Search for the Next Rector of St. John’s
At our July 15 meeting, I informed the Vestry of my intention to retire as Rector of St. John’s in about a year, on September 1, 2020. On that date I will turn 65 and observe my 25th anniversary as your Rector. Over the past few years Mary Ward and I have identified that milestone as a time that would be best for us for me to step away from my duties here and I have been working with the Wardens and the Bishop on a plan that will provide a smooth transition from my tenure to that of your next Rector.
The reason for announcing this far in advance is so that St. John’s can avoid a cumbersome interim period and conduct the search process during my final year. The Wardens, Bishop Sloan, and I believe this is the best way to insure the ongoing health of the parish and the success of the next Rector. I will serve until the parish has selected a new Rector and then will step aside prior to that person’s arrival.
Senior Warden Bill Eskridge and Junior Warden Jimmy McLemore, together with the Vestry, will immediately begin work on recruiting two committees which will lead the work of the search process. Those committees – a Self-Study Committee which will gain input from the entire parish, and a Discernment Committee which will do the interviewing of candidates and make the final recommendation to the Vestry – will be in place by September. Sarah Sartain – the Clergy Transition Officer of the Diocese – will begin working with the committees in September and will serve as your calling coach. A Parish Profile will be developed by the end of the year and the actual search will begin after the first of the year. All of this will allow your parish leadership to extend a call to someone much more quickly and efficiently than the typical search process involving an Interim Rector which usually takes about two years and creates a good bit of anxiety.
My role this next year will be to tend to the spiritual and organizational needs of the parish while the committees and Vestry do the work of calling the next Rector. My role in the search process is to stay out of the way and then to depart in such a way that the next Rector can be warmly welcomed and quickly trusted. I will have no input into the selection of people who serve on the committees, nor the person who is selected to be the Rector. When I retire, I will move from being a priest of the parish to being a friend of the parish. Beginning now and continuing after I retire, my goal will be to work for the success of your next Rector.
A major reason that this is a good time for me to retire is the stability of our Clergy and Staff. They will remain in place this next year and will be here to help the next Rector establish positive relationships. The organizational and programming details of the parish will be well taken care of. The parish will not go through a long period of imbalance.
You and I will have ample time to find closure in our priest/parishioner relationship. I will greatly miss being here and count my long tenure here as a distinct privilege afforded very few priests. In some ways our relationship changes immediately as I, effectively, become your Interim Rector for this next year and we do the preparatory work of transition. When I do retire, our relationship will change rather dramatically. I will no longer be a priest of this parish and will not serve in any liturgical or pastoral role. If we do remain in town, my family and I would eventually hope to join you in the pew as fellow parishioners. For at least a year or two though we will not attend worship here. All of that is in accord with diocesan policies which are designed to give you and the new Rector a healthy start and avoid any perception of interference. New Rectors deserve to be fully and completely the parish’s priest the day they arrive without the old one looking over their shoulder. But I, and my family, will continue as friends of St. John’s and support it in every way we can.
In our last year together, we will do some celebrating and reminiscing. Honoring what has been between us is right and good. We will also work together to look to the future. This will not be a year for me to wind things down but actively work to help you gear up for what comes next for the parish. Your job will be to participate even more fully in the life of St. John’s, give your input to the committees, and develop excitement over this next step in your history. Begin now to identify the needs of St. John’s and think about the qualities you desire in your next Rector. And pray for God to bring you the priest who is best suited to lead you faithfully as a servant of Christ.
To help answer questions you may have during the year, the Wardens and I will have periodic forums. The first of those will be on Sunday, August 25, at 9:15, in the Parish Hall.
May we live together with even deeper connection while we have time. May we count our many blessings. And may we live into the opportunities God has already prepared for us tomorrow and beyond.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.