The month of March will be an important time in the life of the congregation when I will be working with church leaders to create a transition plan in preparation for my retirement on May 1. To help me with this process I have appointed a Transition Committee consisting of our Senior Warden Shane Jones, our Junior Warden, Nora Earnest, former Seniors Wardens Randy Hubbard and Pete Roden, and long-time member Elaine Oxenbury. The work of the Transition Committee is devoted to ensuring a smooth “hand-off” of roles and responsibilities prior to my departure.
There are many official documents and church policies, such as child-safety policies and procedures, that are required to be handed off or stored where appropriate staff and lay leaders can find them. After 13 years, there are also many things that I do on a daily and weekly basis that most people, including the staff are not aware of. This is especially true in regard to the church building and grounds. Unlike many congregations, Good Shepherd has not had a paid “Sexton” or full-time janitor to watch over the building. Although volunteers manage and maintain the kitchen area, the church library, the church sanctuary, and volunteers step in to do things like change the light bulbs, repair furniture, or tidy up the building and grounds on parish work days, during my tenure, there has not been a person whose job it is to make sure that the entire building is regularly maintained in an orderly way. This includes making sure that lights are turned off, fire doors are closed, external doors are secured, thermostats are set correctly, the parish hall is kept looking tidy for Sunday visitors, snow melt and sand are put out in winter, and flower arrangements are watered or thrown out. I often joke that I am the highest paid janitor in the Episcopal Church!
With this in mind, one of my biggest “hand-offs” will be compiling Operations and Maintenance Manuals for the church building so that people can have access to maintenance records, building service contracts and providers, and instructions for things like the HVAC system. Included in this work will be a long overdue Safety and Preparedness Plan, which I will be preparing with Kathy Hunter so that parishioners know where the telephones are or where the first-aid kit is, or how to operate the heart defibrillator in case of an emergency.
Another long-overdue project is to update our parish data base by inputting information about parishioners so that my successor(s) will be able to learn about the people who make up this parish. Much of this information was compiled by me and Kristin Olsen when she was our youth minister several years ago, but needs updating and has never been entered into the Servant Keeper data base.
In terms of pastoral care, any time a clergy person leaves a parish, it’s important that he/she leave behind confidential records that will help the Interim Rector and new Rector be aware of critical pastoral situations. Clergy transitions can often be times when aging and home-bound parishioners can “fall off the radar” so it’s important to record who might potentially need pastoral follow-up. It’s also important for departing clergy to leave a written record regarding monies that have been donated for specific purposes so that, in the future, the donor’s wishes will be honored.
So, you can see, that, aside from cleaning out my office and handing over the keys, I will be a busy guy over the next two months prior to May 1. My hope is that this transition will be as smooth as possible and that there will be as few “loose-ends” as possible. As part of this transition I would be happy to visit with anyone who would like to “hand-off” any particular piece of information or concern about life at Good Shepherd that they feel is important and should be documented or maintained. After 13 years I have stewardship of a lot of institutional knowledge, but it’s important that as much of this knowledge as possible stay in the congregation after my departure.
If you would be interested in joining the Transition Committee and taking responsibility for any of these essential transition tasks, please contact me or Shane Jones, our Senior Warden.