Beyond the written word:
Meeting “Face to Face” makes all the difference for church professionals seeking calls
September 29, 2011
The prophet Joel describes a time at the end of days in which all people will see visions and dream dreams. For now, the Rev. Lucia Oerter’s dream is that she and her clergy husband, the Rev. John D. Oerter, might actually be able to live in the same house again.
“After working for a time at the synod level, I found myself yearning to be back in the parish,” Oerter said. “That search landed me first in Chicago and then later at First Presbyterian Church in Pontiac, Ill., where I’ve been interim pastor for the last three years. Since my husband just took a call on September 1 to serve as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, N.M., I’ve been seeking a position that might bring us closer together. Until then, we’ll continue the insanity of moving around the country.”
Because Oerter was already actively seeking a new call through Church Leadership Connection (CLC), the internet-based matching and referral system of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the CLC staff encouraged her earlier this year to register for the next scheduled Face to Face event, which was held during the Big Tent event in Indianapolis, Ind., in July.
Face to Face is an interactive and cost-effective way for churches and church entities seeking a church professional — or professionals seeking a call – to meet and attend to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as registered participants consider whether there is a potential for a call to minister together. Sponsored by the CLC at a variety of national events throughout the year, Face to Face allows for personal connections to be made between pastor nominating committees, search committees, Committee on Ministry liaisons, presbytery and synod leaders, teaching elders, candidates and Christian educators.
“Years ago, there was a Face to Face event held by our presbytery/synod and it was a way to be in the interview process without the nervousness,” said Oerter. “I felt like I wanted to show up for any opportunity God might bring my way via the Face to Face event. It was also a good way to be in the midst of conversation with other churches that were searching for a pastor.”
Being open to positions she might not otherwise have considered was another reason Oerter took part in Face to Face. “At any other times, I know that I would not have chosen some of those churches to speak with because they weren't located where I thought I wanted to locate or they weren't the size church I was seeking to serve,” she said. “Face to Face really seems to honor the call system in listening for God's nudging in all conversations. I enjoyed it mostly for the conversations with other people.”
The ability to have meaningful one-on-one conversations with a variety of churches and seekers is a hallmark of the event. “Face to Face is an opportunity for educators and congregations to move beyond the written word of Personal Information Forms (PIFs) and Church Information Forms (CIFs) and to talk about the possibility of ministry together,” said the Rev. Joyce Lieberman, associate for Call System Support. “It is also an opportunity to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit leading you to places and people you may have never imagined.”
Moving beyond printed forms and email exchanges was also a key reason why Ron Miller – a ruling elder and co-chair of the pastoral nominating committee for Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ind. – attended Face to Face at the Big Tent. “Face to Face allows you to cover a lot more ground,” Miller said. “Besides, you don’t really know the person until you’re face-to-face.”
Oerter says that she thinks of Face to Face as “the six degrees of separation in finding the vast connections in our Presbyterian system” and would highly recommend it to other call seekers.
“People like Lucia were really connecting,” said Jewel McRae, associate for Church Leadership Connection Administration and Racial Ethnic Referral in the Office of Vocation, which organizes and runs Face to Face. “It was a wonderful thing to see.”
Oerter remains hopeful. “I just feel sure that God has the next thing lined up for me,” she said. “I just don't know if it will be in the parish or who knows. It's all good.”
Church Leadership Connection will be hosting its next Face to Face event at the 2012 APCE Annual Event to be held February 1-4, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Mich. For further information, visit the APCE Annual Event registration website or email Jewel McRae, associate for Church Leadership Connection Administration and Racial Ethnic Referral. Face to Face registration will open on the CLC website in early January 2012.