May 2018
Clergy and Lay Transitions

Breathe and Carry On

Take a deep breath…It’s going to be ok…God is with you…

I find myself coming back to these truths often in my work to support congregations and clergy embarking on discerning a new call. Times of transition can be unsettling and anxious; they can also be exciting and invigorating.

The Office for Transition Ministry (OTM) supports the work of congregations, clergy, diocesan staff and bishops during transitions in clergy leadership. The OTM Director and Technical Support Specialist, who make up our staff, are available across all time zones by email, phone and video conferencing. The most visible part of our work is the Ministry Portfolio, an online resource where individuals and congregations seeking a new call can post their information. Clergy use this database to search congregational postings, and congregations use it, assisted by their Diocesan Transition Minister, to explore potential clergy candidates.

Transition in the Episcopal Church is changing rapidly. Even if your parish has experienced a recent clergy transition, the landscape has likely already changed. Ten trends in transition, published in December 2016 by the Board for Transition Ministry, describes that shifting landscape and invites congregations to consider its impact on their local contexts.

Things to keep in mind

Be as clear as you can about who you are when discerning new clergy leadership. It can be a time to consider who you may have become in the last season, who you are being called to be in the next, and where you might want to adjust your direction. This honest self-exploration can help bring clarity about the best fit for your new clergyperson. Take time to say a good farewell to your departing clergy and their household. Look for new leadership gifts among your members.

Remember that “calling” is not “hiring.” Calling a new rector or other clergy is not the same as hiring in a secular job. Your relationship with your clergy calls for mutual trust in places in your lives that are personal and spiritual. Resist the temptation to rush the discernment process, and trust your diocesan staff and bishop. They do this work every day.

It can be tempting to put some activities or initiatives on hold during transition. Parishes that continue to engage in vibrant ministries find they are invigorated and excited about their life and work. Their enthusiasm can attract clergy seeking to partner with a dynamic parish. Ways to remain vibrant during a transition include:

  • Support and build lay leadership: Everyone is called to ministry in some way. While clergy are ordained for specific roles, we are all in ministry together. Clergy are grateful for partners in ministry, and congregations are strengthened by a variety of leaders.
  • Do enthusiastic evangelism: Transition is a good time to tell your story! (Well, anytime is a good time to tell your story.) Take this transition as an opportunity to let others know your excitement about your parish and where it is going.
  • Develop — or maintain — an excellent website: The first place people look, including your next clergyperson, is your online presence through your website. Make sure it shows faces, activities, the diversity of your life and worship. Make it a welcoming online place for visitors.
  • Be connected in your community: Keep up your community partnerships and nurture the relationships you already have. Seek out a connection with a neighboring congregation, even if simply to ask their prayers for your discernment.
  • Serve through outreach: Your outreach ministries are crucial in your community. The energy and prayer you devote to them are also a witness for those considering serving as your new clergyperson.
  • Include your youth and children: Consider ways to involve youth and children in the discernment process and in welcoming your new clergy leader.
  • Work closely with your bishop and diocesan staff: Your diocesan staff and bishop work with search and call processes regularly, and they are in contact with others working with clergy deployment. They can offer resources and processes to help you find the very best match for your parish.
  • Communicate well: Keep parish members informed. This helps everyone stay engaged and reduces anxiety. Keeping confidentiality, as needed, is also important.
  • Pray, pray, pray: While this may seem obvious, nurturing your connection to God through prayer is essential. Listening for and heeding the leading of the Spirit allows for depth and sometimes blessed surprises. God wants to be an integral part of this with you!

One of the joys in our Office's work is seeing how deep prayer, faithful and honest communication and the work of the Holy Spirit result in dynamic partnerships in ministry.

The Reverend Meghan F. Froehlich serves as the Director of the Office for Transition Ministry, part of the Presiding Bishop’s staff of The Episcopal Church.


This article is part of the May 2018 Vestry Papers issue on Clergy and Lay Transitions