Interim Senior Pastor Paul Svingen wrote this reflection some years ago, serving at another Our Savior’s Lutheran, in Oregon. He thinks the points made still apply, and shares them now with the family of this Our Savior’s:


Between the
“No Longer” and the “Not Yet”


It is just a couple months since I began my partnership as interim lead pastor with you who are Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. I want to thank each of you for the warm reception and the genuine hopes you have shared concerning how you believe God will surely walk with us all in these days that are a prime time for renewal. I believe that we are walking toward healing and restoration and that God is leading us in this journey.

I have been privileged to walk similar “in between” journeys with several other congregations. These walks have consistently shown me the hand and the heart of our gracious and loving God. In these “wilderness walks,” I have come to believe that it is precisely because we are “in the middle” that God is readying our hearts and minds for a glimpse of the future that we could not otherwise have seen prior to the period of pastoral transition.

I have experienced the reality of what several students of leadership transition have recognized, studied, and confirmed as predictable characteristics in the lives of congregations experiencing pastoral loss, no matter what the reason for the pastor’s leaving. There are signs of the impending change long before it becomes a reality. In this period of “endings,” there is frequently dis-engagement, dis-enchantment, dis-information, and dis-organization. Everyone in the congregation is affected, and anxiety about the future is understandably heightened. Life in this period of “endings” brings mixed feelings not unlike those associated with the ending of pre-teen behavior, or the ending of single life prior to marriage, or the ending of the pre-children lifestyle before the firstborn arrives, or the ending of the formal work life before formal retirement, or the signs of the ending of independent living before a new phase of life journey that feels foreign, uncharted, and somewhat frightening.

It is a fact that where there is loss, there also lives grief. It is the case that grief can feel normal and natural to some and at the same time discomforting and confusing to others. Because corporate grief and various transition emotions are unevenly distributed in a congregation, whatever the loss, its reality can be disconcerting to those most in pain when they perceive others who seem relatively unpained, almost indifferent if not grateful, in response to the same loss. But should it be surprising that we all hurt and heal differently? I think not. Reflect upon your own family of origin and recall in your memory your personal response to the most recent loss of a beloved family member. Contemplate how your grief response might have been quite different from that of another family member, maybe even your sibling.

Although we by nature are not always so willing to acknowledge and claim the reality of human grief, I have come to realize it is the overarching behavioral paradigm through which the light and warmth of Christ’s healing love can enable us to help with our own healing. If we fail to claim the reality of our losses, then I suspect we are disabled in our efforts to apprehend “the new wind” that is the Spirit of Truth—Jesus Christ at work in our days and in our nights.

And so, we are moving from the region of “endings” to the “middle region” of “the in-between time,” the time between the “no longer” and the “not yet.” In the coming weeks, in and through the leadership team of the Transition Task Force, we will begin to sense more clearly God’s guidance and leading in this opportunity to “process,” if you will, that is to move forward together, from the “no longer” to the “not yet.” There is a process, a method, a means by which we can and will move together toward God’s new future for us. I invite you to reflect upon the diagram below of the stages and developmental tasks of this journey into the future.

I am looking forward to each step of this journey toward the period of “new beginnings” for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

The Stages and Tasks of Intentional Interim Ministry