John Knox Presbyterian Church Mission Study

John Knox Presbyterian Church is a vibrant congregation of people committed to engaging the Gospel of Jesus Christ in worship, connection, service, and learning. Ever since its earliest days this church has been known in the community as a place for families to grow in faith. As the population around us diversifies and grows, our challenge is to both welcome our new neighbors and retain our intergenerational fellowship.

and so begins the story and the telling about the history, congregational life, mission and ministry of a church poised to call new pastoral leadership. Click here to read the study. Share it with a friend.

Welcome Litany for an Interim Pastor

Litany of Welcome to the Interim Pastor  

Here’s a place to start as you craft a litany to suit your ministry setting. Feel free to edit as you wish.

Interim Pastor Search Team chair speaking to the congregation  

The session of this congregation has contracted with [name] to serve as Interim (Transitional, use title appropriate to your setting) Pastor of our church. Today we welcome [name] to our midst and recognize his/her leadership for this special time in the life of our congregation.  

The Presbytery of [name] is eager to have the congregation do the work of transition in preparation for new pastoral leadership. [name] has been equipped to lead you through this process which reviews our history and focuses on our future as a people of God in this place.  

To the incoming pastor

Will you love, serve and pray for these people of God, nourishing them with the Word and Sacraments and lead them forward during this important time of change? 

Pastor: I will, with God’s help. 

To the congregation  

I ask all of you, now, people of  [name of church], to receive Rev. [name] as a pastor and colleague in ministry, and to join in the process we are entering as a congregation. As he/she continues the work of bringing the Gospel of hope and salvation, will you regard her/him as a fellow servant of Christ and work together in the ministry of this congregation?  Will you?  

Congregation: We will.  

To the congregation  

Will you pray for [name] and honor her/him for their work’s sake and in all things strive to live together in the peace and unity of Christ? 

Congregation: We will.  

By your statements of commitment and affirmation of this congregation, we welcome you as interim pastor of this congregation in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

P.S. We’d enjoy seeing what you come with to welcome an interim pastor ~ please share in the comments below.

A reflection on Judas

On this Maundy Thursday, I would rather not look at Judas or even think about him for that matter. Judas, one of the Twelve, one who had walked with Jesus, seen the blind restored to sight, recognized the look of understanding when the deaf could hear, who witnessed the dead restored to life becomes the one to betray Jesus. Was it the cost of perfume, the equivalent of a year’s wage what tipped him over the edge? Was Judas repulsed by the extravagant expression of worship offered as she anointed Jesus head, declaring he was the Messiah? How could a woman dare to anoint a king? How could a king speak of anointing as preparation for a burial? What shifted for Judas, that in their last gathering he refers to him as Teacher (Rabbi), when the others acknowledged him as Lord?

 Was it the culmination of unfulfilled expectations? Had Judas hoped Jesus would be the one to set all things aright? Had he felt rebuffed when Jesus’ mission, his talk of dying did not align with his purposes? Within disappointment were seeds of distrust sown?

 I would like to not think I am like Judas, yet I too recognize how I have backed away from Jesus when the cost had seemed too high. I can see how I have held onto offenses when someone’s actions did not measure up to what I know is right. I know I have condemned those who have been unjust toward those on the margins. I remember the pain of unfulfilled hopes, the crushing fear of rejection.

 On this Maundy Thursday I see the possibility of betrayal in me.  

 What is the response? What can I do? Trust. Do not let your trust in Me erode is the whisper I hear. Brennan Manning reminds me, “There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, no trust without worry.”[1]

Lord, we bring ourselves to you … our faith and doubt, our hope and anxiety, our worry and trust. We ask for courage to place our trust in your presence and abiding love.  

Matthew 26:14-27:10  

Post written by Carol McLaughlin. Carol has recently been “certified ready to receive a call” in the Presbyterian Church-USA and is an adjunct professor at Portland Seminary. Among the joys in life are time spent with family, walks near Puget Sound, reading, and conversation with friends.

[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: A Ragamuffin’s Path to God (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 104.

Shepherd of the Hill Writes a Mission Study

Shepherd of the Hill (PCUSA) is a delightful congregation located in Puyallup's South Hill neighborhood.  They have about 120 in worship on a Sunday and 187 members.  The church has a healthy distribution of ages and a long history of working well together in both ministry and mission. In October 2017, their pastor of twenty-six years retired, and the church hired a transitional pastor to help them consider their history and discern God's leading for the future. Two members of Session were also appointed to help guide this process.

For six months, beginning in January 2018, the congregation met together to tell their story, and connect with the core values that has shaped their ministry from charter to the current moment.  We solicited stories, information, and opinions from the congregation through face to face interviews, surveys (both printed and online), and discussions in small and large group contexts.  Throughout the process, the Session worked to understand and interpret the data, and each consecutive gathering or survey was crafted to further understanding and engage the congregation in discerning next steps. Finally, the Session met to distill all the information gathered into a clear statement of core values and mission priorities.  

It has been a privilege to walk with this congregation through the process, and to help the Session shape both the journey and identify God's leading for the future.   The two elders appointed by Session to help guide the transition have been wonderful partners in this work.  Following the congregational gatherings, and Session's season of discernment, I put together the mission study summary in consultation with the two elders who helped lead the work.   The Session then reviewed the document and gave feedback which was incorporated before it was given to the Commission on Ministry of our Presbytery.  

The congregation and Session is proud of the work we have done, and the study which documents our journey.   We hope it will bear fruit, not just in the search for an installed pastor, but in shaping the mission and ministry of Shepherd of the Hill for the season ahead. Read their mission study here.

Post written by Heather James, Transitional Pastor at Shepherd of the Hill

Heather has served in full time pastoral ministry for more than 20 years, and remembers God’s call to church leadership as early as her young teen years when she led a bible study for second graders.  This call took root and has grown through God’s faithfulness and leading in many different seasons of life ~ a music degree at Grinnell College, pastoral training from Fuller Theological Seminary, serving in parish ministry in both installed and transitional rolls, and spending time overseas as a missionary in Asia.  One of Heather’s deep joys in ministry is leading God’s people in worship through Biblical reflection, prayer, and music.  She speaks with the ability to balance the message of God’s love for us with our call to share that love with others.

Heather has completed year one of Transitional Ministry training through Menucha Retreat and Conference Center, and is currently pursuing her DMin in leading organizational and congregational change with Dr. Tod Bolsinger at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Heather lives with her daughter in an old farm house in Tacoma, WA.  On her days off you can find her biking, hiking, or kayaking in our beautiful northwest region.  She also loves quilting, good coffee shops, and is an avid reader.

Interim By Design is pleased to share mission studies with our community. To share your mission study contact us.

Interim Pastor Online Survey

Interim By Design is conducting an initial online survey to learn about the spiritual and vocational practices of interim and transitional pastors who serve the Presbyterian Church.

The survey takes about three minutes to complete. Answers are anonymous. Results will help to shape a future participatory action research project among practitioners. The goal is to discover what spiritual and vocational practices sustain well-being among leaders who guide the church during seasons of change.

Insights will be shared in upcoming posts.

Survey URL

Thank you for taking & sharing the survey.

Books I read in 2018

Fiction, theology, leadership, biography, poetry, prayer, story, classic, and something else. It has been my joy this year to read broadly, to read academically, and to read and listen for sheer enjoyment. I am grateful for the courage of each author whose craft enriches our common humanity.


A Light So Lovely the Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle by Sarah Arthur*

America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story by Bruce Feiler*

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones*

Around the World in 80 Dinners by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown*

Celebrations by Maya Angelou

Change Leader: Learning to Do What Matters Most by Michael Fullan*

Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History by C. C. Pecknold

Creating a Healthier Church by Ronald W. Richardson

Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover*

Falling Upward by Richard Rohr*

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson*

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee*

Growing Young 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin

Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker J Palmer

Heartfulness: Renewing Heart, Mind and Spirit on Retreat and Beyond by Valerie Brown

Home by Another Way: A Christmas Story by Barbara Brown Taylor

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson*

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs*

Making Happy the Art and Science of a Happy Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott

Never Alone by Tiffany Bluhm

One Blood: Parting Words for the Church on Race by John M. Perkins

Pauses for Advent by Trevor Hudson

Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice by Brene Brown*

The Road Back to You by Ian Cron

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church by Thom S. Rainer

Your New Money Mindset: Creating a Healthy Relationship with Money by Brad Hewitt

*enjoyed as an audiobook

A Farewell Litany for an Interim Pastor

An elder: A church community is constantly changing. Babies are born and baptized into the faith community, individuals and families join with us and sometimes move away, loved ones are called home to Jesus. It is important for us to recognize and mark well these times of passage - these endings and beginnings. Today we bid farewell and Godspeed to Pastor [name] who has served us as Interim Pastor for the past [number] months, as his/her time with us has now drawn to a close.

Interim Pastor: I thank you, the people of [church name], for the love, kindness, and support you have shown me these past months. I thank you for accepting my leadership and receiving me as pastor in your midst for this time of transition. I recall with joy the many things we have been able to accomplish together, and with sadness the things we were not able to do. I trust that God will continue to work in your midst as you embrace new leadership.

Another elder: We receive with thankfulness the ministry you have offered us in the time we have shared. We accept that you now leave us to minister at [church/ministry name if known]. We bid farewell to you trusting that God goes with you on that journey. Your presence among us will not be forgotten. We are grateful for the time you have been with us.

An elder: Do you, the people of [church name], now release Pastor [name] from the duties of Interim Pastor?

Congregation: We do.

Another elder: Do you, Pastor [name], release [church name] from turning to you and relying on you to serve them as Pastor?

Interim Pastori: I do.

An elder: Let us pray.
O God of hope, whose love for us is trustworthy and true, we are grateful for the ways we have grown as a congregation during the season of transition; you have used Pastor Shari’s gifts for the furthering of your kingdom among us. In looking toward tomorrow, we trust your hand to guide us. Send Pastor [name and their family] forward in your grace, by the power of your faithful Spirit. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Another elder: Go now, Pastor [name], with our blessing, surrounded by our love and led by the promises of God, the presence of Christ Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And all of God’s people joined their voices to say, Amen!

 Litany may be lead by any appropriate church leader whose voice adds meaning and dignity to marking this time of passage. 



Proverbs 2/Wisdom speaks: “If you . . .receive and treasure my words . . . if you call out for insight . . . if you seek it like silver . . . Then you will understand awe, righteousness and justice and equity and every good path; you will find knowledge of God; this knowledge will be pleasant to your soul and discretion will watch over you. Then you will walk in the way of the good . . .”