Letter From Fr. Bob

August 3rd, 2020

Dear People of the Church of the Resurrection,

Your Vestry recently voted to invite me to join with you in ministry as your Interim Rector.  I’m very excited to be with your parish community in this role.  My first Sunday with you will be August 2, although sadly our first contact will be by virtual means.  I write this letter to you by way of introduction to me and to this journey of transition that we will be taking together.   

Interim Time.  This time between permanent rectors is a time that can be filled with uncertainty and anxiety, but it can also be a time of real growth.  Of course, the uncertainty we face is compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and its far reaching impacts on our individual and collective lives.  I’m very impressed with how you and your leaders have pulled together to navigate, as Melissa Whitten, your Senior Warden says, this “sea of uncertainty.”  I’m pleased to become a member of your leadership team to help navigate this turbulent time we live in.

During this interim period, I will be responsible for overseeing the worship, pastoral care, teaching and administration of the parish.  But remember, it is you, the members of this congregation, who have ownership of and responsibility for the life and ministry of your community of faith.  The best an Interim Rector can do is coach, guide and encourage you in carrying out your responsibilities.  As for time frame, I hope to be with you until you call your permanent Priest.  

Who am I?  I’m a 4th generation Oregonian whose thirty year science-based career took me and my family from Oregon to New York and Massachusetts.  Confirmed by Bishop James Carmen, Diocese of Oregon, in the early 70’s, I have served as a vestry member and lay leader in local parishes where we lived during that time.  I retired from the pharmaceutical industry in 2001 and was appointed Lay Vicar of a parish in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts in 2007.  Honoring a life-long call to ministry, I entered the discernment process in 2008 and was ordained a Priest in 2012.  I was called as Rector of St. James, Tigard in 2013 and retired in 2018.  I served as Interim Rector of All Saints, Portland for eight months in 2018.  

My formal education includes a BA from Whitman College, MS and PhD degrees from Oregon State University, Theological Education with the University of the South and Andover Newton Theological School, Boston.  My professional training includes courses in management, organizational development, strategic resource planning, and multicultural diversity.  My priestly training includes theology, ethics, congregational development, clinical pastoral education (chaplaincy), mediation and transitional ministry.  My wife, Sharon, and I have two daughters and three granddaughters, of whom we are immensely proud.  

Journey Together – what is Interim Ministry?  In addition to the normal tasks of parish ministry, the Interims’s job is to facilitate developmental tasks that are integral with the the transition time between rectors.  While the emphasis and order of these tasks vary with each situation, they are all present to some degree.  

They include:

  • Coming to terms with the history of the congregation:  remembering and celebrating the past
  • Discovering a new, emerging identity independent of clergy leadership
  • Coping with leadership changes during the transition time
  • Renewing supportive relationships with the Diocese
  • Commitment to new directions in ministry and the leadership of a new Rector

When faced with the uncertainties that a change in pastoral leadership brings, working through these five areas in an intentional way can lead to a deeper appreciation of where Church of the Resurrection is as a faith community.  One of my key responsibilities, working with the Vestry, is to ensure that you address these developmental tasks appropriately.  

This transitional period gives the congregation the opportunity to leave behind attitudes and behaviors that keep it focused on the past instead of the present and the future.  This is a time when you can decide what meaningful aspects of your history, tradition, and practice will be carried forward and what will be left behind.  This is also a time to seek more effective ways to organize for ministry, recruit, train and develop new leaders.  

This is an opportunity to access the way decisions are made in the parish and determine if there are more inclusive ways to organize for ministry.  This “in-between-time” can lead to a new vision that will help meet the spiritual needs of members and enhance their ministry, both among current members and beyond the borders of the church community.  Effective ministry during this time is forward-looking and prepares the congregation for the new Priest who will be called in due time.  

Journey Together – Ministry in Action.  All ministries other than those reserved to ordained leaders (such as the sacraments) are best understood as mutual ministries which the people and clergy share together.  The Vestry has a special responsibility to lead the congregation in support of the Interim Rector, both in pursuit of the parish goals and in the performance of the developmental tasks of this transitional period.  

What this means is that the Vestry and I expect to have your support during our time together and we pray that you will remain strong in your commitment to this parish and our common life together.  This will be realized, at least in part by your:

  • Regular participation in worship and parish meetings (Although we are not able to gather physically at present due to the pandemic, there are ways to participate virtually through the internet.  We will be expanding these opportunities as we go forward.  A key goal of the Vestry is to develop plans for reopening the church which will encompass the best of available public health guidance and  safe practices.)
  • Financial support for the church, its mission, ministries and programs
  • Sustained lay leadership and shared ministries within the congregation
  • Participation in Diocesan programs and activities
  • Maintaining secretarial and administrative support

Communication and Transparency:  are keys to effective functioning of any faith community.  If you have a problem, talk directly (privately and respectfully) to the person involved.  If you have a problem with me, come to me.  If I have a problem with you, I will come to you.  If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me.  I’ll do the same for you.  If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go to Fr. Bob together.  I’m sure he will see us about this.”  I will do the same for you.  I will be readily accessible to listen.  We may not always agree, but I will listen and offer the best guidance that I can.  If it’s confidential, don’t tell.  If anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell (unless someone might be abused or harmed).  I expect the same from you.  

I do not read unsigned letters or notes.  I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated; do not let others manipulate you.  Do not let others manipulate me through you.  If you have a concern, pray, and then (if led) speak to me or a member of the Vestry.  When in doubt, just say it.  The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked.  If I can answer it without misrepresenting something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I will. 

I will do my best to follow these guidelines and invite you to do the same.  We will all fail, but through gentle challenge and loving encouragement these guidelines can become a foundation for healthy communication for us all (from Bishop Greg Rickel’s 10 Rules for Respect).

This is your parish.  You need to own the ministry here.  It is an honor and privilege to join you in ministry during this time of transition.  I am confident that God will guide us on our journey together. 

“Glory to God whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine:  Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.”  Ephesians 3:20,21.

Yours in Christ, 

Rev. Robert R. Williams, Interim Rector