Calling a Pastor

After the search committee interviewed Dick Wohlschlaeger for his position as Interim Pastor for Senior Adults and Pastoral Care, one member of the committee said, “There was a moment in which it seemed like the Holy Spirit just entered the room.”

That’s what every search committee prays for, hopes for, and anticipates - a moment of palpable clarity. A moment in which it seems like the choice is a God thing and not just human intuition, the melding of the mind and heart, the discernment of a call. As one who has been both a candidate and staff support for a committee looking for associate pastors, I can still describe those moments in almost every search I have been a part of since 1987 when I was called to the first church I served. Sometimes the call is clear for everyone at once, and sometimes it is perceived at different times in the process, but there is always a moment when it seems like the presence of God enters the room.

Because Rebecca Kirkpatrick has been serving as a PCUSA mission partner in Egypt, the Associate Pastor Nominated Committee first met her on the computer by Skype. As our conversations deepened we knew that we needed to meet her in person, so we flew her to the states for a week. She visited some of her mission supporting churches and then she spent more than three days with the BMPC search committee. The APNC interviewed and dined with Rebecca together, and then in smaller groups of two or three she visited some of our mission partners in Philadelphia, saw the school Owen might attend, toured our neighborhood and one of our manses. As we did with other candidates, for three full days we secretly slipped in and out of the church with Rebecca, introducing her to BMPC, answering her engaging questions, and giving all of us opportunity to discern a sense of call.

The moment for which we had prayed came. It felt like a God thing and more than human intuition, the melding of the mind and heart, the discernment of a call. I hope that you will stay for the Congregational Meeting this coming Sunday and hear the enthusiasm with which the APNC will present Rebecca Kirkpatrick to be called by you to serve this great church as the Associate for Adult Education and Mission. Your participation is important too as we move into the future confident that in this call process, as in countless other moments in our congregational life together, the Holy Spirit is palpably present in the room.