The Rev. Michael Wallens on what an interim rector is called to be and do
What a joy it is to be at St. Martin-in-the-Fields with an exciting future ahead! One of the basic questions that people have asked is, “What is an interim rector called to be and do?” I want to begin to answer that question with a few definitions and explanations:
Interim: “the period of time between.”
As Interim Rector, I am here during the time between rectors. This parish is in a time between what was and what will come. It requires dialogue, openness, risk and many prayers as we listen to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. …God brings the best out of you… (Romans 12:2, The Message)
Change: “The inevitable movement of life’s forces.”
The interim time will require continual change and adjustment to the realities of the present. Life has its continuity and custom. This is as it should be. During this interim period, traditions, at times, will need to be interrupted and transformed as new ideas are considered and new approaches tried and evaluated. This will help the community come to grips with who we are, whose we are, and what the mission, vision and values are.
Transition: “The process by which we must deal with the inevitable changes of life.” How will we get there? As Porter Taylor has said, “Churches are places where we learn to love.” St. Martin-in-the-Fields is a place where we will try to think, speak, and act in God’s way. It is a place where we can speak openly and honestly, dream and live out our faith. We cannot view the church as an object of our love, but rather, as a subject and instrument of God’s. Where is God in this interim period? What is God’s vision for St. Martin-in-the-Fields? Only as we listen to the Spirit and one another will we discover the answers.
Transformation: “The new shape that occurs after transition, toward which change is aimed.” “It may sometimes seem as if our baptisms are all of fire, but in the fire we forge new strengths…Time and again we emerge from this chrysalis changed, remade, born again. This is the pattern for all life, the end of each journey marking the beginning of new and different ones.” (Susan Taylor) . God must certainly like change, transition and transformation for it is pumped into the very heart of all creation. Change, transition and transformation parallel with the two major stories in the Bible: the Hebrew story of exodus from Egypt, the wilderness and the entrance into the Promised land. The Christian story of the death of Jesus, the three days and his resurrection. This will be the pattern and story of the faith at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
I invite you to read What is Interim Ministry by the Rev. B. Leslie Robinson from the Center for Congregational Health. Les Robinson’s article describes these three elements – change, transition, transformation – and points to three biblical characters who dealt with these elements. This article provides a lot of insight into what we are called to do together in this interim time.
I look forward to meeting you, working with you, praying with you and struggling with you. Please share your thoughts and ideas as we move to discern the movement of God in this historic parish.
May Christ’s holy, healing, and enabling Spirit be with us every step of the way, and be our guide as our this faith community’s road changes and turns.