In a previous post, I discussed with you the nature of interim religious education ministry. Yet, I declined to highlight interim ministry as a specialized call in the shared ministry we engage in as a spiritual community and professional religious leadership. The interim period is much more than a break between settled professionals: it is a dynamic time of exploration, innovation, and storytelling.
As the lyrics of our beloved Hymn #123 in Singing the Living Tradition, “Spirit of Life,” declare, during the interim period we ask for roots that hold us close to our traditions and for wings that set us free from that which no longer serves our community. However, I must confess, I prefer the Spanish-language translation that we also sing each Sunday, Hymn #31 in Las Voces del Camino, “Fuente de Amor” (Fountain of Love). In this version of the popular anthem, we no longer ask for roots and wings but demand of the Fuente de Amor/Spirit of Life, “Arráigame (root me), Libérame (free me).” If we find the fullest expression of the Fuente de Amor/Spirit of Life in spiritual community, then these are both bold and vital demands we make of one another.
We allow ourselves the time and space to live into the express intentions we set with both hymns during the period of interim ministry. With the interim professional alternately as advisor and facilitator, the spiritual community covenants to root itself in the beauty and uniqueness of its past while simultaneously offering community members the freedom to re-ground themselves in a shared vision of a bolder equally vibrant future. Moreover, the community decides to thrive in this in between space; to do the necessary work of gaining broad input; and, to act on the decisions members make during this time.
Thus, when a congregation adds interim ministry to its worship and programmatic life, the community is actively exercising the spiritual tools it has always had while adding new items to its shared toolbox of faith: the community is provisioning. Indeed, as United Church of Christ interim minister, Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bardot has said, “One of the most joyful tasks of interim ministry is helping people recognize and celebrate their strengths as a community of faith.” The strengths that you highlight throughout interim period are not confined to use during that time: they are divine and human skills for the making and mending of the spiritual community you have been and will be; they are the emotional link that binds each to all across the generations in your community.
How you provision during this transitional time will set the course of how your community learns, grows and worships together for years to come. Likewise, as we transition from an explicit focus on gratitude in the nation and in the spiritual life of this congregation to the season of Advent—the time in the Christian calendar of worship and celebration which asks for patient anticipation of the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus—how you honor the demands of patience for and anticipation of what may lay on the other side of the interim period becomes more significant. Attention to the balance between these demands will shape the depth and breadth of your shared mission and vision of religious education. To meet these challenges, I invite you reflect on the wisdom that you are the ones you’ve been waiting for.
I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday as we dive deeper into the special opportunity interim religious education ministry offers your community. To counter the saying, you are not between a rock and hard place; rather, your community is between the rock of your history and the goal of world community. What a beautiful place in which to wait and provision!
See you church,
Interim Director of Religious Education