Abundant Transitions – Pastor Bill Wong

Abundant Transitions - Pastor Bill Wong

I’m listening to the inauguration. The day before, I received a Covid-19 vaccine. A bathroom in our home is being remodeled. Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley, where I serve as the intentional interim pastor, called its next settled pastor. The Sierra Pacific Synod is preparing to elect its next bishop in May. My nephew and his spouse recently welcomed their second child. And I’m slowly adapting to being both an interim pastor and an interim call process assistant.

As I reflect on these events, I realize that I’m surrounded by transitions and transitions are a part of life. When I participated in training to become an intentional interim pastor, I, along with my fellow interim pastors, quickly realized that the transition between settled pastors isn’t the only transition in the life of a congregation.

When we look back and review the history of a congregation, we will notice transitions, such as the call and departure of pastors, the addition and departure of staff, building programs, changing neighborhood and mission field around the congregation, the start and end of programs, maintaining the property, changes in worship, new worship books, learning names, saying good-bye, leadership turnover, new mission directions, baptisms, funerals, receiving new members, children, amending constitutions, each year’s budget, elections, confirmation, first communion, anniversaries, redeveloping a mission statement, and so forth. In other words, a congregation is in a constant state of transition.

As a matter of fact, the title “interim pastor,” which is used to describe a pastor who serves a congregation between settled pastors, is in transition to another title, “transition pastor.” The ministry of an intentional transition pastor is to be the pastor of the congregation and to intentionally lead the congregation through this transition between settled pastors by focusing on three questions:

  • Who are we?
  • Who is our neighbor?
  • What is God calling us to do?

When I reflect on these three questions, every congregation should be asking themselves these three questions on a regular basis, rather than wait for the departure of their settled pastor. Being reminded again that a congregation is continually in transition.

Another way to consider and reflect on transition is to remember we are on a journey between baptism and resurrection. We are participants in an ongoing new creation. Daily, we die to sin and rise with Christ. Paul challenges us to be all things to all people so that we can connect, share Jesus, and offer salvation. The kingdom of God keeps coming. We are constantly on the continuum between being saint and sinner. We are part of a reform movement sparked by Martin Luther. This synod is committed to being re-formed. We anticipate and actively wait for the return and coming of Jesus. We are people and church in transition together and we are able to be in transition because we stand on the solid ground of Jesus.

As congregations continue to be in transition, we continue to be in need of transition pastors. If you are interested in this transition ministry, contact members of this synod’s interim ministry steering team: Pastors Cindy Beck, Lori Eickmann, Tim Philips (chairperson), Pamela Pond, and me. God’s guidance, support, and wisdom be with us in our discernment and transitions.

With confidence and hope in the living Jesus Christ,

Pastor Bill Wong