The process for calling our rector
Like other healthy Episcopal parishes, San Gabriel the Archangel, with the support of its bishop, calls its own rectors. (The situation for mission churches or for struggling churches may be different.) Every parish has its own variation on a basic process. Here’s the process we used at San Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church.
1. Select the members for the New Rector Search Committee. Our vestry identified six parishioners to undertake the work of identifying a candidate or candidates to propose for the vestry’s final choice. Some of the work would necessarily be confidential. Nonetheless, throughout this process, the search committee communicated as much of their progress as possible through Sunday announcements, posting to the website, and updates in the Messenger.
2. The Search Committee meets with our diocese’s Office of Transitional Ministry (OTM). This invaluable service, led by Canon Raymond Raney, helped us understand our process from both the national and diocesan perspective. Canon Raney provided us with many examples of other parishes’ searches, helped us refine our objectives and develop our time line, and performed many behind-the-scenes tasks, such as running detailed background checks on all of our applicants and providing ongoing guidance and support.
3. Find out what our parish wants! The search committee prepared, distributed, and data crunched a parish survey. We had great participation–nearly 80% of the parish responded to the survey! Based on responses to the survey, the search committee, aided by facilitator the Reverend Linda Wilson, conducted a visioning retreat for the parish, which was also well attended. The retreat helped refine some of the themes of the survey and identify even more clearly the deepest concerns of our congregation. Read the survey and retreat report here.
4. Prepare and publish our parish profile. Using all the input from the survey and the visioning retreat, as well as some historical records and many photos, we created the parish profile you can read here. We wanted to post a parish profile that was as accurate as possible to let potential candidates know who we are and what moves us. The profile also provided the major topics for the job announcement that appeared on diocesan and national church websites, as well as in the Episcopal News Service newsletter.
5. Review candidate applications. As applications came in, the Office of Transitional Ministry ran background checks and forwarded the applications that passed. The search committee then decided, based on the criteria identified in the parish survey and the visioning retreat, whether or not to conduct interviews with candidates.
6. Conduct Skype interviews with selected candidates. Most of our applicants were from other states, so it made sense for everybody that these initial interviews take advantage of technology. All the Skype interviews were conducted at the diocesan Bosque Center.
7. Invite finalist candidates for a site visit. We conducted three site visits, where both search committee members and vestry members had a chance to meet and interact with the candidate. Each candidate conducted a Eucharist, as well as at least two services from the daily office (for example, Morning Prayer). Each candidate also visited the Albuquerque opportunity Center, so they could see one of our important ministries at work. Finally, we had good conversations over food and while touring some highlights of Albuquerque and Corrales.
8. The Office of Transitional Ministry conducts a final check of the candidates.
9. Discern the candidate to present to the vestry. This was the toughest part of the whole process for the search committee. The final candidates were all good people and fine priests. The great challenge was to discern the right priest for San Gabriel’s. Believing that it was important to reach consensus about whomever they proposed to the vestry, the committee carefully reviewed again the criteria that their parish had provided through the survey and the visioning retreat and considered how each candidate matched that criteria. After much review, discussion, and prayer, the search committee unanimously agreed upon the final candidate to present to the vestry.
10. Propose the candidate to the vestry. As part of the presentation to the vestry, the search committee reviewed the steps of the discernment process, shared diocesan guidelines regarding our responsibilities as search and vestry members, and presented a synopsis of the candidate.
11. The vestry decides. The vestry reviews the committee’s proposal, and after discussion among themselves, voted to accept the candidate. The vestry oversaw the preparation of the contract and related matters.