By now you should be aware that the Rev. Pam Schroeder, Pastor for Care and Community, is retiring. Nearing thirty years in ministry and after nine years among us, it will be time to lay her burden down and rest; to turn her attention to new paths to walk. Well done, good and faithful servant!
It occurs to me that with this transition, our congregation is in for an extended observance of Advent. We have declared our seasonal theme this year to be Watch. Wait. Wonder. (Check last week’s Grace Notes for more on the theme). We will all be eager and even a little anxious to find a replacement (she is, IMHO, irreplaceable), to wonder who will come to take up her work, to imagine what comes next. That is all natural. It is expected.
What I know, however, is that the first order of business is going to be to wait patiently upon the Holy Spirit to guide and navigate our journey forward. We will need to watch - be attentive - to the way the Spirit speaks through a process of discernment full of questions and reflection. We will need to wonder at the miracle the Spirit conjures as God’s people open themselves to God’s holy work.
In the corporate world, our process would already be underway, gathering names, reviewing job descriptions, talking to “head-hunters.” Finding a good candidate would be all up to us and we would own that process! We are not in the corporate world, however. We are the people of God seeking divine guidance. It is up to the Holy Spirit to lead.
I know that some folks feel like saying “it is up to the Spirit” is a cop out, a way of deferring responsibility, a process that is just not rooted in “reality.” I understand. I do not, however, agree. I can testify that the Holy Spirit, when given room and honor, does indeed infuse our discernment with holy wisdom. When I answered an invitation to leave banking and work for the church as a lay professional, it was the Spirit that led. When I went off to seminary in Ohio, the Spirit pointed the way. Each of the three calls I have accepted to serve a congregation have been processes enfolded in the Spirit’s embrace.
I do not mean that I knew this by mystical means; that visions came to me; that voices inhabited my dreams. Instead, I watched as faithful servants, bishops, call committees, synods all prayerfully opened themselves to the Spirit’s leading. There was a process that all the various voices trusted and that community discerned wisely.
This is what will happen here. We will give thanks and say goodbye by the power of the Spirit. We will reflect, ask questions, invite counsel in the power of the Spirit. Bishops, synods, our Call Committee and Council and whole congregation will mutually allow the Spirit to guide us. That is how Pastor Pam came to us. It is how another pastor will come if that is the Spirit’s leading.
That means our biggest job right now is to celebrate with Pastor Pam and pray to be open and part of the Spirit’s work. Our job is to Watch. Wait. Wonder.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor