It’s happened to all of us. We might be expecting it. It might come out of left field. The latter is what happened to me the weekend before Easter. As I do with most things, I’m planning to share the experience with you as a bit of a support group.
Our diocese needs a new Vicar Genera/Chancellor, and my pastor was asked to fill that role. That means he can’t be my pastor any more, so we’re going to hobble along during the first ten weeks of his new role until the natural shifts the Tuesday after the 4th of July.
I’ve been through this before at this parish. I had been there for less than a year as the Youth Minister before our pastor announced he was leaving. He was a member of a religious order who had been staffing our parish for more than 20 years. After our new pastor arrived a lot of things changed, including my job title. I went from Youth Minister to Office Manager in less than six months. The Liturgy at our parish looks much different as do our outreach ministries. Some of these changes have been good, some have been hard.
So what’s a parishioner to do when we find out our pastor is leaving? Let’s walk through this tumultuous season together. As I walk through it in my own parish, I’ll plan to share my experience over the course of the summer.
Let’s start with what not to do:
- Don’t prepare yourself for the worst possible replacement by deciding that the man who is your current pastor is the only man who can effectively pastor your parish. A seemingly perfect replacement could be assigned and it will still be different because he will have a different temperament, personality, and past. Your parish is composed of the people in the pews, so you make your parish what it is. If everyone’s on edge about a new pastor coming, it will probably be a terrible experience once he arrives.
- Don’t stop doing things in the parish because the new pastor might want to do things differently. Yes, he may have a different style, but don’t put all parish life on hold just because the pastor is changing. The mission of the Church is still the same: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Your mission is to spread the Gospel. A new pastor isn’t going to stop your efforts of sharing the Gospel.
- Don’t leave. Remember the parish is composed of the people who make up its pews. Give your new pastor some time to adjust to his new place. You lost of beloved pastor, and he lost a beloved home. You’re both in new places in your life. Give a little grace to one another.
Now what to do:
- Begin praying for your new pastor: He needs support and you need it too. I heard the other week on The Gathering Place podcast Beth and Jenna shared that there are two types of prayer regarding a situation. You can ask the Lord to change your circumstance or to change your heart. Focus on the changing your heart idea here because the situation is you will be getting a new pastor!
- Presume good will: Your new pastor will do things different than your current pastor. Why? Is it because he thinks you’ve been doing everything wrong and you’re heretics and you’re terrible Catholics? NOPE. It’s because he’s a different person and has his own quirks and ways of doing things. Presume he has good intentions.
- Share hope with fellow parishioners: Misery loves company and complainers love to complain, so when someone is upset or complaining about the change, contribute positively to the situation rather than piling on with negativity.
Have you been through a pastor change? Did you do anything that was super helpful or wish you’d done differently that you can share with the group (and I mean me so I accept my new pastor with joy and grace)?