Search Committees of the Past
a Reflection by Sue Rosser
My how the search for a rector has changed, thanks be to God.
I have had the honor and pleasure of serving on several Search Committees over the years. The first one found the committee laboring over many. many applications from the diocese, narrowing them down to under ten (10). Then, teams of four set out to interview the candidates in person.
He, of course (there were no she’s at that time) was aware that we would be in the congregation to assess his sermon and liturgical style of his service, but others present were unaware.
It is extremely hard to be incognito even when we spread out in pairs or singularly among the parishioners. (We ourselves were always on guard looking for “strangers” posing as “visitors” who just may be an outside search committee with our current rector as a candidate.)
The second one involved four of us FLYING to upstate NY to meet a candidate for dinner and attend his church service the following day. We all agreed during dinner that he would not be a good fit, but we had traveled a long way to make that discovery. In those days, our budget for the search was “large” if there indeed were one.
The search process became more practical and less costly as we later could interview him (still no her) as the committee gathered around a speaker phone. The top candidates were then invited to Christ Church for a personal interview with the entire Search Committee and lead a service for them as well as the vestry. Whomever thought of this idea was brilliant! They come to us versus us going to them!
Time and technology have improved the process even more. Our church profile was posted on the diocesan website for those rectors in search of a new parish, an invitation to discern. The Bishop and his Transition Office recruited and also pre-screened the applications and selected those candidates whom THEY thought could be a good fit for Christ Church as well as the diocese. After all, he or she would be working under the Bishop as well as our vestry, and just as if you were hiring an employee, you would want to be certain that the relationship would be a healthy one in every aspect. Interviews were held via SKYPE at NCI on a large screen as if the candidate were in the room.
However, the candidate pool became much smaller as fewer portfolios were presented.
As is true today, when the candidate has indicated an interest in pursuing the call, it is up to the committee to make the sale and the vestry to “close the deal”.
We were then and are now an exceptional parish! That has not changed.
The following is taken from our Parish Profile.
In this moment, so many churches are wondering about worship after the pandemic. Some are doubtful that there will even be a future for their congregations.
Christ Episcopal Church of Martinsville is not one of these churches. We have an engaged and devoted congregation, built on a foundation of almost two hundred years’ worth of prayers and service. We live in a community where we are proven partners in interfaith dialogue.
Go to our website (link) and read our profile under New Rector Profile. It is quite impressive!!
Please continue to pray for our church and for God’s revealing of our new rector.
Recently, I came across an article about a lifelong Sabbath-observant Orthodox Jew speaking about how the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened her emotional relationship with the Sabbath. As a child, she found it hard to endure 24 hours of no TV, plowing through library books and hoping the pages would outlast the hours of the day. As an adult, however, it became the oasis from a hectic work week, a chance to reconnect with family over food and conversation. Covid elevated the experience to a whole new level. In the early weeks, she was glued to the news, wondering if her job would come back. It was hard to explain what it felt like systematically shutting down iPads, phones, a smartwatch and lap top in the seconds before sunset. But it soon became an incredible pleasure to shut out the media for 25 hours, and dreading the end of the day when the electronics came back to life. The mental and physical payoff for having a true day of rest became incalculable.
During my childhood, the stores were all closed on Sunday, and we did not have all the gadgets we live on today. If I was breathing and did not have a fever, I was expected to go to Sunday School and church. My mother would prepare a fabulous Sunday dinner. After lunch we would go over to my grandmother’s house, sit outside in the garden on those metal lawn chairs, drink RC Cola in cut crystal glasses, and visit. Why RC cola? Because the husband of her best friend at church ran the RC plant, and she wanted to support them.
As I became a teenager, I started to rebel because I had friends I wanted to play with instead of going to grandmother’s. It hurt her feelings, one of my few regrets in life. Wish I could have that one over. But I do have fond memories of those simpler times.
Today, everything save Chic fil A is open, and Sunday is one of the biggest shopping days of the week. It is a big day for youth soccer games. And for many, going to church is a choice among many options. What is your Sunday like now?
I leave you with a selection from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.
Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher whose day job was Emperor of Rome, wrote long ago: "You have been formed of three parts—body, breath, and mind. Of these, the first two are yours insofar as they are only in your care. The third alone is truly yours."
A more contemporary philosopher and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, similarly declared: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way." (It should be noted that, by deliberately choosing an attitude of selfless love and service to others, Frankl found meaning during three years in the Nazi concentration camps that took the lives of his parents, his brother and his wife. He wrote this years later.)
The New Testament Lessons for the Fifth Sunday of Easter were from the Gospel and first Epistle of John the Evangelist. The opportunity/responsibility for giving the homily that day led me to a careful reading of both passages. My interpretation of John's message was that: (1) God loves us absolutely and unconditionally; (2) because God so loves us, each of us should unceasingly love God with all our hearts, souls and minds and we should similarly love one another; and (3) as Jesus is the intermediator of this all-encompassing love, to steadfastly and fully love God and one another is to abide in Jesus and allow Jesus to abide in us.
The Stoic and the psychiatrist teach us that we can choose our thoughts. The Evangelist teaches us what those thoughts should be.
Victor Frankl, like Jesus, was a Jew. I believe Jesus would endorse Frankl’s assertions that: "The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself;" and, more succinctly, "Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence."
Spring,...it is the spectacular season of rebirth and renewal, animals awaken and the earth comes alive! As our world emerges from a year of unparalleled uncertainty, I reflect on the things that have sustained me personally throughout this time. It is through faith, family, friends and the gifts of our natural world that I have found peace and comfort.
One year ago, all that we knew as normal changed in an instant. Simple things that we took for granted were no longer possible, a handshake, a hug, or even gathering together with friends and family members. We were all challenged to find new ways to connect with one another and the world around us to revive our spirit of faith.
As I recall March, April and May of 2020, there were silver linings that I will never forget. It was the most majestic Spring weather that I remember. Day after day of cloudless blue skies, the emergence of blossoms and the songs of birds soothed the surrounding sadness. A call from a friend, or a photo of my family had a deeper meaning. Things that were unnoticed or insignificant in my busy life suddenly became the center of my focus and my joy. There was time to pause, reflect and to be thankful for these beautiful gifts.
Today as we step outside to brilliant birds and butterflies, delightful dogwoods, and verdant valleys, may we be reminded of the great joy of family, friendships and nature. In this glorious season of rebirth, I look forward to the future with renewed grace and spirituality.
While Christ Church is without a priest, individuals in our church family will be asked to contribute brief reflections to our monthly newsletter.
We began quarantine during Lent 2020, and we continue to experience restrictions a year later. Where am I now? I’ve had my first dose of the COVID vaccine. I have discovered that yoga via Zoom is acceptable and that playing the piano each day can be quite soothing. I have accepted that, for now, FaceTime will remain my main source of communication with my children and grandchild. I’ve resumed knitting a prayer shawl I began two years ago. I’ve watched more Netflix movies than I care to admit, and I’ve read my share of books.
Two books in particular come to mind as I write this reflection. The first is A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, and the second is An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. The former focuses on how the relationship between the secular and the sacred has changed throughout human history. The latter focuses on experiencing the sacred through the secular by participating in daily practices (paying attention, walking on the Earth, living with purpose, saying no, etc.). Both books have had an effect on the way I currently experience quarantine.
I’m encouraged that I can take a simple task like working a jigsaw puzzle and experience gratitude for being able to manipulate the pieces and for being able to appreciate the shapes and colors. I can watch the birds feeding at the kitchen window and say a brief prayer of thanksgiving for all living things. I can take my daily COVID stroll sans ear buds and focus on the movement of my body as it makes contact with the pavement and on the thoughts in my head as I observe the world around me. You can probably guess where I’m going with this. But, in the event that it isn’t obvious, I’ll explain. The intentional practice of taking everyday experiences and recognizing what is inherently holy in them has made this time in the wilderness so much more bearable. During the season of Lent, I pray that each of us is able to experience our world and our humanity in it in a deeper way.
10:00 AM: Holy Eucharist, Rite II
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