wilderness” who is preparing the way for the “one who will come after”.

Today is the day that congregations who are in search are free to begin making offers to potential candidates for their ministries. On this morning, I find myself reflective on this group of people that I have loved these past 9 months, and who I am preparing for someone else. I feel like a father who is preparing for the knock on the door, for my loved one’s date to the Homecoming Dance. I know I have done good work with them, and I know I still have some work to do… and I want nothing but the best for them… and I’m a little protective of them. But more importantly, I feel my place in the tradition this morning… as a minister in a long line of ministers. A keeper of a tradition that is larger, broader, and continuous.

I hope I have but made a few paths straight…

Yours in faith,

Rev. David

5 Thoughts on “Dawn Breaks on “Offer Day”

  1. Although my path may not be more straight, you have helped me through a discernment of necessity and offered needed support when I didn’t ask for it. It is good to have direction and you provided energy, focus and excitement in a number of areas in which it was needed.

    We are a good team. And after your “official firing”, after you leave us, we will be better than when you arrived because of your involvement in our lives. As in all relationships, we learn from one another and gain necessary experiences. I hope that you gained half as much as you gave.

  2. How amazing that you’ve let yourself get attached (love) this congregation knowing full well it would hurt like hell when you had to leave. What courage on your part! Since your pre-firing is about to become a firing, I suppose this means that you’re also in search for a new congregation–interim or not. Or, are you leaving for the military soon? I’m glad to see you’re well and contributing to UUism in such an important and vital way! I miss seeing you in Hyde Park though.

  3. Shannon said well, what I’m thinking and feeling, too.

    What a wonderful journey we’ve all been on this past several months… and the past three years. And still more time to come.

    “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose…” . David, thank you for your guidance, support, vision and spirituality. It will always be a part of me.

  4. Myriam… good to hear from you.

    Actually, I think I not only love this particular congregations… I have long had a love for congregations as a whole. It would probably be different if I did not already know where I am going next year, but as I do it makes being with this congregation easier to love, and to know that they will be well cared for after I leave.

    I’ve been pretty public about it, but it is always good to say it again. Next year I will be serving as the Assistant Minister for the UU Church of Ventura, California. I accepted the position outside the normal search process (with UUA blessings) back in November, but we only announced it in January. I will be working with the Rev. Jan Christian, first through her sabbatical and then to help the congregation develop into a congregation that can support a multi-ministry team.

    So, I get the joy of not only meeting a new congregation, but of developing what kind of assistant/associate ministry they need. I will stay a Reserve Army Chaplain (just with less of a commute to my unit than I have now).

    I miss Hyde Park sometimes too… not Chicago, just Hyde Park.

    Oh, Shannon and Linda… you all make me blush. Thank you.

    Yours in faith,


  5. Pingback: UU bloggers respond to Japan and Universalism in the news, and other topics « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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