While many congregational activities were halted or postponed during the pandemic, call processes have continued and several new calls have been extended and accepted. Every aspect of the process has been adapted in various ways — depending upon the particular congregational culture, local coronavirus needs, restrictions and timing. Most call committees have become familiar with using video conferencing technology — a silver-lining of the pandemic. While most interviews pre-coronavirus happened via conference call, as folks in all areas of life and work have begun using Zoom, GoToMeeting or other platforms, call committees are almost exclusively now using video conferencing for committee meetings, interviews with pastoral candidates and even congregational meetings. In addition, one or two congregations have had parking lot forums with pastoral candidates at a podium in the front of the parking area, members all spaced out in their vehicles, with a microphone carried car-to-car, sanitized after each speaker. The possibilities are endless for call committees and congregations not wanting to slow down their search for a new pastor, although pastors under call, understandably, wanted to wait till after services have resumed in their current congregations before saying goodbye and moving to a new pastoral ministry. All-in-all, call processes have continued unabated in most vacant congregations, evidenced by the fact that with the most recently updated NALC Vacancy List, September 10, seven vacancies were filled and eight new vacancies were added.
As a function of the NALC 2020 Vision process, a statistical study was completed to determine the length of time of NALC vacancies. From the time vacant congregations submit their congregational profiles until the call committee submits their completion of call documents, the average call process is eight months and three weeks. Of course, some have been one month and others much longer, but given the nature of the Lutheran understanding of “call” as a spiritual process of discernment, we are happy to know how quickly most full-time calls are completed. At the same time, we are always working to improve our process for the sake of congregations, pastors and the Body of Christ.
For your information, congregational vacancies in the NALC are posted as soon as profiles are submitted, on the call process page of the NALC website, thenalc.org/call. There you will find the updated Vacancy List, together with congregational profiles and accompanying video introductions.
Written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, assistant to the bishop for ministry & ecumenism.