My church is in the process of calling a new senior pastor. The Call Committee will present three names to the Voters Assembly tonight, and we will vote to issue a call to one of them.
The process in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is both similar to and different than the call process I experienced growing up in the United Presbyterian Church. In both cases, the congregation gets to decide who they want to call, and the minister gets to accept or reject it. And both denominations rely on God’s guidance for the decisions to extend and accept (or reject) the call. But the process in the Presbyterian Church gave the voting members of the congregation a chance to hear a sermon and talk to a candidate before voting, while the LCMS is concerned that too much vetting will turn it into a secular hiring process.
Still, the process revived memories of my own experiences, and I wanted to share a couple of them with you.
When I was growing up, the search committee came to my father’s current church, heard him preach, and talked with him after the service. If they liked him better than they liked any of the other candidates, they asked him to come to their church on a Sunday morning to preach. Afterwards, the members of the congregation who stayed for the meeting would ask him questions before voting. Of course, we would not be there during the discussion and the vote. That’s when someone usually took us over to see what Presbyterians call the manse (a parsonage to some denominations) where we would live if Daddy became the minister of that church. I think there may have been a potluck in between the service and the meeting at some of the churches, but I don’t remember for sure.
Two things stand out for me. The first is what I referred to as Daddy’s “candidating” sermon. He always used the same one. I liked the sermon but thought it was a little misleading. Daddy was an intellectual who liked to explain what the Bible meant in the original Greek or Hebrew and whose sermons were filled with Biblical history and geography. That took the first two-thirds of his usual sermons, with the last third as practical application. His candidating sermon (“Fishing Season is Open”) was more folksy than normal. If people were misled, however, I never heard them complain about it.
The other strong memory is when Daddy candidated in Schoolcraft, Michigan at what he hoped would be (and was) his last congregation. Mama did not like the manse (pictured above), which was poorly insulated. But the biggest problem was the bedrooms. They were large but there were only two of them for my parents, my two brothers, and myself. And neither room was quite large enough to divide into two. I don’t know how my father talked my mother into it, but he accepted the call. It was a good decision: my parents were happy with the church and the church was happy with them. (Unfortunately, I had to share a bedroom with my parents. Fortunately, I was in college and only home summers and holidays.)
At least our new minister will get to chose his own home.