November 18, 2016
The three weeks I’ve been with you have been a whirlwind! It’s been great to come alongside you and the terrific staff here at First UMC. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with people at the listening hours I set aside. The group at Adult Forum on November 13 was quite open and forthcoming as we shared what we love about this church and also what we hope for the church as we move forward. Your Music and Worship Committee made some exciting plans for Advent while your Staff-Parish Relations Committee had a productive session on November 15. I was impressed by the spirit of collaboration and energy as we prepared a profile of the church and the pastoral leadership we need. The profile will be used by the bishop and superintendents to appoint your next pastor.
Our United Methodist way of assigning pastors is unique. The Staff-Parish Relations Committee serves as the personnel committee for the church and works under a strict covenant of confidentiality since the members of the committee are entrusted with highly personal and private information. The SPRC is the primary contact with the superintendent, Skip Strickland, and the bishop, Karen Oliveto. All pastors are appointed by the bishop rather than hired by individual churches. The pool of pastors are clergy members of the Rocky Mountain or Yellowstone Conference. That means they are vetted by both the pastors in the conference and by the bishop. The superintendents and bishop know the pastors, their gifts and experience. And they also know the churches, their unique challenges and opportunities, and their theological and missional styles. They also have a pool of trained interim pastors they can call on when congregations may need a short term or term-limited pastor.
Some of the nitty gritty about appointment-making: the current pastor will have been appointed to another church before a new pastor is appointed to their place. When a new pastor is discerned, the superintendent contacts the pastor before her or his name is given to the SPRC committee of the receiving church. The pastor is brought for an introduction to the SPRC in which they get acquainted, talk about the needs of the church, the pastor’s experience and interests, and get a sense of whether they are a good fit for each other. The pastor leaves and the committee votes to accept the appointment or to request a reconsideration. The pastor also has a chance to agree or ask for reconsideration (usually in the hall while the committee is still meeting). Actually it is a prayerful, thoughtful and respectful process of discernment.
So FUMC is right in the midst of this process. Skip Strickland has spent a great deal of time with your leaders and knows the congregation quite well. Bishop Karen visited here last month and met with a good number of your members. I believe you made a deep impression on her with your passion for justice ministries and compassionate spirituality. They are already working toward an appointment for this church. Since the conference year runs July to July, an interim may be appointed for the period of January to June which allows for a broader search to be made.
I want you to know that your church is not flapping in the wind without any direction. Your interim pastor will both see to the immediate ministry needs and seek to be a healing, reconstructive presence in your midst. Your lay leadership is very strong and able. Your church staff keeps continuity for you with the help of the interim.
I hope this is helpful information. If you have questions about the process, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me.
Rev. Dale Beck is the Interim Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Boulder. Email him at dab.fumc at gmail dot com.