Riberas del Pilar Jalisco Mexico

Diocese of Western Mexico

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A New Beginning -- from the Vestry Handbook

New rectors have a reputation for "changing everything." But, of course, if nothing needs changing, the old rector – even dead – could probably continue to satisfy.

A new rector, inevitably, has a new outlook. He or she comes from a different place and has worked with different people and learned from different teachers. Some of these differences are what led the search committee and vestry to make the selection they did. They saw some differences that they hoped might make a difference in the parish. Of course, they were unaware of other differences in style and outlook, and some of these may take some getting used to. Usually it's worth the effort.

A new rector will see things that need doing – and will probably do them. The old rector may also have seen the need but knew people better and knew that to do certain things would upset certain people. So certain things remained undone. A new rector – blissfully ignorant of which toes are sensitive – will move ahead. Often the toes will turn out to be less sensitive than the former rector may have feared. Or perhaps the new rector has a certain charm – at first – that the former rector lacked or had lost. So the change is made more easily than might have been expected. Sometimes, of course, sensitive toes will be stepped on. Perhaps someone will leave in anger. But if the change was good, others will come into the parish as a result.

Remember, too, that there is change required on both sides. The parish will be aware only of the change asked of them, but the new rector may be changing even more, adapting the habits of a former parish to the very different customs, personalities, and requirements of a very different community. There is pain on both sides and, ideally, real growth on both sides as well.

Given time, new rectors also become aware of who cares about what and who will be upset at which change. The not‑quite‑so‑new rector will also complete the immediate agenda and settle in for the longer haul. The pace of change will diminish – and that is a mixed blessing. The new rector gradually loses the new outlook and becomes sensitive to vested interests – and less able and willing to work effectively for change. The parish will settle again into a comfortable pattern, take many things for granted, develop bad habits, and become needful once more of the new insights and uncomfortable changes – the growing pains – that only a new rector can bring. There will, of course, be a “honeymoon” during which rector and parish will be charmed with each other and accept much change with enthusiasm. It will pass, but take full advantage of it while it lasts. A sensitive vestry can play a vital role in helping the priest and parish to understand each other and move through the honeymoon into a strong and lasting relationship.

....  from The Vestry Handbook by Christopher L. Webber