First Reformed Church of Zeeland
By Julie Chen
The Transition Team began meeting at the end of August to help First Church go through the significant transition of Pastor Scott’s retirement. Dan Ackerman, the Zeeland Classis Pastor, has helped numerous churches in the area through times of transition very similar to ours, and we are grateful for his leadership on this team. The Transition Team includes Dan Ackerman, Marcia Walters, Mary Kingshott, Julie Chen, Mark Snyder, Jill Dannenberg, and Ron Zagers.
Pastor Scott has walked through significant moments of pain, celebration, and growth with all of us in his 32 years here, and moving on to a new chapter will be one that is filled with emotion. Imagine all of the babies that he has baptized, couples he has married, and funerals he has performed in those 32 years! Dan explained to our group that in transitions like this one there are three stages, and these stages are giving us an outline for how we will move through the transition as a church family.
Stage 1: Letting Go
Now that the timeline for Pastor Scott’s retirement has been set and we can see the date of his last sermon (December 31) approaching, we are starting the process of letting go. During this time we will acknowledge and celebrate the legacy that Pastor Scott and Cyndy have left with our church family. The Transition Team has been working on fun and creative ways to remember Pastor Scott’s ministry here and to honor Pastor Scott and Cyndy. Here are a couple of things that our group has planned:
Stage 2: The Neutral Zone
After Pastor Scott’s last sermon, he will still be around and giving leadership to some teams and groups for a couple of months before his official retirement in March. This will be a perfect time to get a cup of coffee with Pastor Scott and for all of us to complete the process of ‘letting go’.
A unique part of this Neutral Zone is that there will be a period that we do not have a teaching pastor. This is not because the search team is stalling or because we are dawdling to call a new pastor; we need an intentional buffer in our transition process. If we would call a new pastor to start immediately after Pastor Scott’s last sermon, we would inevitably make unfair and unhealthy comparisons. The search team will work diligently to find a new teaching pastor who is called, gifted, and qualified, but this person will not be Pastor Scott. In the months following Pastor Scott’s last sermon, we will be hearing messages from a variety of pastors from the RCA. We can look forward to a great lineup of pastors and a time of learning to appreciate a wide variety of pastors and preaching styles.
Stage 3: New Beginning
After we have taken some time as a church family to remember Pastor Scott’s legacy, to grieve, and to spend some time in the neutral zone, we are ready to move on. Let’s commit now to covering the search team in prayer, and to also be in prayer for the pastor that will eventually be called to First Church. Moving on can be scary, but it can also be exciting and filled with hope. I am excited about what is next for First Church! Let’s work together as a church family to discern the Lord’s will and use this time of change and transition to imagine how God will continue to use First Church to further the Kingdom.