Open Door, Pt. 3

I applied for one of the open Community Pastor positions and was invited to the first and only round of interviews. It was the first application process ever for UBC, which was evident in its lack of professionalism. On one hand I appreciated this, as it reflected the ethos of the church. The application itself was equal parts reverent and playful, much like UBC itself. It had spaces to share thoughts and opinions on theological and ecclesiological issues, but also asked questions about books, music and movies that had influenced us. The goal was to get a more well rounded and accurate view of the candidate than a traditional job application would.

The interview round, however, was pretty bush league. Rather than holding a long series of interviews in which candidates were brought in individually over the course of several weeks to meet with a search committee, we were, instead, all brought in on the same night to meet with the committee, which was made up of the staff and several lay people in the church. We rotated rooms, where we visited with smaller groups of the committee. This was littered with both professional and personal pitfalls, as we all walked in together and saw who we were “competing” with. There were six of us, most current UBC’ers.

Bush league or not, I didn’t care. As unprofessional as it was, the process was infinitely better than no process at all. At the very least it didn’t feel like a sham, as there were numerous capable, devoted laypeople on the search committee who would make a recommendation to the Leadership Team.

The big moment came when I sat in a group with David and his wife, Toni.  I shared my vision for the future of the church, which included two significant things. First, I felt we needed to find a way to nurture a life of faith that was as much a positive statement about what we believe as it was a negative statement about what we were against. This wasn’t a novel idea, as we had been struggling with this for years since first engaging with the emerging church movement. As a church, we were known for our cynicism and aversion to anything that resembled evangelicalism, (two things I contributed to as much as anyone else.) I didn’t know what it meant to move forward from that, and I wanted us to retain an atmosphere where skeptics and doubters felt welcome. But I wanted to find a way to accommodate these, as well as to find a more positive expression of faith for our church.

Second, I told the group that I wanted to bring a level of accountability to the pastoral staff that I believed had not been present up to that point. That’s what I said. What I meant was that we should try to be more true to our flat-leadership style structure, that no one staff person should have any more influence in decision making than another, unlike how I perceived things had happened in the past. I, of course, left this out, because I’m not a fool. But I did feel that I shared enough to make it known that I had serious issues with how the decisions of the church were handled in the past.

The interview ended and we all went home to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The actual amount of time between the interviews and the decision was a couple of weeks, but it felt like a year. The search committee didn’t select the candidates who would fill the positions; they simply made recommendations to the Leadership Team. The process took longer than if there were only one person being hired, as there were considerations about who could fill particular roles, how particular candidates would work with current staff, as well as how one of us might complement another. It was a complicated puzzle.

After several difficult meetings of deliberations, two candidates were selected. One was Toph, a Truett grad who had been at UBC for a couple of years. He and I had a class together in seminary, but I didn’t know him well at that point.

If you were holding this book in your hand, there would be enough of it left for you to figure out that I was the other candidate chosen.

I took the call in my living room, sitting on my recliner. I had been tipped off that the Leadership Team was meeting that night, but had no clue what direction the decision would go. Everyone was on speaker phone to share with me the good news. Some of them had been friends I had known for almost a decade, making it an emotional moment for all of us.

I hung up the phone, reached over to my bookshelf and picked up my copy of Kyle’s book on God’s will, turned it over to look at his picture, and wept.

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