A pastor 30 years older than I was interviewing me for my first parish assignment. His final question unsettled me.
"It doesn't happen every day," says Kevin J. Long of Orchard Park Presbyterian Church in suburban Indianapolis. "But it is thrilling to see someone begin to grasp the good news of Jesus Christ."
"People need to hear the good news," says Katherine Willis Pershey of First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. "If the church doesn't take on this mission, I'm afraid—well, that's where that sentence can end. I'm afraid."
My contract as “intentional transitional pastor” or interim with East Bay Community Church (not its real name) had expired, and I was working on a month-by-month agreement. By the grace of God, the church and I had moved through five developmental tasks proposed by the Intentional Ministry Network. Healing had taken place, and a sharpened vision statement had been communicated. I was feeling affirmed by the church and knew that its leaders valued my expertise and contribution, as well as me as a person. Then one morning I heard the news: the pastoral candidate would preach the next month, with a congregational vote to follow on the same night.
“You are not equipped.” The preacher seemed to be looking straight at me. Across the worship space, in this room festively decorated in red and filled with the heady scent of flowers, I could see some uncertain faces. In a few minutes, we would go forward to be ordained as Lutheran pastors. Yet as the preacher set before us the charges of ordination, he continued to follow each one with the same stark pronouncement. “You are not equipped.”