O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
--Psalm 136:1 NRSV
It has been my honor and privilege to serve as PHCC’s interim minister for the last six months. As I’ve said from the beginning, this is the strangest ministry gig I’ve ever had. By that, I’m referring to starting work at a church during the COVID-19 pandemic. I still haven’t met most church members in person.
Even so, certain characteristics of PHCC are evident. You are a caring community of kind people. You have welcomed me warmly and encouraged me in our time together. You are dedicated to serve your community in Christ’s name even if you aren’t sure about the best ways to go about doing that at this day and time. These are admirable qualities that should attract any minister whose heart is in the right place.
During my time here, I have been honored that numerous folks have let me know they would be pleased if I would remain on as PHCC’s settled pastor. I began my work here intending to only be the interim minister, but I have to say, given the warmth you’ve shown me, I would be a fool not to at least consider staying on. Yet, my time here has confirmed what I’ve been feeling for several years, long before I came to PHCC, that God is leading me to move to some other kind of ministry besides being the pastor of a local congregation. That’s terrifying to say, and I have resisted saying it. My sense of identity has been bound up in being a local church pastor for so long that I’m not quite sure who I am if I’m not one. Also, the known is always preferrable to the unknown, and I have little clarity regarding what is next for me in terms of what God is calling me towards.
I am humble enough to know that some of the interest shown in me by PHCC members is also about what is known vs. what is unknown. “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” is how the saying goes. Yet, I feel confident that there is a bird “in the bush” that God has in mind for PHCC who will be a better fit than me for the future God intends for this congregation.
In the coming weeks, I will offer in the Thursday newsletter some observations I have that may be helpful to PHCC as it considers what it needs for a new minister. I think even more important than a potential candidate for minister is that PHCC know itself as well as possible. How can a church pick a new minister if it doesn’t have a strong idea of who it is and where it is going? I’ll offer my thoughts about those questions as well.
The plan for the near term looks like this. My original agreement with PHCC was to serve as interim minister through the end of 2020. At the moment, God has not revealed to me what is next on my vocational journey (despite my repeated requests for at least some hints!), so I’m available. I am going to stay on as interim minister into 2021 as we continue to deal with COVID-19 and until such time as PHCC calls a new minister. Either the church or I can end my service with thirty days notice.
In terms of PHCC forming a search committee for a new pastor, that is on hold for the moment. Our friends at the Greater KC Region are saying that few candidates are looking to move churches during the pandemic. PHCC is one of four DOC churches in the Northland alone that are currently without settled pastors, so there is high demand but low supply. From what I’m hearing from clergy friends across the country in the Disciples of Christ and in other denominations is that this is a nationwide trend. More clergy will be looking to move to new churches when there is a resolution of COVID-19.
Nobody likes to live in an in-between time. We like to know what to expect and we want to plan accordingly. Believe me, I get it. However, this time together will not be wasted. PHCC lay leaders will continue to discern the church’s future, and I am here with you to help. What this means is that every member of PHCC needs to be praying for the church and opening their minds and hearts to new ideas that God will inspire us to grab onto. Now is the time to dream big and swing for the fences. Now is the time we look at doing church differently to serve a new generation of people who long for meaning, purpose and wholeness in their lives.
Our faith does not lie in pastors, lay leaders or even in denominations. Our faith is in God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. The world may change around us, but God has not changed. God remains faithful to us, and we can therefore trust that God will provide us with all we need—both as church members and as a faith community. Let us move forward together with excitement for what God has planned for Park Hill Christian Church.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851