One of the most stressful times for congregations of any faith is when a new pastor/priest/rabbi/imam/you-name-it is being chosen.
In some cases -- such as Catholicism and United Methodism -- the congregation has little or no say in the pastor who gets assigned to be the spiritual leader (and administrative leader and chief cook and bottle washer).
But in other traditions, such as my Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, the congregation has a large voice in the choice. In other traditions, the choice is completely up to the congregation.
In times of leadership transition, there is much that can go wrong and not much that is guaranteed to go right. So wise congregations enter this period with prayerful discernment. And they look for all the help they can get.
In the Christian tradition, such organizations as the Alban Institute can and do provide such help. But help also is often available from the national or international leadership of particular branches of faith.
A new book, Leadership That Fits Your Church: What Kind of Pastor for What kind of Congregation, by Cynthia Wooever and Deborah Bruce, is aimed at Christian congregations but contains information and advice that may help others as well.
The book draws on the findings from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey (USCLS), which reveals the views of more than 500,000 people who participate regularly in worship. One of the authors, Cynthia Woolever, is research manager of the USCLS.
Any pastor search committee would benefit from a careful reading of this volume.
I have seen examples of congregations that ended up with clearly the wrong kind of leadership and I've seen some great fits. But great fits don't happen by magic. Thus, this book.
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A new Saudi-sponsored interfaith center in Vienna has opened. It would be nice if its work led to Saudi Arabia opening up to religious freedom for all. That's far from the case now. You can read details of Saudi Arabia's suppression of non-Islamic religions on page 158 of the latest annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
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P.S.: My latest column for The National Catholic Reporter is due to post today, but I'll be on the road and won't be able to give you a direct link to it when that happens. But if you click here you can read it when it posts.It got posted about 10 a.m. today. Check it out.