Suggestions for Writing a Minister’s Profile

I have twice had the privilege of helping a church who’s pastor had moved on. Such a position as the one I held we in the Reformed Church call a “supervisor.” As the supervisor of Pultneyville Reformed Church in 2009 and part of 2010, and of Lakeview Community Church from June of 2011 to September of 2012, I basically was a resource and guide for their consistories and search committees.

Because of that, I know a good deal about the minister search process in our denomination. In particular, I know a good deal about the Minister’s Profile Form. That is an instrument the RCA uses to provide some common framework in the call process. Basically, ministers complete it and search committees read it. (There’s also a form that congregations complete, but let me talk about that another time.)

I have read many minister profiles. And I have seen certain kinds of problems come up with some frequency. I hope that by naming them I’ll help a few people who are writing, or perhaps rewriting, their profiles.

Um, no …

To be sure, I understand the impulse. Would worship have such passion! And there is truly a strong line in the Christian tradition, stemming from scripture itself, that speaks of intimacy and desire for God. Without a doubt, Sunday worship would be greatly improved in most churches if people felt that God was beautiful beyond measure and greatly to be adored.

But worship is more than the expression of a lover for the beloved. For we’re not talking equals here. A love song is what is sung by one who is (or wants to be!) in a relationship of mutual affection. But worship is the interaction between creature and creator, between sinner and redeemer, between disciple and Lord. It is not one of mutuality.

Because of that, there is much more that should happen in worship than love-drenched praise and the expression of adoration (as important as these surely are). In worship, we listen to God. We are corrected and inspired. We are fed. We confess. We profess. We resolve to live better and do differently. All of these are part of complete worship. And they cannot be subsumed under the rubric of a love song.

Returning

I put the following in my monthly newsletter article, my first since my return to work:

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:30-31)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)

I recently experienced a wonderful gift. You allowed me to take a sabbatical! For three wonderful months, I

rested,
exercised,
traveled,
read,
composed,
performed,
listened to music,
talked with friends,
prayed and worshipped.

It was a tremendously healing time for me. It deepened my faith and trust in God. It strengthened my marriage. It fostered in me great appreciation for my children. It renewed my love for all of you. I learned more about myself, as I reflected on my past in the light of my present while dreaming of the future.

Some people might advise a minister going on sabbatical, “Don’t think about your church!” For me, that was impossible. I couldn’t help but think about Trinity Church: all of you who are its members, adherents, and friends; its various ministries; its great opportunities; its sobering problems; its joys and aggravations. My sabbatical experiences would so often bring these to mind. Sometimes those thoughts were happy. Honestly, sometimes they were not. Curiously, as the sabbatical went on the thoughts became both more hopeful and more realistic. I believe that I have greater clarity about this congregation, its opportunities, and my role here.

But I certainly didn’t spend most of my time thinking about Trinity Reformed Church! There was plenty to fill my attention. Yet so often my calling as a minister and my call as pastor of this congregation were the (at times uninvited) conversation partners in my reflections, as I heard the most profound music, as I looked upon beautiful vistas, as I shared meals with old and new friends, as I played chamber music with fellow musicians.

I return to my work as your pastor with a great deal of excitement and a new-found sense of confidence. I am eager, through preaching and teaching and pastoral care and leadership, to urge and instruct and pester and cajole and attract, all of that for this end: that you would take your faith seriously and put yourselves wholeheartedly into this ministry that we share.

Thank you so much for the gift of my sabbatical! It’s good to be back.

Recital Announcement

Music for a Summer Evening

July 18, 2012
7:30 pm

Trinity Reformed Church
909 Landing Road North
Rochester, New York, 14610

To help me mark the end of my sabbatical, some of my friends and I are putting on a concert.

By “some,” I mean Dave Lane, Maxine Sturtevant, John Kluge, Terry Smith, Caroline Clearwater Slocum, Dana Hyuge, and a few others. Maybe you know them. They’re great people and great musicians. We’ve had a lot of fun working together.

I love the music we’re playing. Pieces will include Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe (featuring Dave Lane and Terry Smith as soloists), Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet, Barber’s String Quartet, Shostakovich’s “Two Pieces for String Quartet,” as well as works by Arvo Pärt and Scott Slapin.

Please come out for this. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Dallas (or, the Violapastor Goes to a Very Hot Place)

I got to spend a few days in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, from Saturday to Wednesday, June 23-27. It was great to visit with a number of old friends, most of them representing the three institutions that were most central to my time in Texas: Southern Methodist University, Hope Reformed Church (of blessed memory), and the Reformed Church in Plano. I had a number of deep, rich conversations with these dear people over a meal. Even though I now call each one a friend, in the past I have used other names to describe them: colleague, classmate, choir members, mentor, student.

Going there, I felt uncertain about my reasons for the trip. It seemed that I was wanting something, but I had trouble saying exactly what it was. I think that all I was wanting was to connect with this significant part of my life so I could understand better who I am now. Maybe I was wanting to feel that it hadn’t been a waste.

I lived in Dallas County for twelve years, about three times as long as I had expected to be there. During that time I experienced success, satisfaction, happiness, disappointment, and errors in judgment. I made many friends, and I lost a couple friends. I learned important lessons, some of which sure would have been good to know beforehand.

In visiting my friends, I received a great blessing from them. Although it is not easy to put into words, I think the blessing they gave me was this: that my time in North Texas was not a waste, nor a detour while I was on my way to where I am now. God had a purpose for me there, as God had a purpose for bringing these friends into my life. Even the church where I had given nine years of my life, a church that closed about 2 years after I left Texas, is likewise under that gracious blessing of “this is not wasted,” as God’s love, the peace of Christ Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit together converted and molded and, surely, continue to work in the lives of its former members.

And yes, yes, yes, it was very hot there. I walked around SMU’s campus during the worst of it on Monday and Tuesday. Even though it doesn’t look like it in this picture, it was probably about 105℉ at the time I took this shot:

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I think the next time I visit should be some February.

San Francisco

I have been spending a few days in the City by the Bay. (Cue classic Journey track!) I figured that while I was on the West Coast I ought to include SF in my itinerary. My great hope had been that Tammi could join me here, but that didn’t work out, so I have known for a while that I would be here on my own.

But what a neat city to explore. On Saturday evening, after an excellent Thai meal of pad kee mao (stir fried flat rice noodles, garlic, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, green beans and basil), I took cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was quite lovely there in the early evening:

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and I met some new friends (but they were a little sleepy):

The next morning I went to City Church for worship, and then had great conversation over lunch with my friend Scot Sherman, one of the pastors at City Church.

After lunch Scot dropped me off at the Golden Gate Bridge, which I proceeded to walk. It’s 1.7 miles across, so I needed a little rest on the other side before I walked back. Scot was smart to advise me to purchase some sunscreen at the gift shop before starting across. It was a beautiful, sunny day, as these shots will prove:

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This morning I went to Japantown, which was really neat. I’m sure Jonathan (my eldest son) would enjoy it.

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After having a delicious lunch of red snapper at Fisherman’s Wharf, I went to Chinatown. It was interesting, but I didn’t like it as much as Japantown.

Tonight I’m having dinner with a good friend from seminary, Magi Henderson. She is pastor of a church only a block away from my hotel, and she’s also on sabbatical.

Tomorrow I go home. I’m so happy that I’ll see Tammi and the boys. (Bethany is doing an internship in Colorado Springs.)