This Sunday will be my last as co-interim pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Macon, Ga. The good “Z-people” are hosting a luncheon for Jack Colwell and me and our families.
Church leadership came up with this unique dual-interim arrangement and everyone seems pleased with the results. When we began, Jack said I might want to write about this so other congregations would be aware of the possibility.
My response was: “Let’s wait and see if it works.” It did, and I had little doubt.
Jack, a retired pastor with many gifts, was responsible for pastoral care and leading the mid-week service. He took both tasks very seriously and freed the current staff ministers from having to shoulder big additional loads.
While receiving his own medical treatment during this period, Jack was faithful in visiting those who were ill, homebound or in grief. He and his wife, Gwen, also engaged with the senior church members in some of their activities.
Jack did well-planned Bible studies on Wednesday nights and graciously filled the pulpit on the Sundays I was away.
My responsibilities were to preach on Sunday and to consult with church leadership (staff, deacons, leadership council and pastor search committee) when requested. The church wisely updated the church bylaws during this time before the new pastor was called.
In a recent church newsletter, Jack wrote: “This joint interim ministry has benefited us all. Johnny, having a demanding full-time job, has been able to concentrate largely upon preaching. I have been available when he was away and have enjoyed several occasions to preach. Staff members have been able to concentrate upon their work without having to fill leadership gaps… By asking me to do pastoral ministry, you have indicated that you consider it to be important.”
Indeed, the pulpit always gets filled during interim periods, but the important work of pastoral care is sometimes shortchanged. Not the case during this time at Mount Zion, thanks to Jack’s gifts and the church’s creative idea for duel interim pastors.
Stan Braley from Chattanooga, Tenn., will assume the pastorate on Aug. 17. I leave with gratitude for the affirmation of a fine church and for the privilege of working in ministry partnership with Jack Colwell.