A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: An exciting new season for FPCB’s life

Last Sunday, we held our Annual Congregational and Corporation meeting and made some very important decisions.

First, we elected new Elders and Deacons to serve for the next three years in those crucial ministries of leadership and service. Second, we elected a group of nine Trustees to form a reconstituted Board of Trustees to which the Session can delegate many of the responsibilities for managing our facilities, endowments, and other financial and administrative duties. While you may not be able to find Trustees in the Bible, unlike Elders and Deacons, they exercise a valuable and faithful ministry of stewardship in the life of this church, and I am grateful to have them joining in. After completing officer training and meeting with the Session in February, these new leaders will be taking up their new duties starting in March.

And we also made another important decision related to leadership in the life of this church: we approved the Session’s recommendation to create a new position for a full-time associate pastor whose programmatic focus will be in three areas: 1) engaging newcomers in the life and ministry of the church;
2) ministry with children, youth, and their families; and 3) compassion and justice work in the community. We therefore directed the Congregational Nominating Committee to seek nominations for an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee, which they will bring back to the congregation for a vote, “if the way be clear.”

The process of calling a pastor in the Presbyterian tradition is a complicated one, but for some important reasons. The process is designed to ensure that it is the congregation, not the Session or myself, who calls any pastor serving the congregation. And it is designed to ensure that the congregation elects a pastor based on their discernment of the will of God, rather than any other reason.

So the process requires a great deal of deliberation and openness; you can’t simply run out and call someone that someone heard good things about from a friend. So we’ll be explaining more of this process as it develops, but here are the next few steps.

First, we’ll need Lehigh Presbytery to approve the formation of an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (“APNC”); it’s their responsibility to ensure that we have good reasons for doing this and the capacity to follow through. If the Presbytery gives us that approval in early February, the Congregational Nominating Committee will come back with a slate of nominees for the APNC as soon as possible.

We’ll call a special congregational meeting to elect the APNC, and then they will get started organizing themselves and writing a position description. That, too, will need to be approved by the Presbytery once it’s completed. That “preparatory” process, all told, is likely to take several months, but once it is done, the APNC can advertise the position and begin reviewing candidates. That will then begin the actual “search” process.

We will keep you posted as things unfold, and will explain more about the process as we get to new stages. Please keep the congregation and this search process in your constant prayers during this exciting new season of our life together!

Grace and Peace,