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Pastor’s Message: Sept. 11, 2020

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: CALLING OUR LEADERSHIP

Before I left for a short vacation in August, I told you that the Session would be calling a Special Congregational Meeting in the early fall to recommend some changes to you about the “terms of call” for me as your pastor.

I am pleased to say that the meeting has been called for Sunday, September 20, at 10 a.m. via Zoom. More detailed information on how to join the meeting will be provided in next week’s newsletter, but you will be able to participate whether you have a computer, a smartphone or tablet, or even just a rotary telephone!

This is important, because the congregation has an inalienable right in Presbyterian governance to select and call its own leadership, and we want to make sure that right is protected even amidst the challenges of the pandemic.

I want to explain briefly why this particular meeting is important, though, and what we will be doing. First, the Congregational Nominating Committee will be making a report with a recommendation for filling unexpired terms on Session that are open. More detailed information on that will be provided in next week’s newsletter, but this is about openings on the current Session, not the new class that we will nominate as usual at the Annual Congregational Meeting early in the new year.

Second, the Session is recommending some changes to my terms of call, which is also not the usual question of, say, a cost-of-living salary increase that is typically handled at the Annual Meeting.

As you may or may not know/remember, you called me as your pastor beginning on November 27, 2017. The date is significant because while I am the installed pastor of this congregation, I was called for a set term of three years rather than the typical “indefinite” term of an installed pastor. In Presby-speak, this is known as being a Designated Pastor, because you are installed for a designated period of time, usually at least two years and no more than four at a time, though the term can be either renewed or converted to an indefinite/“permanent” call by the congregation.

This decision to make the position a designated one was due to the congregation still being in schism at the time, and it was felt that we could be in all kinds of different configurations with different needs within a three-year timeframe, and so the pastoral leadership might need to shift accordingly to ensure a person with the right gifts was in the position.

Happily, three years later, our congregation is on a thriving course and the Session is recommending that I remain as pastor, which is my strong desire and sense of call, as well. So, if the congregation agrees, we need to change the terms of my call so that it doesn’t expire in two months! There will also be a few small recommendations related to leave time which will be explained more fully.

I hope you will make a special effort to be part of this important meeting. I do not expect that it will be particularly long or complicated, but it is a crucial moment in the life of any congregation when it is voting on its pastoral leadership.

I continue to be almost indescribably grateful for our journey together as pastor and congregation these past (almost) three years, and I am eager for the opportunity to continue that ministry with you into the future!

Grace and peace,
JC

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