John the Baptist strikes back

Interim Ministry is a strange thing – it’s seven months now since I went to St Peter’s, Lutton Place, in Edinburgh.  It wasn’t an easy moment and I had some fairly difficult times at the beginning.  The Annual General Meeting was particularly memorable.

Interim Ministry isn’t really just about filling a space until a new appointment can be made.  It uses the space as creatively as possible – partly to calm things down and partly also to provide the best possible starting point for the new ministry which will follow.  That’s the John the Baptist bit – always having an eye towards the one who is coming.

I have quite enjoyed undertaking a series of development initiatives at about three times the speed which one would approach the same things in a long term ministry.  But there is very little at stake for the Interim Pastor.  I can revert to the retirement armchair any time.

At the moment I’m enjoying running some ‘Looking to the Future Groups’ – twenty five people have volunteered to take part in two groups.  We are looking at – call it what you will – the future of the congregation or the vocation of the congregation or the beginnings of a mission plan.  Of course I won’t have to turn any of this into policy and attempt to do it.  But I think the material which comes out should go into the Congregational Profile so that ‘the one who comes after’ can see that the congregation is ‘up for this’

But this is a sort of high speed ministry.  And after seven months, I’ve probably now done most of what I can.  People have responded well and have be prepared to journey with me. And I have learned a lot too.


  1. Thanks for that interesting comment Tim. I’m not sure that the skills required of the interim minister are different from those of the longer term Rector. But they have to be exercised far more quickly. And you have to take the initiatives you think are needed without a foundation of longterm pastoral relationships with the members of the congregation. The latter seems to me to be a real handicap!

    But the skills of helping a congregation to shape a picture of its future and calling, teaching people to act in a way which minimises rather than maximises the potential for conflict and helping them to rediscover the heart of their life as a community of faith …. those seem to me to be generic.

    I was aware before I retired that there was a lack of clarity across the church about the role of interim ministry and about its authority

  2. Your experience at St. Peter’s will have been mirrored by all of us who have done interim ministry as “stand ins”. It is always a valuable exercise and can be very especially effective in situations of long-term conflict in congregations. However, interim ministry is a particularly skilled work and not suited to those who may lack the ability to work short-term or have issues about control. The Episcopal Church in the US, the Anglican Church in Canada and the Church of Scotland have developed networks of trained and gifted Interim Ministers. It is sad that the College of Bishops in Scotland have failed to follow their example and have consistently stalled on a policy of establishing proper Interim Ministry, despite having received reports and recommendations to that effect in the past. Hopefully it is not too late to catch up.

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