Minister’s Musing Among the Mountains – Week of May 4

“What’s the hardest part of being an interim Minister?”

The above question was one of those questions from last summer’s “Stump the Minister” service. I’d planned to respond to the unanswered questions over the course of this church year. Events caught up with us and I had to delay the responses until now.

So, what is the hardest part of being an interim minister?

The main challenge is moving every year or two (or occasionally 3 years as here). Everything in a temporary home has to be sold, given away, or packed up to move to a new location. Books tend to take up the most time to pack and unpack but I am grateful now to have a home where all the books are out on shelves.

Then there are the cats. Elsa and Mapo have been good (if cranky and self-centered) companions for 14 years now. They don’t like it when the carriers come out and they hate traveling. I eventually get forgiven and we repeat the cycle.

Another challenge is leaving a well-loved congregation. All the 14 congregations I’ve served had many lovely people along with a few who were less than enthusiastic about transition. I always fall in love with congregations because every one of them is determined to do it right in order to get a new minister.

Several of you asked how Debra and I work out our long distance relationship for over 16 years now.  We are both very busy with work (Debra is a full time Buddhist chaplain at the hospital in Eugene, Oregon) and she continues her Zen training at the Eugene Zendo near her home. We find time nearly every day to text and check in. The cats become a constant focus of conversation (she has three and I have two). We Skype when possible and are able to find weekends when we are both off. This last weekend we went to the Oregon coast for a couple of days and had a relaxing time. We are quite independent but have made this wonderful relationship work over many years.

Those are the challenging parts. What about positive ones?

First, I can always learn more about transitional ministry and this next year will continue to take classes in staffing/supervision, stewardship, and race relations. The professional expenses you allow me to use are tremendous benefits. I’ll then bring back what I learn to help with staffing supervision and stewardship.

Second, there’s a visceral joy for us as interim ministers to leave at the end of a successful search for a settled minister. I have no doubt that this time your search will be successful and you’ll be ready to move on to the next generation of Westside UU.

There are other joys but I think that’s a good start.

Blessed be to us all,


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