As most of your know by now, I have decided to retire from full-time ministry and retire as your Rector on May 1, and April 15 will be my last Sunday at Good Shepherd. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost 13 years since I arrived in Centennial and almost 37 years that I have served as an Episcopal priest, either as a Curate, Vicar or Rector.
What will happen after my departure? During the months of February and March, the members of the Vestry will decide how Good Shepherd will be led during the time before a new priest is called. Going forward, there are currently two models that congregations can select from. The Vestry may consult with the Bishop and ask him to appoint a “Priest-in-Charge” or they may call an Interim Rector to lead the parish until a new Rector is called. In the second model, interims normally serve for a period of 12 -18 months. In the “Priest-in-Charge” model the newly appointed priest could begin serving within a fairly short period of time and, in consultation with the Vestry and the Bishop, a Priest- in-Charge would usually agree to serve for three years. During this time the Vestry and the parish would discern whether or not the priest was a good fit for the congregation and then, at the three-year point, after a process of deliberation, decide whether or not to call him/her to be their Rector.
If Vestry members decide to call an Interim Rector to serve during the interim, in consultation with the Bishop, they are free to recruit someone either locally, regionally or nationally, and they will decide to call someone to serve either full-time or part-time, depending on the needs and the financial resources of the congregation. The Interim Rector’s role is to lead the parish and assist the congregation to prepare for the calling of a new Rector. Normally, the search process for a new Rector involves surveying the congregation and creating a document called a “parish profile,” which summarizes the history, character and mission of the congregation. This document is then used in conjunction with the Diocese and the National Church Office of Transition Ministry to identify the names of prospective candidates. In the Episcopal Church, the Vestry selects a Search Committee, which is normally made up of 9-12 people, and the Senior Warden appoints a Search Committee Chairperson. Any prospective candidate must be approved by the Bishop before being considered by the Search Committee.
Shane Jones, our Senior Warden, and I will be discussing this process at the Annual Meeting on January 28 and you will receive regular updates on the interim process and the search process in the months ahead. I am very happy to report that Bishop Jerry Winterrowd has generously agreed to make himself available to serve as a supply priest on Sunday mornings until such time that either a Priest-in-Charge is appointed or an Interim Rector is called.
The departure or retirement of a church Rector is always an important time in the life of a congregation. It’s a time for the parish to take time to reflect on its identity, it’s mission and vision, its strengths, its weaknesses and its potential for growth and development. I am fully confident that Good Shepherd has capable and faithful leaders to lead the church during the search process. But parish leaders will need the input of parishioners in order for this process to result in a successful search for a new Rector.
I look forward to the next three months as I begin the process of transitioning to retirement. There will be lots to do and lots of goodbyes to say. Ann and I plan to remain in the community, at least for the time being. As of yet, I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to spend my retirement, but I will soon begin to consider what God is calling me to do after I leave Good Shepherd. In the Episcopal Church, when clergy retire in place they agree not to attend their former parish until at least two years after a new Rector is called, so Ann and I will be attending another congregation somewhere in the Denver area on Sundays. Also, it’s important that when clergy retire, they let go of all pastoral or liturgical responsibilities in order to allow for the congregation to go through the search process and welcome the new Rector. After leaving the congregation, clergy are free to socialize with former parishioners, but they aren’t free to conduct baptisms, weddings, funerals or other liturgical services – either at the church or at some other location.
At any time during the next three months, please feel free to contact me or Shane Jones if you have any questions about my retirement and the Vestry’s plans for the search process. Please stay informed and stay engaged in the life of the congregation during this important time of transition.