A report from your Grace Transition Team

March 2021

Our Transition Team has been functioning since March 2020.  Yes, the pandemic and uncertainty over meeting has made it more difficult to do our work, but we were formed in March of 2020 and for most of last year met almost weekly via the internet. Below is a brief overview of what we have done and are continuing to do.

The Process

Within the ELCA, the process to call a new pastor has a number of delineated steps and groups. After a pastor leaves a church, the Church Council works with the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the ELCA  to provide full time interim pastor(s).  Then the Council forms a Transition Team to gather information and help the congregation come to terms with its past, and with the present state of the congregation.

As the Transition Team nears completion of the first group of tasks, the Church Council forms a Call Committee.  The Call Committee gets information from the Transition Team, completes the Mission Site Profile, interviews candidates, and recommends a pastor to Church Council.  The Mission Site Profile is a large and detailed document that is available only to pastors seeking a call and is a description of the church.

Ideally, the Transition Team does a large amount of work in the first 6 to 9 months it’s operating.  That work includes looking at a detailed history of the church, the congregation, the strengths and weaknesses, specific needs, and how the church seeks to serve God.  Additionally, the Transition Team should do Temple Talks and other communications to help the congregation think about what God wants a church to be and to do.

What We Found at Grace

Grace is, in many ways, a strong and stable congregation with great members. Grace has many dedicated and generous members. Our members have “stepped up” and brought life to new committees and new life to old committees, volunteered to help in church activities, and aided in many ways. While the pandemic has made “normal” church activities difficult, our congregation is continuing to find ways to safely worship and conduct many activities.  We see increasing numbers of congregation members doing their part in the of running the church. Grace’s members continue to be generous in gifts to the church and in sharing our building and property with the local community. While not a wealthy church, Grace is not buried under debt as many churches are in 2021.  Our congregation comes from nearby and far away as we are not a “walk to service” type of church.  Even during the pandemic, Grace has continued to have many members worship with us weekly. One fact that surprised many members is that while Grace may appear extremely conservative and resistant to change, a survey was taken to find out how the congregation felt about same sex marriages.  As a result of the overwhelming support of the idea, Council voted to approve a change to our marriage policy to include same sex marriages.  Resistance to change is present, but does not dominate us.

In this day and age, it seems the negative is always easiest to think about. Grace is an older congregation and that concerns many members.  Grace also has fewer young families and children than we had in the past, and that too is a great concern for many members. All congregations have disagreements and Grace is no different.  We do have a sharp divide over style of worship that has gone on for many years. The Transition Team is confident that with prayerful discussion, many of these differences can be bridged. Indeed, part of the Transition Team’s job is to point out these differences to members so that the congregation can discuss and possibly resolve them. Keep in mind, the Transition Team is not designed to solve disagreements, but to help all of us get closer to the point the congregation works them out.

Finally, inspite of our strengths, Grace seems to lack a strategic vision of what we are going to do and what we should become in order to serve God.  That is;  an overall, long-term vision and plan.  The Transition Team is hopeful that, with some of the renewed vigor shown by our members, we can come together to put on paper and in practice our needed goals for going forward.

Grace needs to think about, pray about, and ask for guidance on how to become the church God wants Grace to become.  As Christ sent his disciples out to spread the good word, we as members of Grace need to do our part and work to strengthen Grace Lutheran Church’s proclaiming and living out the word.

The Future Duties of the Transition Team

The Grace Transition Team is going to continue to gather information from the congregation.  This is not for the “calling of a pastor” and will not delay the call process. This is so that leaders and Church Council will have it to pass along to the new pastor.  The calling, interviewing, and recommending of a new pastor is the job of the Call Committee.  Voting to extend a call to a particular pastor will be done by the congregation.  Then, after new pastoral leadership is called, the Transition Team will serve as a resource to help the congregation and pastor work together.

If you have questions or comments, the Transition Team can be contacted below:

Janet Moore (419) 346-6355

Ron Hiatt (419) 944-5177

David Charvat (419) 345-6815

Pastor Howard Abts (419) 382-1956

Rick Sharp (419) 283-3530