Clerk’s Corner: “Letter to Congregation About Dave’s Retirement and Transitioning Process” February 9, 2017

January 30, 2017

To members and friends of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian:

We were all a little surprised when Dave announced that he would be retiring in November.  But, I don’t think it was really a shock to anyone.  Dave has been dedicated to helping form and sustain Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church for over 30 years and deserves an opportunity to relax and have more time to enjoy many of his personal interests.  It will also give him more time to focus his time and energy on particular areas of ministry that he personally has come to love.  I am going through a similar transition after 34 years working in public health, so I can understand what a challenging decision it is to leave a role you love.

But, enough about that.

As Clerk of Session, the responsibility falls on me to help steer the process of transitioning to a new Senior Pastor.  Fortunately, there are many others who will have critical roles in this process.  This includes the PHPC Session, Presbytery staff who have a lot of experience in this area, and the Congregation, which will have the most critical role—choosing a new Senior Pastor.

We will have ample help from Presbytery. Joy Fisher and Mark Roberson have been identified to help lead us through the transition.  Rev. Joy Fisher is our congregation consultant from the Presbytery staff who has served as a liaison between the church and Presbytery since 2014. And Elder Mark Roberson is a member of the Committee on Ministry which guides ministers and Certified Christian Educators and fosters healthy ministries in the congregations of the Presbytery. 

They are very experienced with this process and will be a tremendous source of information and guidance. I have already started corresponding with them with initial questions (and I am sure there will be many more), and their involvement is very reassuring.  Other churches which are similar to PHPC, including Atlanta First Pres and Roswell Pres, have recently  been through a change of pastors after a long term of service by their previous pastor.  We can learn from their successful experiences.

The Session will name a transition committee soon.  This group will oversee the process and make sure that all of the necessary steps are being taken.  They will also be tasked with keeping the congregation informed about what is happening.

We will first seek an Interim Pastor, who will serve during our search for our next pastor.  It may seem odd for us not to move directly toward identifying our next pastor, but, we will need some time to absorb the idea of Dave’s leaving and carefully consider who we are as a Congregation and who we want as our next Senior Pastor. In our first meeting with Joy, she explained that following this process will result in a much better long-term outcome because it will provide us a cooling off period, time to mourn the loss of Dave, and time to carry out a comprehensive search and make sure we are bringing on the right person to lead us forward. 

Bringing on an Interim Pastor prevents us from feeling rushed in making those decisions.  To identify this Interim Pastor, Session will select an Interim Pastor Nominating Committee, but that committee will probably not begin to seek applicants until August/September. The Interim Pastor will not begin to serve until Dave has completed his time in mid-November and we have had the chance to give him a resounding farewell.  We are very fortunate to have three terrific Associate Pastors who will keep the ministries of the church going through this transition.

After this, the congregation will elect a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) to identify a permanent replacement for Dave as our Senior Pastor.  This group’s work will begin with intensive reflection on the character of PHPC, who we are as a congregation, and where we want to go from here. The congregation’s input into this vision will be critical and the PNC will look for ways to get as much input as possible. This will be done before we begin to accept applications so that possible candidates will know who we are and whether they are interested, and so that we will really know what characteristics in a new Pastor we will be looking for.

So, along with Transition Team, Session and others, I hope to try to keep the Congregation as informed as possible as the process moves along.  Look for regular updates.  If you have questions, please ask a Session member.  While they may not be able to answer immediately, we will try to get you an answer as quickly as possible.

Yours sincerely,

David Ashley

Clerk of Session, Pleasant Hill Presbyterian




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