I once read in a PC(USA) Women’s Bible Study that the Chinese character for change was a combination of the characters that represented both risk and opportunity. Southminster has been in a time of change. In September of 2013, after 8 years of faithful service in our midst, Chad Herring resigned his call as our Associate Pastor to take a call as Pastor of the John Knox Kirk Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, MO. This marked the end of an extraordinarily long period of relative staff stability at Southminster.
We went through a period of reflection and dialogue about our ministry needs and staffing model. The result of that process was an overwhelming affirmation of the two-pastor model and a desire to seek a new Associate Pastor. We proceeded, in good Presbyterian fashion, to do two things: 1) appoint an Interim Associate Search Committee (APNC) to help fill our needs in the transition period; and 2) elect an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee to engage in the arduous process of seeking a new called, installed Associate Pastor. Faithful members of our congregation stepped forward to undertake both of those tasks.
In March of 2014, our interim search committee brought forth the name of Karen A. Wagner, a candidate for ordained ministry in the PC(USA) who had recently relocated to Kansas City as their choice for our interim Associate Pastor. Karen’s resume and work experience matched very closely the attributes and skills that had been identified in our previous dialogue sessions. After a period of discernment and concurrence by our Session, Karen began her work among us as Interim Associate during Holy Week, 2014, and she was ordained to the office of teaching elder by Heartland Presbytery.
The APNC you elected is an extraordinary group of people! They engaged in an extensive and disciplined process that included developing a Ministry Information Form for our congregation, reviewing over 50 resumes, engaging in a dozen or so telephone or Skype interviews, and conducting multiple face to face interviews with potential candidates. That they were able to do all of this and come to a unanimous decision about their report to the congregation in a period of 18 or so months is “lightning fast” in PresbySpeak!
Karen A. Wagner was one of their applicants. At the end of their exhaustive process, they were unanimous in their prayerful discernment that the Holy Spirit was leading us to call Karen as our Associate Pastor. This was ratified in a unanimous congregational vote on March 29th, Palm Sunday, to make Karen Wagner our Associate Pastor-Elect. On Tuesday of this week, at a meeting of Heartland Presbytery held in our own sanctuary, our higher governing body concurred in our discernment and approved Karen A. Wagner as the next called and installed Associate Pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church.
In the change that we have been through over these last 18 months, there has been both risk and opportunity. In my own prayerful judgment, risk has led us to great opportunity. On Sunday, May 17th, Heartland Presbytery will conduct a service of installation for the Rev. Karen A. Wagner as the Associate Pastor of Southminster. I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for this new opportunity in our life of faith together at Southminster Presbyterian Church.
Grace & Peace,