Middle-man Pastor Helps Congregations In Transition

August 14, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

TYRONE — Most pastors prefer to lead a congregation for years, shepherding members through good times and bad, encouraging them to grow.

But the Rev. David Rogers, interim pastor at Emmanuel (Baust) United Churchof Christ, has found his calling in comforting a congregation after it loses a pastor and paving the way for a new one.

"I enjoy serving this period of transition," said the part-time pastor.

Rogers, who expects to serve Emmanuel for about six months to a year, said it takes nine months to a year to find a new pastor through the United Church of Christ's nationwide search.

The Rev. Thomas Golliday left the 250-member church located halfway between Westminster and Taneytown in April to head a newly formed UCC congregation in Sebastian, Fla.

"The search process is very comprehensive and time-consuming," said Rogers, 37. "So, the church looks to those ofus who plug in between times."

Rogers graduated from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and is working to complete his doctorate in pastoral counseling at Union Academy School in Cincinnati. He has been a pastor since he was 19.

"I come from Kansas, wherethere were not a lot of ordained clergy when I was growing up," he said. "So, if they knew you were headed toward the ministry, you usually got placed in a church as a student pastor.

"I served my first church for three years -- from my sophomore to senior years in college."

Rogers said he became a minister because he wanted to change the world and help people.

"I have always had a fire, ever since I was very young, for justice and peace-making," he said. "I believe that the church is one of the last bastions of hope for justice.

"The United Church of Christ was at the fore of the civil-rights movement, leading the march for feminism and equality of women, beating the drum for peace around the world, and literally feeding the hungry andhousing the homeless," he said.

"Certainly, social services agencies do that sort of thing, but I don't know of one that does all those things. We are adding the Biblical and theological rationale for those things."

In July 1990, Rogers left Columbia United Christian Church -- where he was pastor for five years -- to open a counseling practice, the Wellspring Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Health Center in Columbia.

But, a few months later, the 17-year pastor realized he missed speaking from the pulpit.

"Call me a big mouth, whatever," he said. "But the one thing I love to do is preach."

When aninterim position at Webster United Church of Christ in Havre de Grace opened, Rogers jumped at the chance.

"It's wonderful," said Rogers. "You really do get all the benefits of a parish ministry with very few of the headaches."

The principal responsibility of an interim pastor is to help the congregation through the "grieving process," he said.

"Twenty-three years is a long time to shepherd one congregation," Rogers said of Golliday's pastorate. "There is a period of grieving after the loss of a beloved pastor, and he was deeply loved by this congregation.

"This church has been here since 1765, and there are people in their 80s who attended this church since they were little girls and boys. There's a lot of longevity and not a lot of change."

Preparing the group to accept the leadership of the next pastor is another of his duties, Rogers said.

"Opening them to innovation is part of the task," he said. "I have to get them to create new vision of themselves, the future and where they are going to be."

Rogers also will care for their spiritual needs.

"A pastor's jobis to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," he said. "Your preaching should give the people hope, but also challenge them to serve -- to give more of themselves to the community."

Rogers said he feels he has the same charge in his pastoral counseling, which differs slightly from traditional psychology.

"In counseling, you help heal people's wounds, but you also enable them to transform themselves -- to become something new," he said. "Pastoral counseling offers not only the psychology, but spiritual healing as well."

The center deals with many types of problems, from manic depression to stress and anxiety problems through developing a patient's spiritual nature.

"I encourage the nourishment and nutriment of their spirituallives," Rogers said. "As one is fed spiritually, it increases self-esteem and gives one a healthy picture of themselves and others."

Classical spiritual disciplines -- like prayer, scriptural study, worship and service -- are used to ensure a patient's well-rounded development.

"It takes all of the disciplines daily to be spiritually healthy," he said. "I like to look at it in terms of the cross, which has both a horizontal and vertical composition.

"The vertical components -- such as prayer and meditation -- connects God to human beings. The horizontal -- like service -- connects human being to human being. Faith has to have both to be a healthy, happy faith."

Rogers said members of Emmanuel have that type of faith and know the need for service.

"This is a warm, friendly congregation with concerned people who are socially aware and committed to serving the community,"he said.

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