Pastoral transition in a pandemic

Currently, pretty much everything is more complicated than it was a few weeks ago. That includes ministerial transitions. If you are deep into a search process or are working out your notice, below is a flow chart to help you think through the coverage of pastoral duties and your own needs. (Zoom in so that you can read the fine print. Alternatively, here is a PDF version.)

Obviously, this chart does not address all of the issues to consider. Here are a few more to mull:

Moving. It is inadvisable at best to change locations right now. That might mean that you stay in place and begin a new call virtually. If so, be sure to negotiate now for time to move later. If you live in a parsonage/manse/rectory, you might end up still living on the property of a church you no longer serve. (The person following you will also be unable to move, so at least that might not be an issue.) Work with congregational leadership on issues related to boundaries. Consult your judicatory leader to help you navigate the issues related to housing allowance and an accountant to find out what the tax implications might be.

Closure. How do you say goodbye when you cannot safely be around other people? Two options come to mind. First, say goodbye the way you are going about all your other relational tasks right now: by phone, computer, or mail. Second, this might be one of those rare occasions to bend the rules around a hard end date. You might be able to schedule an in-person send-off for later, but do consider how your reappearance might impact those beloved church members and the minister in place.

In all transition-related matters, lean on your judicatory or denominational leaders for wisdom. This situation is new for them as well, but they might have a sense of the bigger picture and expertise that can greatly benefit you and your sending and receiving churches.

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