Yesterday was the installation service at the church I serve. I’ve been there since February, but now I’m officially installed as the Associate Pastor for Youth. The service was an apt illustration of the ways in which a new pastoral relationship simultaneously represents discontinuity and continuity, both for the congregation and the pastor.
Discontinuity: in the Presbyterian Church, installing a pastor is an act of the presbytery, which is represented by a commission of people from other churches. Continuity: it’s a worship service. In yesterday’s case, it was a regular Lord’s Day worship service with a liturgy and sermon that would have been the same if the installation hadn’t been happening.
Discontinuity: the pastor is charged to carry out his or her work well, most often by someone chosen by the pastor for that role (I scored big time here). Continuity: installations happen weeks, even months, after that work has begun. Also, the one doing the charging probably isn’t going to stop urging the pastor toward good work once the service ends.
Discontinuity: everything centers for a short time on one particular pastor/congregation relationship, with constitutional questions for both, charges for both, and prayers for both. Continuity: the congregation has done this before and will again. So, too, the pastor.
Discontinuity: the pastor’s brother in-law, a conservative evangelical Bible scholar with whom the pastor has had fewer than five civil conversations about religion or politics during their 20 year relationship, reads Scripture and asks one of the constitutional questions in a moment marking a massive personal transition. Continuity: dinner the night before; lunch after; swimming with the kids tomorrow.
Discontinuity: a new chapter. A new pastor. A new congregation. Continuity: the same call, the same grace, the same God.