Friday, April 28, 2006

What Do WE Need to do?

One of the current realities of being the church in the United Church of Canada is that there is a very high probability that a congregation, particularly a small, or rural, or isolated congregation, will spend some time vacant between pastorates. THis is both due to problems attracting people (who may be scarce) and because of the Needs Assessment and Search process that is in place.

So if we can look at this reality and name it, then what is our responsibility as a denomination? Shouldn't we be encouraging congregations to be preparing for that possibility? Don't we need, as a part of our oversight function, to get them to talk about what they ned to do while they do have a regular minister to prepare for the day when that may not be the case? Those preparations may include training worship leaders, developing visiting teams, getting a sense of administrative work, establishing a strong relationship with Presbytery, all around strengthening of lay leadership. (As it happens doing all of those things would not pnly prepare for vacancy but strengthen the life of the church at any time).

Are we doing that? Or do we let each other go blindly into vacancy and then try to help them struggle through it? WHat would you want your congregation to have done if they suddenly became vacant?

1 comment:

  1. Gord, I'll put in a plug for my own ELCA synod's lay ministry training program, which was originally designed to assist underserved congregations in both rural and urban areas, who are either between pastors or who just can't support a pastor. It's a three-year program, utilizing professors from ELCA seminaries and mentoring pastors within our synod; graduates can go on to receive more intensive chaplaincy/pastoral care training.

    My pastor envisions a time when rural churches become part of a regional hub, with an overseeing/mentoring pastor or pastoral team advising lay ministers who do the bulk of the pastoral and diaconate work in individual congregations.

    Speaking as a student, observing fellow students and graduates -- I'm under no illusion that lay ministers can replace ordained pastors; there's going to be something missing in terms of education/training. But if it's a matter of a congregation ceasing to exist -- as long as there's pastoral oversight, I think we lay ministers can provide a valuable service. And, really, what we are doing is analogous to what Roman Catholics have been doing in underserved dioceses for years.