From The Pastor’s Screen – August 2019

Musings on Transition


Rev John P. Gardner


In August of 2018 I stepped away from Plymouth Church, Fort Wayne, having served as Senior Minister for 20 years. I really didn’t know what was in my future. I simply knew that for me, the time was right for a change. It was a step into the un-knowns of transition. I was certain of one thing only –having had two long term pas-torates (the 20 years in Fort Wayne was preceded by 17 years in Michigan), I wasn’t going to have yet a third.

In late April this past spring, our Conference Minister, the Rev. Chad Abbott, alerted me to the possibility of serving in your midst as a “Transitional Pastor.” A FaceTime inter-view with Church Moderator, Rod Lewis, followed, along with an exchange of various emails discussing particulars. One particular was a start up date, which occurred on July 8th. So now we are engaged (for all of 2 ½ weeks!), sharing together in a time of transition.

As I mentioned in my first sermon, while I’m a seasoned pastor, transitional ministry is new for me. In a couple of weeks the I-K Conference is holding a Transitional Ministry Training workshop (Aug. 14-16), which I plan to attend. I’m expecting the workshop to provide some welcome and useful resources to enhance our time together.

On numerous occasions, both when facing professional and personal transition, I’ve benefited from the work of William Bridges and his book, “Transitions.” In his career as a consultant in the field of “transition man-agement”, Bridges nursed a lot of people through the tumultuous challenges that naturally accompany change. According to Bridges, transition times are marked by (1) an ending; followed by (2) a period of dis-tress and confusion; leading to (3) a new beginning. They are awkward, confusing times, mixed with swirling emotions, and filled with both peril and opportunity. I have found consolation in Bridge’s work, and lots of encouragement. We are always facing transition of one kind or another. The goal is to navigate the shoals of change on our doorsteps with patience and under-standing, with hope and trust that a positive outcome awaits. This is my hope –my prayer -for however long we journey to-gether.

Maya Angelou once said, “If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look for-ward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the pre-sent… gratefully.” I pray we are so fortunate as we steward the important and vital ministry of FCUCC.


Rev. John P. Gardner