April 2020 Update
Last month the PNC noted that we have narrowed the list of candidates for senior pastor to those we think might be the best fit for us at First Pres. In late February and early March (prior to the Shelter-in-Place order), the PNC spent extended face-to-face time with those short-listed candidates.
During April we’ve contacted each of our final candidates to check-in, assess how they’re faring in their current settings during the pandemic, and confirm their continuing sense of call to First Pres. Second, we have been contacting the references each candidate has provided. Third, during May we’ve scheduled conversations with the candidates to focus on:
a. their perspectives on the implications of COVID-19 for the Church in general and for First Pres in particular, and
b. a series of follow-up questions flowing from earlier conversations with the candidates.
As mentioned in our April report to Session, our search has focused on the “who” question (who will be called as pastor?) while also recognizing the challenges of “when” and “how” that call will take place given that social distancing restrictions have an uncertain timeline and inhibit our ability to gather together collectively.
Process: We continue to consider each of the candidates in light of the particular strengths each would bring to First Pres. We also continue to pray, listen, and discern within the context of our changing situation.
Timeline: At the March congregational meeting we noted that our aspiration was to have a candidate for the congregation’s consideration by summer. We continue to think this is feasible, though we are aware of the constraints that the current situation presents. We want to discern what timing will be best all around. We press on in prayer and faithfulness!
- For the PNC, that we might discern not only the “who” but also find wisdom regarding the “when” and “how” of this process.
- For our candidates as they continue living out their current calls while also considering this one, that they would have strength for the present and clarity for the future.
- For our congregation, that they/we might experience God’s grace in this time of COVID-19 with all its varied impacts.
March 2020 Update
Annual Meeting: On March 8th, the entire PNC (with the exception of Brent who was working in his healthcare capacity) reported out at the Annual Meeting. For those of you who missed it, we described where we are in our 5-step process:
- Step 1: Organize – In early 2019, we laid the groundwork for our work by developing processes for our work, a team covenant, and clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. We reviewed outcomes and documents from the Mission Study, Dream Team statements, PCUSA’s document for calling a pastor, and SF Presbytery’s policy and guidelines.
- Step 2: Complete Ministry Information Form (MIF) – This is an essential step to being matched with PCUSA pastors. The MIF is a document that provides a narrative picture of the mission and ministry of this congregation and our sense of call. It expresses our ministry context, demographics, history, theology, values, leadership needs, and expectations. Prospective pastors use the form as part of their discernment process for assessing their fit for First Pres. The PNC completed writing the MIF and put it through the approval process on February, 2019. The MIF was approved by PNC, Session, COM Committee on Ministry. By April 20, 2019 it was posted on our website and the PCUSA system for candidates to respond. A job description was also prepared as an additional tool to help clearly state qualifications and responsibilities.
- Step 3: Identify Candidates – Names of candidates were received via the PCUSA – Church Leadership Connection, congregational referrals, direct applications, and referrals from networking with leaders, pastors, writers and others.
- Step 4: Screen and Rank – We sorted through ~ 150 names. Each was screened for threshold qualifications. Their Personal Information Form (PIF) was reviewed. For those meeting threshold qualifications, we listened to sermons – over 700 sermons! How did we evaluate the sermons? Everyone listened to the sermon. Amongst our considerations were:
- Grounding in scripture
- Understanding of cultural context
- Freshness of language
- Clarity of message
We then discussed and shared our sometimes very different receptions to sermons (yes, we are a diverse committee!!). Based on these evaluations, we determined who might be a good fit for us and moved them onto the next step.
- Step 5: Interview & Select – Early in our process we met with our staff and leadership to provide potential questions for interviews. Standard questions were prepared for the candidates as well as specific questions about each candidate’s unique ministry journey. Candidates were invited to successive rounds of interviews via phone and video. and in-person. As you can imagine, this was been a time-intensive process. Where before we were meeting once a week, starting this phase of interviewing we have been meeting twice a week. We encountered some truly remarkable people and felt deeply grateful for these pastors who are serving with “creativity, imagination and intelligence.” Then we prayerfully narrowed down the list to those we deemed might be the best fit for us at FPCB. It was at this point that we began holding in-person interviews, praying together with candidates for discernment, for God’s wisdom to know what is best for FPCB at this time.
We have updated the FAQs based on questions asked at the meeting.
Social Distancing: The shelter-in-place order for the Bay Area went into effect on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, though many of us had been practicing social distancing for the days and weeks preceding. What a strange time this has been, with COVID-19-related changes adding particular poignance and gravitas to our Lenten season. We have continued to meet as a PNC, now virtually thanks to the technology at our fingertips! Our meetings have been a source of strength for our group, an important touch point during this period of disorientation. We have supported one another and prayed for each other, our loved ones, our church and our communities.
Process: We continue our work as a PNC, albeit now virtually, as we attempt to absorb and make sense of the shifting sands beneath our feet.
Timeline: It is a fluid time with significant uncertainty all around. We continue in our discernment process, though the unfolding effects of COVID-19 on our timeline are not yet clear. We press on in prayer and faithfulness.
- For our work and discernment process, as our current context has become more complex.
- For our candidates, as they face the challenges and opportunities that have arisen in each of their contexts, that they would experience resilience and clarity in their leadership and ministries.
Read previous PNC updates