Dear St. Jacob’s Family,
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus the Christ our hope and our salvation! I pray that you are well and staying safe and healthy during these challenging times.
I wanted to update you about a few staff changes and also share a little about some changes for myself. Unfortunately, the rumor mill seems to be working overtime and not all information people are getting is correct. We have not intentionally withheld information from you as a congregation. Along with certain confidentialities that needed to be kept and procedures to follow, as things developed, we needed to get everything in order before making any formal announcements.
By now most of you have heard about the resignation of Michelle as our Office Administrator at the end of July. Michelle was more than a bookkeeper or secretary. She managed our facilities, kept track of a number of things related to calendars, bookings, membership, finances, vendors, and contracts, and by and large, along with Krista Smith, has kept communications moving and allowed the office to continue as a hub for our ministries even during this pandemic. We certainly will miss her but wish her well in her new endeavors.
As with many things in life, change can bring opportunity to re-evaluate and reposition ourselves. Church Council, Mutual Ministry, and myself went to work very quickly to do an assessment of what was needed and to come up with a plan to fill the huge vacancy that was created when Michelle resigned. A special Council task force was formed, and in conjunction with the above mentioned groups/persons, a plan was devised to ensure that office functions are handled efficiently, bookkeeping done effectively, and our ministries continue uninterrupted. I want to say very special thank you to all involved in that process.
Krista Smith has graciously agreed to take on a new position at St. Jacob’s – Ministry Coordinator. This position is a hybrid of the things she was doing as Discipleship Coordinator and some of the Office Administrator functions that Michelle covered. After looking at all options, it was decided that offering Krista more hours and some benefits, while outsourcing our bookkeeping needs with an independent person who is familiar with our systems was the best way to move forward both practically and financially.
Office hours may be slightly adjusted to reflect the flexibility that Krista requires as part of her remaining Discipleship duties which include evening meetings and often require her to work on Saturdays and Sundays. We are working to ensure that we keep the office running smoothly and accessible to members and contractors. Because of updates that we have made to our phone system (due to lightning strike) and protocols resulting from Covid-19 that will remain in effect, your ability to reach someone at the “office” will not change, even if the physical office is not open on a particular day. Right now, we are working to find the best schedule for Krista and if it becomes necessary, we will look at forming a volunteer team to cover some of the needed hours. The office is currently closed on Mondays, and so we are simply looking at modifying the weekly schedule a bit for the remaining days of the week. I would note that most churches the size of St. Jacobs do not have an office open as many hours as we do. Usually, they have someone only half days or 3 days a week at most. Part of our assessment has been to consider what is really needed and what we can do differently or resource differently to enhance ministry and prevent staff burn out.
Overall, we feel we have a very good working plan for the foreseeable future, and we will reassess the situation when the new pastor is called and has had time to settle in a bit. Our deepest appreciation goes to Krista for her flexibility and willingness to step up to the challenges amidst the changes. If you have not had an opportunity to do so, please extend to her your own appreciation.
Now, to matters related to me as your interim pastor. Some of you may have heard news that I am leaving. While it is true that I will be leaving, I am not doing so until a pastor has been formally called to St. Jacob’s, or Council and I would mutually decide that the situation has changed enough that someone else would be better suited to lead you. Things are changing, though, in my current situation.
For the past two years, I have been serving both as your interim pastor and as the University Chaplain at the University of Mount Union. For a number of reasons that I would be more than happy to discuss with you in person or by phone, I will be moving on from Mount Union at the end of this month. I was not necessarily looking to leave the University, but an opportunity to get a little closer to family and further my personal and professional goals presented itself. As such, I have accepted the position of Chief Development Officer at Seward County Community College in my hometown in Liberal, Kansas.
After consultation with Synod officials, Church Council, and much prayer, it was unanimously decided by Council and myself that as long as the arrangement is working, I will remain as your interim pastor. There were a couple of factors that influenced this decision. First, the call committee is actively interviewing candidates for St. Jacob’s next pastor. Knowing that we are close to calling a pastor, if we can make it work for me to continue serving as your interim, does it make sense to bring someone else in for what is likely to be a short period of time? Secondly, with continued concerns and restrictions around Covid-19, much of our ministry is still happening virtually or at the very least is a hybrid of in-person and virtual ministry. It was felt that as the person who knows the congregation best at this point, I could continue to lead and provide oversight and guidance as I have been doing since the pandemic started. With a few adjustments, this allows continuity with staff, ministry, and pastoral care to continue. Someone new coming in would be very limited in getting to know people given our situation.
Obviously, I cannot be in two places at once, so there are some logistical challenges. I would say though that this has always been the case as I have split time and duty between St. Jacob’s and Mount Union. I would like to believe that you have not been neglected, and I feel we have done amazing work together despite some of the limitations. Staff has stepped up in remarkable ways, and you as a congregation have done so as well. I will remain available for calls, virtual meetings, and scheduled visits on the days and weeks I am in town, and certainly will cover emergencies as I am able. The plan is for me to be back at least three to four weekends a month for our worship and recording of services, visits, and special events. Should a pastoral emergency arise when I am not in Ohio, we have an incredible care team in place, and there will be a pastor who can attend to anything that cannot wait until a weekend.
We recognize that this a different way of sharing ministry together, but if we have learned anything over the past few months, it is that we can do things differently and perhaps with greater intention and still find ourselves in ministry together.
So, you are not being left orphaned, and I am not abandoning you, but things are changing. Should the circumstances prove to be untenable, we will make the necessary adjustments. Until then or until your new pastor is called, I look forward to continuing the journey with you. We have a great staff, a great Council, great members, and great opportunities ever before us – none of that is changing.
Please feel free to reach out to me either at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 316-204-2129.
With you on the journey,