July 20, 2023
A Twice “Failed” Rector Search with a Perfect Result
In March of 2020, as businesses, churches, and schools began to close, and we started to grasp the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, our former Rector answered the call to become a Bishop in another diocese.
The grand celebration that we had planned to thank him for his 11 years of service to our parish was scrapped. On his final Sunday, after the 11 AM Mass, there were elbow bumps instead of hugs, tears of sorrow and fear instead of joy, and a sense that something ominous was descending on us.
It was in this environment that we engaged our first Rector Search Committee, of which I was privileged to be a part. To say that we had to invent everything from nothing would be an understatement. The most challenging part was creating the “looking forward” part of the Parish Profile.
Because there were so many unanswered questions:
- During a pandemic, would priests entertain leaving their current parishes to go somewhere else?
- How long would the pandemic last and how devastating would it be?
- Would people even want to return to an enclosed space when it was safe to do so?
- What kind of a vision do you create for a world that, at that point, needed to wear masks, use disinfectant lotion every time you touched something, and stay six feet apart from each other?
- What does the future look like when the body of Christ couldn’t even gather to receive the Body of Christ?
Being a part of the Search Committee that interviewed the candidates via Zoom and then selected who to put forth to the Vestry was one of the most spiritually challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had, because there was no blueprint for how to do this. We had to rely on the Spirit of God to guide us, and not in some “Hallmark Channel” way. It was messy, and frustrating, and upsetting, and wonderful, and fulfilling, and joyful. All of it.
In the end, we were not able to come to agreement with the finalist and we declared the first search a “failure.”
A second Rector Search Committee was engaged, and a new search begun. Again, it ended in what we defined as “failure.” The third time was, indeed, a charm, and we welcomed our new Rector three years to the day after we had bid our former Rector farewell.
On that day, the Old Testament Reading was from the Book of Samuel, the 16 Chapter. Jesse brings (almost) all his sons for Samuel to determine who will be anointed as the next King of Israel. They all looked the part of a King, yet God had cautioned Samuel to NOT look at appearance or at height. One translation says, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
And so, when it appeared that the “search process” was a failure, Samuel asked if there were any other sons, and Jesse replied that there was one more: his youngest who was tending the sheep – David.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Our new Rector is in many ways the “youngest.” He came to the priesthood late after another successful career. When he and his family first came to our Parish, it was simply because of all the churches in town, they felt led to come here. On his first Sunday, he recounts that they arrived late and sat in the back. And God chose him.
Why? Because God looks at our hearts.
His heart is a perfect fit, now, for our parish. It is in no way a comment on the quality of the other candidates; it’s simply an acknowledgement that God knows who belongs where, and when.
The previous searches were not in any way failures. They were necessary, in God’s perfect timing, to get us to the point where our “David” was ready for us, and we for him. During the three years that we wandered in the desert, we grew as a Parish Community; we became more capable lay leaders in our own right; we were tested, and we rose to the challenge. In short, we were ready to receive the gift of the new Rector that God was ready to give us.
God’s delays are not God’s denials. It’s a cliché for a reason: it’s true.
- 1. th