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Interim pastor takes helm of church in transition

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Ezekiel Lutheran Church's Interim Senior Pastor Bruce Williams says his responsibilities entail helping the parish transition from one pastor to the next.

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He'll work with the church as it searches for the right person to replace former Pastor David Hagstrom, who resigned in July.

"Whatever it takes," Williams said about his job duties.

He doesn't know how long the search will take but estimates as few as nine months and as many as 15. During that time, his job is to help the congregation look at the past, evaluate the present and clarify its future hopes.

"Part of the agreement is that you not be a candidate (for senior pastor)," said Williams.

He agrees the stipulation helps ensure that interim pastors remain objective throughout the search. Along with that comes a process he calls redefining the congregation's self image.

Though he'll work closely with all the church staff and committees, he said the process involves everyone. The interim pastor will strive to help people create harmony, accept differing opinions and point out "...the things that unite rather than things that divide."

"It isn't the building that does it," he said about ministry. "I work with the whole parish."

Williams will assume all the senior pastor duties and help the church do a self-study that includes its history and a listing of strengths and weaknesses.

"As a pastor, I'm still called to preach and teach and preside over services," he said.

Flanked by part-time Associate Pastor David Jore and other staff members, Williams said church members will work together through any issues. He expects to work closely with the Church Council, staff and the Call Committee, which is charged with finding the next pastor.

"I'm available to assist as needed, but I'm not involved in the call process," he said.

The Call Committee can gather candidate names from anyone, but they most often come from the bishop, who's in the know about which pastors might be open to a call. The committee gathers names, narrows down the list then seeks the congregation's approval of one person.

"It is always important to get the input of the congregation as a whole," said Williams. "The laity are the church."

The right person will be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and able to fulfill the roles of preacher, administrator and staff manager. He or she will lead the ministry at weddings, funerals, outreach, visitation and other activities.

Williams points out that preaching is only a fraction of a pastor's duties, mostly the job is everything that happens from Sunday to Sunday.

Williams' story

The Waterton, S. D., native is a former U.S. Marine and retired pastor with 40 years of experience. He's served at three other churches as interim pastor and holds a master's in divinity and a doctorate in ministry.

He and wife Karel call Sioux Falls, S. D., home and don't mind moving around for the temporary assignments. Their last one moved them closer to their son and grandchildren in Illinois. This job brought them closer to their daughter and grandchildren in Roseville, Minn.

Williams said he'll leave shortly before the new pastor arrives and looks forward to working with Ezekiel's congregation during the interim. He welcomes everyone to worship at either of the church's Sunday services: A traditional liturgical service is held at 8:15 a.m. and a contemporary service at 10:30 a.m.

Williams can be reached at Ezekiel's main phone number, 425-8294. People can also get more information about the church at its Web site: www.ezekiellutheran.org.

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