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RELEVANT FAQS

Earlier in August, the PNC and the Session wrote letters to the congregation and included some FAQs. The FAQs sent on August 4 were from the PNC about its discernment process. The FAQs sent on August 11 were from the Session about the pastor selection process. Both sets of FAQS may be found below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) answers questions about its discernment process to date.

BACKGROUND

These are questions posed to the PNC about its process to date along with its answers. If you have additional questions, please email pastortransition@fpcberkeley.org so we may address them. Next week, leadership will answer questions about how the process will continue to unfold before and during the congregational meeting that will be called for the purpose of acting on the PNC’s nomination of the candidate as our next Senior Pastor.

OUR PROCESS

What were the standout characteristics for choosing your final three candidates?

The final candidates are all seasoned pastors with hearts attuned to God and people and the executive skills necessary for leading large, complex organizations. Beyond all the expected markers of faith in Christ, leadership, Gospel-based preaching, ethical comportment, collegial endorsement, and congregational affirmation, each candidate was exceptionally gifted and we learned from them. Each of the three ministered to us as persons and as a committee. We heard them pray, preach, and respond to our challenging questions. They gave generously of their time and engaged our questions thoughtfully. They did this in the midst of the pandemic which radically affected their ministries and their lives. We had the rare opportunity of seeing pastors responding to a global crisis of unprecedented scope. Each of the candidates gave us a glimpse of how Jesus might respond. 

Please tell us more about the candidate pool.

We cast our net wide, networking with recognized leaders both inside and outside of the Presbyterian Church, as well as inside and outside of the United States (US). We also asked these leaders for other people we should network with for potential candidates. The majority of the candidates were from our denomination, the PC(USA), and pastors of churches of all sizes. As we narrowed the pool, we focused on those at mid to large-size churches. They spanned the continental US, were trained at different seminaries, and most of them were men and most were of European descent. 

Did you have any specific issues in mind that qualified or disqualified a candidate?

No. We have diverse views and, though we didn’t all agree all the time, we were always in respectful conversation with one another. We didn’t make decisions based on a particular issue, but sought to understand one another’s views on the various issues. Throughout the whole process, no one issue was a litmus test.  

How did you make your decision?

The PNC is composed of people with diverse views and perspectives. Through deep listening and sharing we sought to understand and learn from one another in order to inform our decision-making. In our denomination, the PC(USA), we’re encouraged to vote our Spirit-led conscience, seeking God’s work to be done through the church and in the world. Communion with God, one another, and the candidates, always conscious of our Bay Area context, was essential to our collaborative work.

Do you unanimously support the candidate?

Yes. By God’s grace and the leading of the Spirit, we came to wholeheartedly support and love our final candidate, and the candidate has experienced a sense of call to love and lead our congregation.

Steve has done so much for First Pres, and so ably, why wasn’t he chosen?

Steve was one of our final three candidates and all three were exceptionally well qualified. Steve was, of course, an excellent candidate and yet we were led in a different direction when selecting the final candidate. We’re grateful to Steve and know that his loving and effective Interim work has prepared the way for the new pastor. The candidate we felt led to select is remarkable in many ways and we look forward to being able to tell you more.

I shared my thoughts with the PNC but did not hear back from anyone. Were my ideas/thoughts taken into consideration? 

Every member of the PNC read every communication that was sent to us, and we considered many points of view in our deliberations. We apologize if you did not receive a reply! We definitely could have done a better job of acknowledging all the input we received, and done so in a timely fashion. Thank you for all your interactions with us and please know that your thoughts were helpful as we prayed and discerned.

WHY NOW?

Why did the PNC not push pause on the process to arguably give us better continuity during this time of pandemic?

A time of challenge is a time of opportunity for God’s people. As Steve preached on Sunday, July 26, from Jeremiah 29, when we experience dislocation we are to live courageously and thrive. When the PNC prayed about the situation and listened to others, we experienced no call to “push pause,” from God or within our own hearts. 

What about COVID-19? How are we going to get to know this person and them, us?

As a PNC we’ve had the blessing of seeing how the final three candidates have responded to this pandemic crisis. We’ve seen amazing creativity, faith, and care. That’s very much true for the candidate we’ve selected. Moreover during the past year, we’ve all grown to believe that the final candidate is able to step into this present circumstance and lead us well. The candidate has a great ability to connect and engage in person and through video, and significant skill at navigating new situations. We are working with Session and staff to identify creative approaches that allow for the person and the congregation to get to know each other better. Obviously, these will be virtual in the near term, and we will make every effort to have many, many opportunities for all.

WHAT’S NEXT

Can you please explain again, why the wait and suspense before we can know who is the candidate?

Traditionally a PNC just springs the news on the congregation and everyone can rejoice together in the provision of the nominated candidate and look forward to the next season of ministry. Our circumstance is more complex as our interim pastor was also a candidate, and we are working collaboratively with Presbytery and the candidate’s church. So our timing and content for communication is substantially different this time around also because we’d like to end our interim period well before we move to an announcement. Thank you for being gracious with us as we work with the Session and the candidate to communicate well while you wait in suspense.

Also, why the need for such a high level of confidentiality?

We held our work as confidential to protect the process, the candidates, the candidates’ churches, and our congregation. We know that at times it seemed as though we were not forthcoming with detailed information—this has been as frustrating for us as it might have been for you. We were holding onto our pledge of confidentiality to you and to one another on the PNC while following the process outlined by our denomination. 

What can we look forward to with next week’s communication?

The pastoral transition communications team will say more about the next steps leading up to our announcement of the candidate and until Candidating Sunday, when we will have the opportunity to hear our Senior Pastor candidate preach in worship. After worship we will gather for a Congregational Meeting to hear the PNC’s report, vote on the PNC’s recommendation to call the new pastor, and also to vote on the terms of call.

I’ve read through these FAQs and have more questions about the process, how can I learn more?

If you have any questions or concerns, write to church leadership. The Session, Pastoral Staff, and PNC welcome the chance to be in dialogue leading up to the congregational meeting. Please write to pastortransition@fpcberkeley.org, and we will be in touch with you personally. 

Thinking ahead, what is the best way we can thank you?

This is easy for us to imagine…please give our candidate the best First Pres welcome possible!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The First Pres Session answers questions about the pastor selection process.

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THE CALL PROCESS OVERVIEW

What is the process for calling a pastor in our denomination, the PC(USA)?

The pastoral call is a three-way partnership with the congregation, the pastor, and the Presbytery (our local governing body). A pastor nominating committee (PNC) is elected to hold the ultimate responsibility for presenting a pastor to the congregation for election as the next pastor or associate pastor. Their discernment process involves seeking God’s will to select a candidate to nominate for the presbytery and congregation’s consideration and vote. If you would like to read about the process in detail, click here for the booklet, On Calling a Pastor. In our fast-paced Bay Area world and compared to the recruiting processes we experience in business, this process might seem slow and complex but it is one of the most important congregational tasks in the life of a church. 

Why is the process of hiring a pastor different than hiring other church staff? 

Calling a pastor is not the same as a job interview for non-pastoral staff. We believe that God uses committees and governance along with abundant prayer, Scripture, and worship, to help discern God’s voice in selecting a pastor. Making this choice takes patience, good process, and spiritual discernment. Finding the right fit also takes time. As set out in our denomination’s instructions, the PNC journeys through the pastoral search process, seeking to hear the call of Christ and “to participate in God’s own choice” for the church’s next pastor. 

How is the Presbytery involved and supportive during a PNC process?

The SF Presbytery is our local denominational body. They provide a liaison to serve and work with the PNC to guide and assist the process. The Presbytery provides resources to the PNC and administers candidate reference and background checks. A Presbytery sub-committee, the Committee on Ministry (COM), also examines ministers for membership in the presbytery and votes to approve the call as mentioned above. 

How is a PNC formed?

A PNC is developed with great intention to be reflective of the complexity and diversity of the whole of the congregation by the Nominating Committee (whose members are also chosen by the congregation). Possible PNC members are vetted for their engagement and commitment to the life of our church, their ability to commit the extensive time it would require to serve, and the groundedness of their faith. When a slate is presented to the congregation, the congregation reviews the statements of faith, considers the nominees, and votes to form the PNC and entrust it with the responsibility of selecting a pastor candidate. 

Why is a committee entrusted to do such important work?

We trust PNC members because we know them as members of our community, they know and love our church, and they demonstrate unselfish commitment to the church by serving on a PNC. We trust in their ability to hold this responsibility because of their call to group discernment, group decision-making, confidentiality, and care for one another. We choose them for this purpose to do a work on our behalf. And we trust that God is with us, for us, and working through a PNC, even if its members are far from perfect.  

What is a congregation’s role in calling a pastor?

From the start, congregations play an active role in electing a PNC, and are encouraged to regularly support and pray for the church and the work of the PNC. The PNC considers congregational input along the way through questionnaires, forums, the Mission Study Report, Dream Team Visioning, and other processes, plus they personally review all correspondence directed to them. Ultimately, the congregation comes together for a congregational meeting to meet the candidate, hear about the work of the PNC, and vote on extending a call. 

Why does a PNC work with such high confidentiality?

Maintaining confidentiality ensures that the identities of the prospective pastors under consideration and their churches are protected. Maintaining confidentiality within the PNC is an issue of integrity, trusting God in the process, and spiritual leadership. In some ways this is no different than many human resource recruiting processes in the professional world. However, we recognize that being in the dark can sometimes feel hard for the rest of us who are not part of the PNC.

ANNOUNCING THE CANDIDATE

How and when do we hear about a candidate?

The congregation is informed about the nominee in the days or weeks prior to hearing the candidate preach on Candidating Sunday (in our case, the week of August 17). The PNC announcement email to the congregation includes the process the PNC followed, a brief biographical sketch of the candidate which helps the congregation to know him or her more intimately, and a letter and perhaps a video from the candidate. The candidate’s congregation is told at the same time we announce. 

CANDIDATING SUNDAY

What can I expect on a Candidating Sunday?

The nominated candidate preaches a sermon and participates in worship on Candidating Sunday. Following the worship service, we hold a Congregational Meeting to consider the nomination and call the pastor.  

How will we hold a Congregational Meeting during COVID-19?

During COVID-19 any Congregational Meeting will necessarily be held via Zoom as state and local orders do not allow large in-person gatherings. Virtual Congregational Meetings have been used by other churches and are approved by the SF Presbytery. Our upcoming meeting is scheduled for Sunday, August 30, and we will send out details in emails a few times before the meeting. We will do all we reasonably can to invite members to join and participate in the Congregational Meeting.

Specifically, what will happen at the Congregational Meeting on August 30?

During our upcoming Congregational Meeting, the PNC co-chairs will make  the following motion: The PNC recommends that the congregation call the Rev. Dr. Charlene Han Powell to serve as Senior Pastor and Head of Staff of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley.  

Members of the PNC will speak to the motion by presenting a report. This will include the candidate’s background, experience, and abilities. This will be followed by discussion so any members of the congregation may ask questions. After the PNC report and congregational discussion, the congregation will vote on both the pastor’s call and terms of call.

Why are we asked to vote, if there is only one candidate?

As a congregation, we entrust the task of selecting a pastor to a committee. They listen to us carefully, seek to discern where God is calling our church, and select someone to recommend to us. The congregation affirms the selection and extends the call to the candidate. It is an exciting and deeply moving moment of commitment when the candidate and the congregation mutually declare their partnership in ministry together and trust God for what is to come. 

What kind of questions can be asked at a Congregational Meeting?

The Congregational Meeting is called for the purpose of hearing a PNC report and voting on a selected candidate; this is the only topic on the meeting agenda. The meeting is meant to be one of anticipation and celebration for the church and a time of welcome and hospitality for a candidate and family in attendance. All questions about the candidate and his or her call to First Pres are welcome.

LOOKING FORWARD POST-CANDIDATING SUNDAY ON AUGUST 30

What happens once the candidate is approved and called to serve First Pres?

A date is confirmed for the start of the new pastor’s ministry with us. The pastor will need time to conclude his or her ministry with their current congregation and relocate to the Bay Area, so the start date will typically be a month or so out from the congregational meeting. When the Senior Pastor arrives, we will set aside a time of special celebration on a Sunday to welcome them.

How can we make the transition as positive as possible for a new Pastor?

Trusting in God’s provision and the leading of the Holy Spirit with the PNC and the Senior Pastor, we can open our hearts to enthusiastically welcome them. You can volunteer for new opportunities to serve and continue to contribute financially in order to make the fall a strong launch to build momentum into 2021. We can remain in prayer throughout the transition process for our church and the Senior Pastor God has called to serve First Pres.

If I’ve read through all FAQs (this week and last) and have more questions about the process, whom do I contact?

If you have any questions or concerns, write to church leadership. The Session, Pastoral Staff, and PNC welcome the chance to be in dialogue leading up to the congregational meeting. Please write to pastortransition@fpcberkeley.org, and we will be in touch with you personally.

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MORE INFORMATION

Announcement

Letter from the PNC

Charlene’s Biography

Charlene’s Statement of Faith

Videos About Charlene

Postcard Videos

Media

Calendar of Events

Congregational Meeting

Relevant FAQs
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