As the First Presbyterian Church congregation searches for a new pastor, the members want to hear from the community, as well. A survey is now available for Waunakee area residents to aid in the search.
Pastor Kirk Morledge, who led FPC for more than 30 years, retired last fall, and since then Interim Pastor Glen Reichelderfer has led the congregation of about 648 members as they’ve begun contemplating a search for Morledge’s successor.
The church has taken what Reichelderfer called a “six-month breath” since their pastor of more than three decades retired and to regroup after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When you lose a pastor, you have to take a breath and say, who are we now? And, COVID has given us that really wonderful opportunity to think about, who are we and what are we about?” Reichelderfer said.
Now, the congregation has caught its breath, so to speak, and moved into the first of seven milestones on the path to finding its new spiritual leader.
That milestone calls for the session to appoint and approve a committee of five members to draft a Ministry Information Form. From there, a Pastoral Nominating Committee will be formed.
“We’re a Presbyterian church. We believe the Holy Spirit works through committees, so you get a committee together, and you help the congregation answer some basic questions,” Reichelderfer said.
Those include where has the church been, where is it going, and where do members feel God is leading them, he added.
And while the members reflect on that, they want to hear what the rest of the Waunakee area wants from a church.
“We all have our blind spots,” Reichelderfer said, “How does the community see us, and how does the community think about the community’s issues?”
Many FPC members volunteer at the Waunakee Food Pantry, Waunakee Neighborhood Connection and the River Food Pantry as a way to practice their faith, the interim pastor said, but may be missing other needs in the community.
The hope is that the survey will inform the members about where FPC fits into the community and how it could become a larger part of if.
The committee now is also reviewing the church history, surveying its members and gathering all information to draft its Ministry Information Form for candidates.
“It’s not like we want to do it right, we want to do this process right, and by doing this process right, we will find a good fit,” Reichelderfer said.
Reichelderfer has served as interim pastor at three other churches where he led this process prior to coming to FPC. The process is important not only for the congregation, but for the pastor who comes to lead the church and hopefully settle in the community, he added.
“Our process is far different than other churches,” Reichelderfer said. “We want to listen as closely as we can to each other, listen as closely to the Holy Spirit, and see who we’re drawn to and vet them as best we can.”
The hope is to have a new pastor in place by next March.
“We’re just looking for a good fit and a person who can lead this church into whatever future we have,” Reichelderfer said.