The July meeting opened on a bittersweet note as Council discussed the daunting task of filling the big shoes of Acting Associate Minister Shawn Fiedler. Shawn had recently announced that he accepted a new position as Major Gifts Officer for Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois, and that his last day with us would be August 28th.
Moderator Phil Stern outlined the church officers’ proposal for filling the interim/acting associate minister’s position. The officers recommended putting together a small, ad hoc team of three church members to work with Rick Spalding to hire someone. They recommended this for several reasons. Phil noted that putting together a more formal search committee could take a lengthy 4-6 weeks. This position is an interim one, and does not require the full approval of the congregation. Finally, Phil reminded Council that there is precedent for having an ad hoc working group hire ministerial staff. Harry Huff and Shawn Fiedler had been hired by ad hoc working groups, and both brought an immeasurable variety of gifts to their work at Old South. Council promptly voted to authorize a three-person, ad hoc team to hire a new associate pastor to serve for up to two years.
Rick highlighted his commitment to making this transition period at Old South as fruitful as possible to ensure a smooth beginning for our new settled senior pastor. He invited council members to take a few moments of silence to discern what we want to accomplish for this interim period. After this brief moment of quiet prayer, council members broke into groups of two to share their suggestions for the congregation’s priorities. Once the groups of two exchanged their thoughts, council members were asked to convene in groups of four to share their ideas. When Council reconvened, Rick asked one person from each group of four to report on what they heard during their discussions. Many excellent suggestions were mentioned during this lively discussion, and these included the formation of a personnel committee, engaging in “progressive evangelism,” and improving our hybrid worship services. Rick said that he would work on synthesizing all the ideas he heard, and will bring this summary to Council for more discussion in September.
Membership Committee Chair David Connaughton led a brief discussion about the importance of Old South members regularly “exercising the muscle of welcome.” As the church began to re-gather for in-person services this past year, members were understandably immersed in catching-up with one another after a long period apart. David reminded us that we also want to turn our attention to welcoming our visitors during coffee hour. He and other members of the Membership Committee will be visiting boards and committees to provide tips for welcoming our visitors.
As the busy meeting drew to an end, Council members took some time to express their profound gratitude for Shawn’s special ministry these past few years. Council members praised Shawn for the energy, creativity, and humor that he brought to the task of ministering to our community during this long, deeply challenging period for our country. One council member spoke for us all when she said, “We hit the jackpot because we got Shawn twice.” Shawn closed our meeting with a tender litany of thanksgiving for his time with us. His litany ended with these words:
For this strange and curious Christian Life,
For the common ministry to which you call us,
For the joy found in this unique company,
For the love, your love, that will never let us go,
I praise you, O God.
Kate Silfen, OSC Historian