All Saints Lutheran Church, St. James Lutheran Church, and St. Matthew Lutheran Church simultaneously find themselves in the search process for new pastoral leadership. It appears that none of the three can afford a full-time pastor, not even a new seminary graduate compensated at synod guidelines for the long term. Working individually with the congregations, Pastor Paul Ostrem, Assistant to the Bishop, proposed to the three councils the possibility of creating a parish to provide pastoral ministry to the congregations. Each council agreed to appoint three people to a steering committee to discuss the feasibility of such an arrangement and potentially to draft an agreement creating a parish which could be presented to the three congregations for approval. This committee has met four times and is now ready to present a proposed agreement to the respective councils. If there is agreement in each setting, the proposal would be forwarded to congregational meetings for action. The conversations to this point have been open, honest, respectful, realistic and hopeful.
It is important to remember that in a parish arrangement, the participating congregations do not lose their individual identity. There will continue to be three congregation councils. Each congregation will continue to have its own name, constitution and by-laws. Each congregation will have its own budget, be responsible for maintaining its own facilities, overseeing non-pastoral staff and programs, and anything and everything else that goes with operating a congregation.
The three congregations would share in supporting and benefiting from the pastoral leadership that would be called. A parish board composed of two members from each congregation would establish a parish treasury from which pastoral expenses would be paid. The parish board would be responsible for supervising the pastor(s) or ministerial staff and for doing annual performance evaluations of these positions. It would consider ways that the congregations might benefit from sharing programs (for example confirmation, youth ministry, etc.) or joining together for special ministries, missions, or special services and anything else that might strengthen the shared witness and ministry of the congregations. At this time, it is envisioned that the parish would be staffed with one and a half full-time equivalents for pastoral ministry.
In the coming weeks, the parish steering committee will be presenting a draft proposal to create the “Together in Christ Lutheran Parish” to the respective councils. With their consent, the proposal will be presented at congregational meetings for action. Each congregation will need to give approval to the resolution by a two-thirds majority vote in order for the parish to be put in place. Once that happens, a joint call committee of two persons from each congregation will begin work to recommend pastoral staff for the parish. Each congregation has completed a Ministry Site Profile (MSP) making it possible for this joint call committee to begin work immediately.
The goal of this parish agreement goes beyond concern for mere survival. Rather, it embraces a vision of greater effectiveness for mission and service to our neighbors and for proclaiming the love of God made known in Jesus Christ to all the world. We seek to bring clarity and visibility to the fact that we are all in this together – “Together in Christ.”
This article is being shared with each of the congregations involved in this effort.
All Saints will hold a congregational forum, led by Julie Schoville, KD Kalber and Bonnie Strittmater, on July 10, immediately following our 10:00 service. They will be answering any questions that you may have.
On July 17, immediately following our 10:00 service, a special congregational meeting will take place to vote on the shared ministry resolution that will be presented.