Author: AJ Langston

2016 VBS helpers

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We really couldn’t put on the VBS program without our help.  Thank you to all who braved the heat to help out with VBS this year.


Categories: Youth

What does an Interim Pastor do?

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What does an Interim Pastor do? 

By Dr. Terry V. Swicegood

A pastor stands in the pulpit on a Sunday morning and tells the congregation, “Today I am announcing my resignation from First Church.” Depending on how this pastor’s ministry has been received, the congregation either breaks out in Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or country music diva Lee Ann Rimes’ “How Do I Live Without You?”

Whether the ministry of a pastor has been good, bad, or somewhere in between, his or her leaving creates a critical vacuum in the life of the congregation. Immediate questions swarm in upon the lay leadership, “Who’s going to preach next Sunday?” “Who is going to call on our sick?” “Who is going to moderate our administrative board?”

In many mainline denominations these days those questions are answered by the calling of an interim pastor. The interim pastor is the glue which holds the congregation together before the next permanently installed pastor comes on board.

Research has indicated that the interim time in a congregation is a time of peril and promise. Many congregations experience a decline in worship attendance and financial giving during an interim. People withdraw, sit on the sidelines, waiting for the “real” minister to arrive.

Research has also indicated that the single most significant factor in combating this decline is good preaching by the interim pastor and inspiring worship each Sunday. Some churches have discovered that the interim pastor’s preaching and leadership skills are so remarkable that they want to call him or her as permanent pastor. For many reasons, I believe this is unwise both for the congregation and the interim. There is a specific clause in my contract with First Church, Peoria, declaring that I will not be a candidate for the permanent position.

For the past 35 years there has been a significant body of research and practice about interim ministry. Interim ministry “specialists” exist in many denominations. The PCUSA sponsors two tracks of interim training, beginning and advanced. Some Presbyteries require that before an interim minister can be called to a church, he or she should have at least one year of training. A few presbyteries require an interim minister to have taken both tracks.

My former Presbytery executive in Arizona, Ken Moe, has said, “All ministry is interim ministry.” In reflecting on his words, I think he’s on the mark I have experienced this truth in all my churches. Some of my interims have been longer than others. But in every case, my ministry has been an interim between what went on before I came and what would occur after I left. I was the middle-man, called during my own interim ministry to perform the tasks needed to build up the church. I have come to the conclusion that the real difference in pastoral ministry is the time element. When you are called as permanent pastor, you have more time to complete the “interim tasks.” When you are called as an interim pastor, that time is compressed.

There is a consensus these days that interim ministers have five process tasks. Although these tasks have been developed specifically for interim ministry, I believe, that for the most part, they apply as well to a permanently called pastor.

  1. An interim minister joins the “system”. The church is the body of Christ. It is like a human body, with interconnected parts and complex structures. Effective interim ministers have the ability to quickly join the “body of Christ” and to hit the ground running.
  2. An interim minister has the knack to analyze the church and its strengths and weaknesses. A church is very much like a family. We all know about the various interactions in our own family-how beautiful, painful and convoluted they can be. Gifted family therapists can analyze individual families, and when those families are malleable, help with their growth. In the same way, a good interim can come into a church, then listen, observe, and learn. He then can pass on to the leadership his insights and observations. The best interims can do so in such a winsome way that the church leadership uses those observations for making needed adjustments to strengthen the church.
  3. An interim helps the congregation connect with the denomination.
    The local congregation is not an island to itself, but part of a connectional system. The wise interim keeps in touch with the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery, and participates in the functions of the Presbytery where the church is located. The wise interim tries to create and strengthen linkages which exist between the local church and the wider church.
  4. An interim must determine, with the Session, where to focus his time and gifts. There’s always more to do in the ministry than any pastor can competently do. That is certainly the case for interim ministry. I am convinced that the interim and the church should enter into a covenant of expectations, That covenant of expectations should include the major tasks expected of the interim. Ordinarily, those tasks include preaching, worship leadership, staff leadership, pastoral care, and administrative responsibilities (which should be broadly defined). Other tasks have to do with issues existing in the congregation when the interim comes on board. For example, issues might include: Works with Session in implementing the Long Range Plan; Works with the Nominating Committee to Identify New Leaders; Works with the Personnel Committee in evaluating current staff structure and the effectiveness of current staff.  These, of course, are just examples. The point is to have the church leadership decide early on how the interim pastor might best help the congregation. In this covenant of expectations, there should be an evaluative tool to measure the effectiveness of the interim minister and a similar tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the Session. It doesn’t have to be an extensive, time-consuming tool, but it’s good for everyone to know what is expected and whether they are on track. 
  5. The interim minister leaves in a helpful and graceful way. Interim ministers, if they have done their job well, have given the congregation two significant gifts. They have led in such a vibrant and competent way that the momentum of the congregation has been sustained. And second, they have helped the congregation to be ready to commit to a new pastor and new leadership. Good interim ministers know how to· say goodbye in a loving and professional way. They know exit strategies, and are able to articulate those strategies to the church leadership when it becomes apparent that the Pastor Nominating Committee completed its work and is ready to call a new pastor. 

Furthermore, most interim pastors seek an honest evaluation of their ministry. That evaluation normally comes from the session in consultation with the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. For myself, I want to know, “Did the church leadership and I accomplish what we set out to do in our covenant of expectations at the beginning of my call?” Being accountable to one another is at the heart of good ministry of any duration.

Categories: Pastor's Message

Memories from our church family

Sunday May 1st, in worship was the first time I had seen Marge Vowles since her husband, Earnest’s death on March 18th.  I got to thinking that I had not written an article about a life to be remembered…Ernie’s.  I could give several excuses for the delay of writing, but when I was in the army and had to report an action to my superior, the reply was to be, “NO EXCUSE SIR!”.  So, lets go on with the story.

I called Marge and she just wanted to talk.  The time of day was close to her appointment so she talked fast.  I wish that I knew shorthand.  I missed some of the   information, but I did get the important parts.  Marge named about four different health problems that Ernie had and I missed all four of them, so the safest thing to say is, Ernie was in poor health.  Ernie and Marge sat in the very northeast corner of the sanctuary.  Often during Ernie’s last days, Marge was by herself.  Ernie just did not feel like coming to worship, but he was there in spirit.

Born in Bristol, England, Ernie came stateside at the age of 12.  Later he served his country in the army, for four years.  As a civilian, he was a trucking company clerk for 25 years, listening to customers complaints about their damaged freight.

In his prime years, Ernie weighed over 200 pounds.  In the not so good years he withered to skin and bones.  For some time, he wanted God to take hi, and Marge even prayed the same message.  She began to doubt if there was even a God who would let Ernie suffer so.  Ernie passed away with no pain, so maybe God was waiting for a painless day for Ernie’s homecoming.

On March 17th, one of their daughters prepared corned beef and cabbage.  This is the same day that Ernie was admitted to the hospital E.R.  The following day, he went onto Hospice and passed on the 18th.

Marge had a stressful 2 years, 24 – 7.  Often death can be a blessing.  Sure, we miss Ernie, but not one of us want to go through as Ernie did the past couple of years.  My opinion from talking to Marge is, her faith has been restored and she plans on continuing holding down the corner pew on Sundays for worship.


                          From Your Church Family, We Love You!

      Ken Johnson


If you did not know Charles Dawson, after you read this at least you will know of him.  The family has been in our church gamily for maybe a couple of years.  The family that we know is Charlie’s wife, Sarah., their daughter, Debbie and her husband, Tome Gilchrist, and Tome and Debbie’s daughter, Emma who is of Jr. High age.

Charlie passed away April 27th, of this year.  Up until maybe a couple of months ago, the family held down a pew near the north wall of the sanctuary.  Emma is always anxious to sit up front for the children’s sermon and then our the door for Sunday School.  Due to poor health, Charlie was not able to attend worship, but the rest came.  As time went on, Sarah shared with us that the last days of Charlie’s life were difficult.  A sad thing to see is a person with a strong body and the mind failing.

Charlie was raised in Portland, OR.  In 1950, he attended Eastern Oregon College in La Grande.  That is where he met the love of his life for 63 years, Sarah.

Charlie served his country in the US Navy during the Korean war.  After his discharge, he joined Traffic Safety Supply Company in Portland, where he served as president until retiring in 1989.  He testified before congress on highway and work zone safety as president of American Traffic Safety Services Association.  Charlie had a firm handshake and his smile proved it was his pleasure to meet someone.  This is one  of the reasons, that made him a successful business man.

Charlie’s greatest joy was his eight grandchildren, his wife, Sarah, a sister, three sons, and daughter, Debbie.  It is safe to say that Charlie was loving family man.  I missed Charlie’s services, but was told by several people what a good service it was and that his son gave such a good eulogy. 

Sarah and Charlie were ordained as Ruling Elders in Tucson.  His burial was at the National Cemetery with military honors.

P.P.C. is thankful for the time that Charlie worshipped with us, and he is now at peace with his Lord with a well deserved time of pace without having to worry about traffic safety.


Ken Johnson


Categories: Newsletter

From Session


The May Session meeting was good meeting with perfect attendance.  It was also the first meeting with our new interim pastor, the Dr. Terry Swicegood.  We are down to six Elders on session, and this number needs to increase in the future.  It is debatable at this time, as to how many should serve on session. 

I feel like I am expressing for all of the session, that we feel we have a good year ahead with Dr. Terry.  We, as a congregation are fortunate to have him so quickly.  Now, we can NOT leave out his wife, Barbara.  She is small, but perhaps she is powerful in getting him, “TO THE CHURCH ON TIME”.  Barbara and Terry, “WE ARE GLAD YOU BOTH ARE HERE!”.

We have  new financial secretary, Lisa O’Kelly.  Lisa has a degree in accounting, so if the shoe fits…  Lisa replaces Donna Davis who is now the Church Treasurer.  Lisa has joined the bell choir.  WELCOME LISA, but do not let us overload you.  Sunday, the 15th, was Lisa’s first Sunday with the bells.  Her son, Parker, was sitting in the back row of the south side.  He stood up while mom was playing, so he could see her.  Also, daughter, Megan had her eyes on mom.  After the choir played, Parker said, “mom”,  unfortunately, I was unable to hear what followed, but his actions made my day.  Thank you, O’Kelly’s for being a part of P.P.C.

Approval was given to participate in the CROP WALK on November 6, 2016.  Approval was also given to have a future fund raising event at Barros Pizza, as well as a Coupon Book Fundraiser Sale by our youths.  The books will sell for $25 each and the youth will receive $10, for each one that is sold. 

We have seven youths attending summer conference at Flagstaff as our own Montlure near Greer has not recovered from the forest fire a few years ago.  I think it is the vegetation that needs to grow.  Approval was given to send a check of $2,525 to cover the cost for the campers. 

The Moderator’s, Deacon’s Treasurer’s and all committee reports were all received.

Again, Swicegood, “We are glad you are here!

The next regular session meeting is June 13th at 5:00 PM.

Ken Johnson

Clerk of Session

Categories: Newsletter

Letters from the congregation

May 9, 2016 – Monday Morning

Dear P.P.C. Family,

This is just a note to bring you up to date with us.

We had a nice trip home and when we got to Sequim, the sky was a beautiful blue and wonderful warm sun – mid 70’s and it has been lovely ever since.

On Saturday with my chair and a rake, I was able to get out and do a little yard work (and does this yard need a lot of work).

Last Friday, my sister, John and I had an appointment with my new Dr. (an oncologist/hematologist) and the results of that is that I have an incurable blood disease named MDS.  I have had another blood transfusion and I hope to get away from these.  Also, this week, the Drs will put a port in so I will not have to have so many needles “stuck in me”.  I have been told that I will be much happier when I get this port.  I have good days and bad days, but Dr. Norman told me that he would het me to the point that I will be able to play golf and do other things that I enjoy doing.  So onto chemo., etc.

I have been overwhelmed with all of the cards and support from the Church members.  My thanks goes out to everyone for their wonderful cards, prayers and support for us.

Blessing to all,

          Karen Postma

Categories: Newsletter

HART Pantry

City of Peoria lending HART PANTRY support in their mission

Two of our Councilmen, Edwards and Patena came to the PANTRY headquarters to see our operation and to present us with financial support. Their presentation of $5,000.00 will go far in purchasing food and services for our At-Risk Kids.  They viewed our weekend bag packing and stepped into help. In addition to the finances they have arranged for HART PANTRY to be able to have a place for food bags to be placed during the month of July when our schools are closed. This has always been a source of concern, that our kiddos get hungry in the summer and we had no way to reach them. This one problem being solved makes our day.

I have been contacted by the Representative of the Youth Advisory Council to the City of Peoria and will be addressing the youth in June. It is my hope that these young people can become more active within their respective schools so HART PANTRY can better identify and meet the needs of our homeless and in-crisis youth.

HART PANTRY has been invited to participate in the City of Peoria General Fund Program for 2016. This fund could provide us with additional monies through grants to further our mission.

All in all it has been an exceptional month. The PANTRY has provided, on average, 50 weekend food bags and 50-70 snack/supper bags to students in our area schools. We are thrilled to be able to present 15 graduation gifts to qualifying students. Again this year we will provide the Graduation rehearsal Breakfast for the senior class of 2016 at the Raymond S. Kellis High School. The staffs at our schools do so much for HART PANTRY and our at-risk teens, we are proud to work with them whenever it is within our mission and budget.

Have a safe and happy summer.  Ruth Langford, Executive Director

Categories: Newsletter

The Sewing Circle

The Sewing Circle meets @ 9:30 the 3rd and 4th Wednesday of each month from September until the end of May. The mission of this group is to make prayer quilts for those in our church, lap quilts and bibs for nursing homes,  pillow cases for the organization that donates new pillow cases to kids with cancer and other sewing tasks. Our new mission is to help Jean Charlton cut and crochet plastic bags for mats donated to the homeless. 

We always can use fabric for our projects. There is a box in the church for donation of plastic bags. Contact someone in the sewing circle should you need a quilt or have materials to donate. 

This group finds the sewing a way to have community and support mission of our church. All are welcome. Bring your needles and thread and join us. 

The sewing circle

Categories: Newsletter