Pastor transition FAQ
Q. Who will be serving as the Interim Pastor for First Church?
A: We are pleased that our Senior Associate Pastor of the past eleven years, Rev. Dan Hutchinson, will move into the role of Interim Head Pastor. Rev. Hutchinson will assume the role as interim on November 1, 2023 and serve First Church in this capacity until a new head pastor is called to serve.
Q. When does the mission study start? What does a mission study entail?
A: The mission study will begin after Dr. Miller’s last day and after Rev. Hutchinson assumes his role as interim head pastor. The Mission Study Team is appointed by Session (Elders) to lead this study; the team comes out of the Session’s Strategic Planning Committee.
The study is a process of discernment and listening to both the Holy Spirit and the congregation. This involves an assessment of where the church is presently and a conversation within the community of faith about the future of our ministry. Community study, congregational survey and conversations are all part of the engagement that will take place within the church. When concluded, the Mission Study Team compiles all findings into a single mission study report. This report seeks to define and project the ministry priorities and goals for the next 3-5 years.
Q. How can members of the congregation honor Jim and Diane?
A: A Pastor's Pilgrimage Fund is being established. Dr. Miller has a strong belief that pilgrimages to holy sites matter, shared through trips he led to Israel, the Footsteps of Paul, the Trail of the Reformation, the Oberammergau Passion Play, and others. Dr. Miller established a high school pilgrimage to Israel and urged the congregation to financially support the participating juniors and seniors. Regularly, Dr. Miller also invited local pastors to join him on trips as special guests (pastors who, for financial reasons, would not otherwise be able to go).
In this spirit of generosity, the Pastor's Pilgrimage Fund will help defray costs on future trips, enabling both students and pastors to experience Israel and pilgrimage opportunities relating to historical holy sites. If you are moved to participate, please send a check to the church’s business office, indicating it be applied to the Pastor's Pilgrimage Fund.
Q: Can personal gifts be sent to the church for Dr. Miller?
A: If you are so inclined, members should give any physical or monetary gifts directly to the Millers. (IRS and Board of Pension rules and regulations do not allow for the church to receive funds and then pass them on to Jim and Diane.) However, if you would like to make a tax-deductible gift in Dr. Miller's honor, Jim and Diane ask that members consider the Pastor's Pilgrimage Fund.
Q: What do the months leading up to Dr. Miller’s October retirement look like?
A: Dr. Miller’s last Sunday will be October 29, 2023. It will be a Festival Sunday that allows everyone to hear Dr. Miller preach in one 11 a.m. service in the Sanctuary with streaming to the Great Hall. Plans are in the works for a farewell reception immediately following the service. Watch the bulletin and First Church E-News for information. The congregation will have an opportunity to make contributions toward a retirement gift as well. There will be ample rejoicing in the gift of the Miller family to this congregation! A Transition Team, appointed by and working closely with the Personnel Committee, will perform the search for an interim senior pastor/head of staff to begin serving after Jim’s retirement.
Q: What will be Dr. Miller’s involvement after he retires on October 29?
A: Jim and Diane will take some much-deserved rest and time off after his long career. There will be opportunities for Jim’s continued involvement with the church in the future. While Jim’s pastoral services will end with his retirement, the Millers’ personal friendships with members of the congregation will, of course, remain.
Q: Who is the Transition Team and what is it doing?
A: Session has formed a Transition Team to prepare for Dr. Miller’s upcoming retirement. If you have questions, concerns or comments, please reach out to the team via e-mail here. The Transition Team includes Allison Biggs, Brett Crane, Jim Diacon, Stephanie Madsen, Urbanus Masaku and Gary Mathews. The team is providing proactive support to the congregation and staff by communicating developments along the way, answering questions and engaging the congregation and staff. They are also working closely with Dr. Miller to fully understand what his duties entail, to create a road map that will help leadership transitions be smooth.
Q. How long does a search for a new senior pastor take? What does this season of change look like?
A: The search for a new senior pastor will take months and it is not uncommon to last for 18-24 months. Be in prayer about who God might already be calling. There are many steps for Session to take as it faithfully and prayerfully discharges the duties and responsibilities that come to us in the weeks and months ahead. This is a time for the congregation of First Church to be strengthened as we sow the seeds of a new pastoral relationship.
Q: Is the staff going to change?
A: Staff changes can and do happen at any time within the church, but neither this transition period nor the eventual hiring of a new senior pastor, result in definite staff changes.