INTERIM PASTOR JEFFERY BONN
I’ve been a pastor for 10 years. After going to Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa with my wife, I served as pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Saginaw for 8 years while my wife served as a deacon (rostered lay minister) at Covenant Hospital heading up their Department of Pastoral Care & Education.
We have two sons who went to high school in Freeland where we live. The oldest is married now in Milwaukee, WI working fulltime in the architecture field while finishing his degree part-time. The younger is engaged after finishing a teaching degree at Spring Arbor University near Jackson. He’s currently teaching middle school math and science full-time now near the school district that he did student teaching.
My first career was as a mathematician and professor using degrees from Lehigh University, Indiana University/Bloomington and Southern Illinois University/Carbondale and teaching at University of North Dakota/Grand Forks, Mayville (ND) State University, and Michigan Tech.
While in Houghton, my wife and I discerned God’s call for us each to go into professional ministry. We had met in graduate school while she got her Ph.D. and became a math educator and professor. But she found God turning her towards ministry as a chaplain and I towards pastoral parish ministry. Before we graduated from seminary, she was offered her head chaplaincy position in Saginaw. And so we headed back to Michigan where she grew up (born near Detroit, growing up in Holland). I waited several months before starting my ordained ministry in Saginaw.
While ending 8 years of ministry in Saginaw, I wanted to use my gifts for ministry in a different way than long-term pastoral ministry. So I took the first course in Interim Ministry for leaders helping congregations going through change, particularly while they are in-between long-term “settled” pastors. After that I served with two congregations in the Rogers City area (Trinity and St. James) who shared me as their part-time interim pastor about 3 days a week. While there I completed the Interim Ministry training with the second, more-intensive course.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We’ve been looking at the Book of Acts in the Wednesday morning bible study. It’s the ‘sequel’ to the Gospel of Luke that continues the story after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension when his disciples spread the word of God and the Christian Church starts and grows. It’s helpful for churches during times of transition to look at the Book of Acts because we can see what was important for Christians when things were very much in transition when Jesus is no longer physically with them.
We were looking at a passage (Acts 6:1-7) with the help of a writer and theologian giving some commentary on it. And there are clearly two priorities this passage from Acts lifts up. One can be seen around the phrase “word of God.” In v. 2 they do not want to neglect the word of God, in v. 4 they want to serve the word of God, and in v.7, the word of God is spread. What is the result of this priority? V.7 says that the number of disciples increased greatly and many religious leaders came into the faith. The commentary on this passage points out how the focus is not on “growing the church.” The focus is on spreading the word and the result is growing the church. The Lutheran perspective on the word of God is three-fold. The Word of God is first, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity; second, the words of scripture in the Bible; and third, preaching the word of God which both clergy and lay people can do formally from a pulpit and informally in their lives.
The other priority is heard in v. 4 in the same breath as they “devote themselves to prayer and serving the word.” Having prayer as a priority even comes before serving the word. The commentary expands on it: “Of course, all Christians are called to pray, to make time for it, to soak everything that they do in it.” Even though the commentary doesn’t dwell on it, we in the bible study were drawn to the idea of soaking with prayer. Soaking with prayer would be a completely immersive experience, completely surrounding something or someone with prayer. And beyond that, it could be like soaking a sponge where it takes in whatever it’s immersed in. And so whatever or whoever is soaked in prayer will take it in and become full of it and be affected by it.
So I’ve been personally using this image of “soaking in prayer” in my personal prayer life as well as in some of my pastoral care visits. And while I’d recommend the image to anybody who wants to use it in their prayer life, I think it’s coming to a point in the transition process at Prince of Peace where we should intensify our prayers for the process, and really soak it in prayer. The more public part of the process is going to give way to the more private work of the Call Committee. The work of the Transition Team has been to help the congregation come together and share in the process. Now the Council is working on approving the document, the “call papers,” the Mission Site Profile (MSP) that describes Prince of Peace and the needs and preferences for the longer-term pastor that come to you.
Once that document is fully processed, then the time comes to wait, to wait on the process with the Bishop’s office and for the system to work that reaches out for pastors to consider Prince of Peace. The Call Committee is in charge of this part of the process on behalf of Prince of Peace until there is a candidate to recommend to Council. Until then it is very important that confidentiality is observed, particularly talking about who they might be considering. Pastors considering leaving their current positions should not have to risk people there finding out. And so when you ask someone on the Call Committee how it’s going, you are, frustratingly, not going to get any detailed info. I am not on the Call Committee and out of the loop as well.
And that’s when it will be important to soak the Call Committee with prayer, to soak in prayer the whole process including the Bishop’s office and those pastors considering Prince of Peace.
With gratitude for the good news of the Trinity, Interim Pastor Jeff Bonn