Written by Rev George Vink, Regional Pastor of Classis Grand Rapids South
After several years of being well-served by a Transitional Interim Ministry Specialist, the congregation at First Cutlerville celebrated on Sunday morning, December 8, 2019. They were gathered not only to worship, but also to install a new pastor. The excitement and enthusiasm was in the air as Shirley and I joined them. Greeters were more friendly than usual, and non-greeters also made a point of saying, “Welcome, so glad you’ve joined us today!”
The bulletin indicated that Dr. Marc Nelesen would be part of the service. Interesting! What’s a pastor from a neighboring Classis doing in Classis Grand Rapids South? We soon found out. Marc’s a former mentor, fellow Sheboygan resident, a student of the new pastor’s father, and most importantly, a friend.
Using an interesting and most-meaningful format, Dr. Nelesen proceeded to install The Reverend Josh Van Drunen as the new pastor, joining a list of pastors having served them since 1893. By placing Josh at the baptism font where it all began, then to the pulpit and the Lord’s Supper table, and concluding by having Josh kneel in the midst of the congregation, the person and calling of the pastor became clear. A time to reflect as well as rejoice!
As is still the tradition at First Cutlerville CRC, there was a sermon. Again, Marc was called upon to deal with an Advent passage from Luke’s account of Christ’s birth. He pointed out Mary’s pondering as she held a newborn. “Little things” need to be appreciated and then seen as teaching us to look at big moments in history. Marc concluded with suggestions for Josh to keep in mind as the new pastor, noting “Here are some things that need to be said to every new pastor and congregation at the beginning. Most could be said at the front end of a marriage.” They included the following with adaptations possible.
~The pastor/congregation relationship is going to take work. Marc followed this axiom with, “Josh, for the first few years, the most important thing you can work on is building trust. It will happen through the ‘little things’”.
~ It is a challenging time to be church. It takes intentionality on the part of couples, families, and communities to make being community a priority.
~ Practice vulnerability together. It takes humility and grace to lean into vulnerability but it makes our bonds stronger.
~ Pastors need to have lives outside the congregation. Pastors who don’t have hobbies, friendships, and a community outside the church community harm themselves and their ministry.
The service concluded with an appropriate benediction by the new pastor and our singing, “My Friends May You Grow in Grace,” lifting our hands in praise as we sang, “To God Be The Glory!” A church has a new pastor, Classis has a new fellow servant, and God rejoiced.