In his sermon recently, Jim England said that change is hard. As chair of your Pastoral Interim Committee, I would like to offer some thoughts on this time of change in the life of Highland Baptist Church. First, Jim is correct (of course), change is hard! Harder for some than for others because the same change can and does have very different impacts upon different people.
Highland is in its 125th year of existence—longer than any of us have been alive. I am grateful for those generations which have gone before and whose wisdom and faithful stewardship have provided us with spaces and resources that shape us still. Highland has been through many changes in its long history—many ministers have served, many transitions have occurred, theological and denomination changes, cultural and social changes, etc. We have weathered all these changes and challenges, not perfectly, but we are stronger as a result.
More recently, we are experiencing the retirement of two long-serving, beloved ministers. Joe retired in January 2018, and Nina this past Sunday. Together they represent decades of Christian ministry with us. As Jim also said, they were like “Mom and Dad”. While a church is like a family in many ways, in other ways it is not. Typically, parents do not “retire,” even as their roles change over time.
In January, I said that we need time to learn what it feels like to be Highland without Joe—let me add, now we need to learn what if feels like to be Highland without Joe and Nina. Grief, anxiety and concern are all normal, yet like change, they are hard. Let us continue to care for each other as we find a new way forward. Our retired ministers (and their spouses) are going through many changes as well—as they grow into a new way of relating to this faith community, which they still will connect with, even as they will be absent from us for a season.
Similar to family, in some ways a church is like a business, in other ways it is not. In business, when the director or CEO steps down, someone immediately takes their place. In this way, a church is different. In January, we put in place an initial interim structure. With Nina’s retirement, that structure will change. Our talented, experienced ministry staff, our Personnel Ministry Group, Ministry Council, and other lay leadership are working to make sure that the duties and functions we expect in our faith community will continue. And since this is a column about change, know that our ministerial staff is experiencing these changes more directly than most all of us. Most all our ministers have over a decade or more of ministerial experience. For their experience and wisdom, I give thanks.
One final point about time. I believe the last two interim periods when we were without a pastor were both approximately 2 years in length. Nobody can know or predict how long this interim period might last, think in terms of 18 months to 2 years for our current interim. If it is quicker, we will celebrate, and when we connect with whomever we might call, we will celebrate. Regardless of how long, there will be celebrating!
We don’t have all the answers yet, but we will get there. I take comfort in the words of the author of Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven…
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away….
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak… (and most importantly)
A time to love.