I believe that ministry is the work of the church that we all do - in the church with one another, and in the world. Ministry is what we're all about. However, there are some clearly defined roles for professional clergy.
I continue to be both humbled and honored to be invited into the most intimate moments of people's lives. While we who are bound together in a covenanted community care for one another and regularly respond with care and compassion to the needs of many among us, it is the professional clergy who care for significant life passages. I've sat with families during the last moments of a loved one's life. I've dedicated and baptized babies. I counselled couples before marriage and then had the privilege to perform their wedding ceremonies. And I've officiated at memorial services that honor the entire circle of life.
It's important that people have access to the pastoral care that they need when they need it. Usually pastoral care needs are individual or family-based, but there are times when an entire congregation suffers a tragedy and is in need of healing. In these times, the professional clergy provides the leadership, even if others are invited in to assist.
It is also the role of the professional clergy to empower lay leadership in the congregation. The minister is often the acknowledged expert in various areas, but through teaching and preaching, many other leaders can be developed within a congregation. This leads to powerful shared ministries.
Congregations choose the direction of social action and social justice work in the community, but the minister can give a powerful voice to this direction. The minister is very often the face and voice of the church in the community. It is important for the minister to be doing the work of the church out in the world, both as an example for the congregation and as a face of the congregation for the community.
The minister is also a leader in denominational and interfaith connections. It's important that our congregations remain connected to one another and to other faith communities, and professional clergy can help to facilitate these connections.
I've served as a transitional minister in four congregations. There are particular roles reserved for transitional ministries. An interim minister holds up a mirror to the congregation, enabling a congregation to do the work of self-examination. It is the work of the congregaiton to prepare itself for a successful settled ministry to follow. It is the work of the interim minister to guide the congregation in this process - not to tell the congregation what to do, but to help the congregation to discover what to do.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as an interim minister and do this specialized work. There are aspects of ministry that I do not get to explore in a traditional interim setting, so I am also considering contract and developmental ministries. That said, it has been a privilege to help congregations move forward on the path of self-discovery in order to call a settled minister who is the best match for them.
I have begun my Doctor of Ministry degree in Holiness, Effective Ministry, and Engagement in the World. This work has already helped me in my work with congregations, and I look forward to putting more of my studies to work. Shall we work together?