Since I have been kicking around the church as a priest on both sides of the Atlantic for more than fifty years, I was recently asked if I had a few tips when searching for another call. I came up with this rag-tag selection of ideas. When he read them, my friend suggested these might be helpful to others at a transition point in their ordained life. So I offer them to that end.
The irony for the officiant is that the only way to promote harmony among the various voices at prayer is to focus on their own. The role of the officiant is to pray through the chaos so the chaos can eventually find order through the prayers. The officiant must be attentive to all who are praying, but not at the expense of their own prayers.
Only in light of the confession of Jesus as Lord can we come to a right understanding of who we are. The church is indeed holy, a temple enabled to offer sacrifice. But its holiness is derivative of his, its sacrifice is the pleading of his for the sake of the world.
The real struggle in the next generation will be to understand ourselves, as the people of God and not just conglomerations of individuals, in the light of our exilic condition. It will be the underlying test for Anglicans in the Global North. How do we come to understand ourselves as a people with a different narrative, as a people against culture’s grain, beyond the immediate political answers we might give?
The new rector should use the first 90 days to establish the new priest as role of a caring pastor of the congregation by spending his or her time listening to as many parishioners as possible. This requires great intentionality on the part of the new rector. By being intentional in these first 90 days the new rector can instill a sense of enthusiasm and develop some early momentum in this crucial time in the life of the congregation.
The new priest will want to establish herself as the pastor of the congregation. As clergy we lead the congregation, but we pastor individuals. We gain permission to lead not primarily through our job description but through the level of trust our members give us.