The Interim Time (Laura Crow)

The primary task of the interim time is to prepare the congregation to welcome a new settled pastor. It is an opportunity for the congregation to re-ground itself in the gospel story unbound by the personality, style, and traditions of the former pastor. It is a time to listen for where God is calling the church into this new chapter, to pay attention to growing edges and seeds that perhaps had lain dormant for some time but now are showing signs of awakening. It is not necessary to reinvent the church but to think strategically and look for fresh ways to articulate what is already present. It is a time to remember that we are Christ’s church, individually and collectively, and to reorient ourselves through prayer and discernment.The interim time is liminal space, what Richard Rohr describes as …

… a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the “tried and true,” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to entrust and wait, you will run … anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing. (https://sojo.net/magazine/january-february-2002/grieving-sacred-space)

In this season, we strengthen the leadership infrastructure and systems for communication, decision making, and conflict management. It is time to plow up the ground under any behaviors or norms that might prevent a new pastor from entering well. An important part of the work is simply understanding where and how deep the trenches are. We do the work of John the Baptist, making the crooked straight and the smoothing out the landscape to make a way forward together under new leadership.

Change is difficult, uncomfortable, and messy. There is a natural tendency to want to move slowly and cautiously. But the interim time brings with it a sense of urgency. There is limited time to accomplish what needs to be done – I could be here 6-months, 9-months, maybe 12-months. There is precious little time to make desired changes. The goal is always looking ahead to what will make it easier on the new pastor and opening ourselves to a welcoming presence.

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