Dear Risen Lord disciples,
So what exactly is a “Pastor of Record?”
In accordance with the model constitutions for congregations of the Evangelical Church in America, at the time of pastoral vacancy in a congregation, the bishop, working with the Congregation Council, appoints a Pastor of Record to provide basic leadership and pastoral care until another pastor is called or appointed as an interim.
Some of you may recall the term “Vacancy Pastor” from years ago – usually this person was already serving in a nearby area congregation. The general idea then was to have someone standing by for emergencies and being available for consultation while the congregation began the process searching for a new pastor. Sunday morning “supply” pastors for worship still needed to be secured by the congregation.
In recent years, the Church has learned the wisdom of using transition periods for intentional reflection to better prepare the congregation for the next chapter of mutual ministry with their new pastor. Excellent training programs were developed for “Interim Pastors” who would then be appointed, serving full or part-time, to exercise all the responsibilities of a normal pastorate, but with specific focus on facilitating the congregation through this optimal time of reflection to prepare for the next chapter.
Here at Risen Lord, the Rev. Nancy Nyland and other staff of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, will be working with your leadership, beginning that process of intentional reflection. Whether that will lead to an appointment of an Interim Pastor or to begin calling a new Pastor will be part of that work with the Synod.
In the meantime, the ministry and work of the people of God at Risen Lord goes on! That’s one reason I affirm the change of language away from “Vacancy” Pastor, because the truth is there is no absence of the Spirit in this place. You may currently be without a called Pastor, but you are not “vacant!!” Lutheran theology champions the concept of “the priesthood of all believers” and as I said in my sermon last Sunday, I have already seen that truth at work among you.
So: what are my responsibilities as Pastor of Record? For the next six months, I will be present at all council and congregational meetings, as well as being available for questions and consultation between those meetings. In addition, I will be available to you in times of crisis and emergencies for pastoral care, and preside at funerals, or arrange for a presider. As explained above, this limited role is similar to the old basic idea of a Vacancy Pastor.
However, before accepting this appointment, I had to make it clear to the Bishop and to your Council that I would be unable to fulfill these roles in person, due to Covid-19. My wife has multiple factors of severe immune compromisation, and we have both exercised a maximum abundance of caution from the beginning of the pandemic. The necessity of this was brought home just yesterday – a dear ELCA colleague shared that his brother-in-law, a healthy and vibrant LCMS pastor in Georgia, died Sunday of Covid, a mere six days after being tested positive. Yes, vaccines are coming, and yes, many do recover from this highly contagious virus, but we are not yet out of the woods. I trust you understand this boundary, and I hope that you remain appropriately vigilant, maintain social distance, wear a good mask in public, wash…well, you know the drill by now. And if not for you, then, as a disciple of the Risen Lord, then out of love and concern for your neighbor.
One last item about my role: Though not in the official contracted responsibilities of a Pastor of Record, I am glad to provide supply preaching (as I did last Sunday), at least once a month. I’ll say more about that later, but I think this letter has gone long enough for this week!!!
Be well, friends. You are loved.
Pastor Dave Schreiber