HAVE SERMON, WILL TRAVEL: LIFE FOR AN INTERIM PASTOR
- Footsteps in Faith
- Rev. Stan Hoobing
An interim minister is, as I often describe, a pastor who serves a congregation after one regularly called pastor has resigned or moved on to serve another congregation, and before a new pastor is called and comes to serve.
Many interim pastors have had special training. I got my training in the School of Hard Knocks after serving in the parish ministry for over 35 years in Washington and Oregon.
My journey as interim pastor began in late 2000 when my wife and I talked about life after serving in the parish and what I would do when I retired.
It seemed that by the time one is close to 60 years of age, congregations are not really interested in you, because your compensation package may be too expensive for the congregation.
So I decided after I finished my last regularly called parish position that I would make myself available to any synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the Pacific Northwest.
My first interim experience happened in Boise, my hometown. My then 88-year-old mother fell in late 2001 and my brother and sister-in-law asked if I could help.
I said my wife and I would move to Boise, live in mom's house and take care of her. But I would need some work, as I was not ready to retire. Redeemer Lutheran Church, Boise, was looking for an interim pastor and I was selected by the church council.
During my stay in Boise, my mother relocated to a local assisted living facility. Her house has now become our retirement location. Carol, my wife and partner in ministry, lives there and works in the Boise area. Now that our two children are grown and out of the nest, I am the one who says: "Have Sermon, Will Travel."
Members of the Boise congregation included a number of people who knew my parents and remember me as a small child, especially my pediatrician. A former college professor was also attending services.
During my 21 months with the congregation, I visited members in their homes, in the hospital, taught a class on human sexuality, worked with church council and call committee, led worship services and did all the other things that a regular pastor does.
I introduced some new ideas Â— not that they would be carried out, but so that the congregation would understand that a new pastor coming in would have new and fresh ideas.
I also helped the call committee understand their role in producing a meaningful congregational profile and reading and interpreting the various ministers mobility forms.
Before their new pastor came, I took a month's vacation, and with my wife's help prepared to pack and load my big blue Dodge van for an eight-month stay in Chewelah, Wash., a small town north of Spokane.
Chewelah was a congregation that had had difficulty over the years with pastors. Many of them young and just out of seminary with new and exciting ideas and plans for a congregation that did not like a lot of changes and new things, but wanted and needed someone who would be patient, compassionate and visit with them.
And that I did, traveling in the snow and ice, up and down winding gravel roads wherever people lived. I also called on sick, homebound and prospects. And put up with a local train 500 feet from the parsonage that usually came through around 11 p.m. or 4 a.m. with 85 cars or more.
Sometimes one interim pastor cannot get the job done and it takes a couple more interim pastors before things start moving. Well, this August, an experienced pastor and his family moved into the parsonage and now leads the congregation in a new and exciting ministry.
In January 2005, the Oregon Synod asked if I would come to Zion Lutheran Church in
La Grande and serve as interim pastor. It was agreed that I would serve initially for four months beginning in April.
One novelty of this interim was the opportunity to live with a couple in Cove. It was here that I got to feed chickens and collect eggs Â— something this city kid had never done before.
I have been doing all the usual things a normal pastor does in the congregation Â— preach, lead worship, visit members, hospitals, homebound, attend board and council meetings, teach confirmation and adults, baptize old and young, marry the lovelorn and work with the call committee.
I also listened to concerns, as well as provided some healing, humor and energy to the life and ministry of the congregation.
I am proud to say that the congregation is now ready, eager and excited about the coming of their newly called pastor, John Schraan, a recent graduate of Luther Seminary in Minnesota, and his lovely wife, Katie.
Once again, I will be packing up my books, personal belongings, kitchen pots and pan, loading my blue Dodge van and heading for some other congregation somewhere God is calling me for another exciting and interesting adventure in interim ministry.
But first a trip home to meet and greet the wife, do a few "honey-do" tasks and look in on my 92-year-old mother.