September 12, 2016

Good Words for any Congregation

My cousin Jill is completing a long-term interim pastorate in a church in another state.  A few weeks ago, shortly before the new priest was to begin, she concluded her sermons with these thoughts:

Charles Xxxxxx is a good match for St. Xxxxxxx's. A lot of work went into making sure of that. And beyond that, God chose Charles for St. Xxxxxxx’s; Charles is coming in the name of the Lord.
But Charles is not the Lord. He’s a person, called to ministry, and the ministry he has been called to is a mutual ministry. How you pray for, support and love Charles, will go a long way in determining whether your ministry together is successful. You and Charles together will decide whether this new clergy-and-people relationship will work. Together you have the power to make it or break it.
But be encouraged: you’re up to the task. Any congregation that can accept a priest sight-unseen, imposed on you by the bishop, will surely welcome with open arms a priest for whom you’ve worked and prayed for months.
We at St. Xxxxxxx’s know the cost of conflict. We have been overwhelmed in the past by the anger, division and bitterness conflict engenders. But we also know the “terms of peace.” They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
These are the gifts of Christ to those who choose to travel with him as his disciples, who count the cost and who will never turn back.
Thanks, Jill, in the midst of overwhelming church conflict, we do well to remember that we already know the "terms of peace."