From the Pastor

Dear friends,

Searching for a new pastor is a delicate process. Scanning the country to find that “right” person can take time and exhaust a lot of energy.

It feels like a combination of dating, searching for a college, and taking the final exam for Marketing 101 … all wrapped into what we affectionately name “the call process.”

My call to St. John’s began with a phone call from a guy named Franco. I was standing in my kitchen, just back from a night of VBS. “Franco?” I thought. Thus our dating game began.

You sealed the deal when I walked into the interview in the old library and you offered chicken wings and Cheerwine. Preston Mitchell, wearing shorts and flip flops, looked at my nice (new, I think) blue suit and said, “Um, you’re sorta overdressed.” Brilliant marketing. I was smitten.

I never imagined our latest call process would take us to West Fargo, North Dakota. It was a blind date of sorts. In the middle of the summer, the Synod office gave us Laura’s name and said that she and her husband might be ready for a transition when he graduated from college in mid-December. We had hoped for an earlier date, but we kept her name on the list.

As weeks then months passed by, we kept returning to Laura’s name, finally deciding to give her a call. I could tell in the first few minutes of conversation that she was someone we needed to pursue. Smart, eager, inquisitive, funny — all the personality traits we were hoping for.

The rest is history, I suppose. Knowing how important it is that we find a team player, we scheduled a conference call with members of our staff. It didn’t take long before they gave their go-ahead. Next was a conference call with the Call Committee. It was supposed to be a Skype conversation, but, well, technology eluded us. Regardless, the Call Committee was smitten. Laura was the first and only candidate we scheduled for a live interview with the Committee and Council. She, her husband, and daughter were invited to Salisbury the weekend of Nov. 5, All Saints Sunday.

I’m sorry if this all feels like it’s wrapped in a cloak of secrecy, but a call process has to respect an element of discretion. Laura and family arrived on Thursday and swept through four and a half days of dinners, drop ins, a tour of the city/county, worship, and two interviews. When they flew home on Monday they were exhausted … but felt the same way I felt after my chicken wings and Cheerwine interview. “This just might work out,” they (and we) thought.

And here we are. I hope you’ll take the chance to read as much as you can about Pastor Laura. She brings enormous gifts to the art of ministry and, we believe, will make a terrific addition to our team. She has our full recommendation.

But the ultimate decision is yours, dear friends. In the ELCA, a call is extended only after a congregation has had a chance to vote on the candidate. That opportunity is next Sunday,Dec. 3 at 10:30 am in the sanctuary. Later this week, you’ll receive the compensation package our Finance and Personnel committees have put together. They fully reflect the Synod’s guidelines for pastors with five years experience.

If a call is extended and accepted, Pastor Laura Henrik would begin her work at St. John’s in early January.

It’s been a delicate process, to be sure. But I’m so thankful to know that the Holy Spirit has been active through it all.

A request: We began this process in prayers for discernment. Let’s continue with those same prayers: that the Holy Spirit might guide us and the candidate He has chosen into a place of discovery and relationship.

So that we’ll all be smitten with one another.

Blessings to you and yours this wonderful time of year.

+Pastor Rhodes