The Intentional Interim Ministry (IIM) placement at Queanbeyan Uniting Church (QUC) was established by Presbytery in consultation with QUC, for 2019, to address this time of transition in ministry and enable QUC to discern and embrace positive future ministry. IIM is a short term placement to address the Five Developmental Tasks of the Congregation:
A. Coming to terms with the Congregation’s history
B. Discerning the Congregation’s purpose and identity
C. Supporting leadership change and development
D. Reaffirming and strengthening denominational links
E. Committing to new leadership and new ministry
There are various matters that I have been involved with during the year: meetings with individuals, committee meetings, preaching and leading worship, leading study groups, convening workshops for the whole Congregation, reflecting intentionally on the process with skilled people, overseeing the process of discernment, nomination and election of new leaders, and participating in the wider life of the church (as is expected of all ministers in placement).
I have identified some key themes that have run throughout the course of this year.
In the liminal space
QUC had been in a transitional mode for some time before the IIM commenced. I saw my role in the early stages as naming this transitional space and providing ways for people to think about the experience and work towards hopeful outcomes through the process. Both studies and sermons throughout Lent and Holy Week related specifically to this. I have occasionally referred back to the idea of the liminal space, the transitional mode, in subsequent months; this sense will continue on into the period when new leadership develops and a new minister is placed into Queanbeyan.
The importance of story
Listening to the stories that people have told me, about “how it has been for me”, formed an important element in the earlier stage. Telling stories about our experiences is a fundamental need that every person has. Being validated for our views and our experiences is necessary. Talking things through so that we are able to identify, understand, appreciate, and let go, is a valuable process. That, too, will need to continue into the future across the congregation.
However, the stories that we tell each other, now, need to be, not only reflections of the past, but also projections into the future. So talking about our hopes for the future, the plans we would like to come to fruition, the dreams we have and the strategies we need to see those dreams become a reality—these also need to be part of the stories that we tell each other.
The centrality of core beliefs
We had a workshop that encouraged us to identify our core values and key commitments. Out of that process, we identified a commitment to being a Good Neighbour Church and alongside that a willingness to live as a Good News Church that was actively Discipling people. That vision is what the congregation needs to keep to the fore and work towards into the future.
Considering how we operate in conflict
In a second workshop led by Elizabeth Raine, we explored the ways that we operate when we find ourselves in conflict. We learnt the importance of understanding the various ways that people operate, and adjusting our own way of operating in the light of that. The challenge from such a workshop is taking up such new behaviours and bedding them down in the way that we operate. That’s also an ongoing process.
Identifying future possibilities
In the third workshop, we mapped our assets and began to explore how we might best utilise those assets. This work still stands ahead of the congregation. Knowing that we have a group of people with commitment and dedication, a suite of buildings on a prime location within the town, and an intention to reach out as good neighbours with a message of good news, needs to inform and shape all future planning.
A weakness that I can see at the present time is that we have not pushed through to specific planning and working for the kind of future that we hope for and envisage.
Strengthening leadership capacity for the future
The process of discernment, nominations, elections, and commissioning (still to come) of new leaders has pointed to the strengths and commitments that are alive within the Congregation. We need to find ways of working together that will leverage off these strengths and that will build a strong future. The formation of a Joint Nominating Committee (JNC) and conversations with prospective ministers still lies ahead.
The task of equipping and supporting lay leaders for the tasks of ministry continues on, as the interim period between longer placements continues. Lay people are needed to provide leadership within the Congregation, lead worship, look after the property, provide pastoral care, explore missional opportunities, continue existing viable ministries, pursue planning for Plan Agora, and relate intentionally to organisations and groups in the neighbourhood with a view to future collaboration. The multiple challenges and opportunities of ministry and mission continue!
The key moments throughout the year include:
Induction into placement in February 2019
Listening process over initial months
Lent-Holy Week-Easter journey, worship and study groups on Wilderness Journey
Working with Transition Team to explore History and Identity of the Congregation
19 May Service celebrating, letting go, looking forward
Second round of studies with two small groups
23 June Workshop I on “what sort of church are we?”
Sermons regarding Good Neighbour Church, Good News/Discipleship Church
Pastoral involvements with individuals, BS Group
4-7 July Synod meeting
6 August Workshop II on Constructive Conversations that transform relationships
8 September Workshop III on Mission Planning and Strategic Directions for QUC
Membership within QUC: position paper
29 September Membership commitment Service
Working with Plan Agora planning group
Leadership within QUC: consideration of future ministry configuration and future lay leadership
Nominations for leadership roles in September and conversations with people nominated
Discernment and Elections on 24 November
Commissioning new leadership group on 8 December
JNC and Profile, for seeking a minister in 2020
Conclusion of placement in February 2020
In addition, throughout this period, I have been involved in:
Monthly Church Council meeting, weekly meetings with Pastor Amy, preaching and leading Sunday worship on a 75% basis
My ongoing reflection on QUC situation with Transition Team, Reference Group, Professional Supervisor
John Squires, November 2019