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Our older daughter and her fiancé wanted to have a destination wedding. After searching high and low for a venue, we ended up on an island at a beautiful Episcopalian Church for the wedding worship service.
One of the rules of having a wedding service in that particular church was that the church provided a wedding director. Our encounter with the wedding director was not without some tension as everyone in the wedding party, except the bride (who had served as a missionary previously), was a seminary-trained Baptist minister, much better at giving than following directions.
An example: At one point the director asked the bride’s sister (the maid of honor), “Can you hold both bouquets?” “Well, I have two hands!” was the reply. The most humorous encounter, though, happened just as the wedding party prepared to begin entering the sanctuary. The bride, well known for a bit of drama, indicated that she was so nervous that she might faint. The wedding director said quietly to both the bride’s cousin, who was serving as an usher, and the best man, “If the bride goes down, you two scoop her up, bring her to the back, and we’ll return to normal!” As if not having a bride at the wedding is NORMAL!
Often that’s the first thought of a congregation when their pastor leaves. “Let’s just return to normal.” “Normal,” though, has changed. Healthy congregations and congregations that want to be healthier understand the need not to waste the time between installed pastors. They choose to invest that time wisely in doing the work necessary to position themselves to call the person that can walk with them into God’s future. Doing the appropriate work helps ready the congregation to welcome and work with their new pastor.
Many of these congregations are finding the intentional interim process to be a critical tool in doing this work. No, it’s not a “cookie cutter” approach. Done right and well, the intentional interim process is shaped specifically for and by the congregation. It does not assume that there is something “wrong” with the congregation. It does assume that God may be …about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? – Isaiah 43:19 NRSV. Wise congregations will use the interim time in seeking to perceive the new thing that God wants to do with them and their future.