Great Expectations

By Not Known

The time after the departure of a minister, especially one who has served for a long period of time and who has established himself in the life and hearts of the congregation, has been compared to the period of grief following death. Some of you may be going through such or similar feelings at present. The change over of the overall shepherd, who in ORPC is called the Moderator, is never an easy one. We need time to work though our feelings and adjust to God’s future. That is why a period without a moderator, sometimes unhelpfully called a ‘vacancy’, is often helpful in the life of the church. It helps to have a time of reflection alongside the period of preparation for a new moderator minister.

The period of preparation includes several stages. For the leaders of the church, the elders and deacons, it involves the active search for a new person and that search began long ago last year. For members of the congregation it involves regular prayer that the choice will not just be a matter of human considerations and qualifications, but will be a genuine call by God recognised by both the minister and the church. These are the basic preparations for any new ministry.

There is, however, a preparation of expectations that is also important. We can have different kinds of expectation.

First we can have traditional expectations; expectations that concentrate on seeking a replacement, someone perhaps not too different from the previous minister. Sadly there is nothing more difficult or deadening to a new minister than to be compared with his predecessors, or even be expected to be their clone. As I reflected on previous moderators of ORPC, I realised to my shock, that I have known personally every moderator of the church since the Revd Robert Greer, who became minister of the church in 1946 after a period in Changi prison. Everyone was a different personality with different gifts. And each one had particular gifts that God used in His time for the upbuilding and growth of the church. Also interestingly, until 1968 every moderator had come from Scotland. But since that time ministers have come from England, New Zealand, the USA, and Australia. We need to remain open to God’s leading and call from any country.

Second we can have unrealistic expectations. Congregations often look for superministers. We need to accept that no moderator of ORPC can live up to the total expectations of the congregation and leadership in terms of worship and preaching, teaching and visitation, pastoral work and counselling, chairmanship and planning, personal touch and computer skills. We need to recognise that God gives particular gifts to His servants, and that where they need to be supplemented. He provides the gifts of other pastoral staff members and the administrative staff, the gifts of leadership of elders and deacons, and most importantly the gifts of every member of the congregation, to build up the total body. So don’t expect a “Supermod”!

Third and I believe most positively we can have great expectations that God will move and work in new ways. Like many other aspects of the Christian faith it is easier to preach this than practise it. We are more set in our ways and resistant to change than we are often willing to admit. But God’s future is only our future if we do not try and force our future on God. It is my prayer that our prayer and preparation may allow for God’s choice and calling.

Derek Kingston