Interim pastor considers job a fulltime labor of love
As interim pastor at Mission del Sol Presbyterian Church in south Tempe, Dr. Larry Corbett stays busy every day with a variety of jobs that are typical for most pastors.He leads Bible studies, and the weekly worship services, too. He writes his weekly sermon every Friday like clockwork, and he counsels church members who are struggling with any and all of life’s challenges.
But since starting as interim pastor last September, Corbett also spends a lot of time on issues that are not usually a part of a permanent pastor’s role.
Near the top of the list is working hard to let the parishioners of the church, located at 1565 E. Warner Road, understand that, just because there is an interim pastor in the pulpit each Sunday and in the office during the week, it doesn’t mean that the church is in any way something less than it usually is.
“I have a responsibility to help do that, and to not to allow apathy to overcome people during this interim period of time,” Corbett said.
“Some people might think ‘let’s take a break; we’ll wait until the new minister is here’ to come back to church, but while I’m here we will keep moving forward as a church. The spiritual needs are still there, and the church is here to meet them.”
An interim pastor is also responsible for helping the church identify its mission for the future so the person they call for the job will be a good fit, Corbett said.
“Another part of what I do is to look at who the church is, what its goals are, and what its direction will be 10 years down the road,” he said.
“I also help look at what the demographics will be in five years, so the new minister will be a good match.”
The third aspect of being in the interim position is one that Corbett described as being “very pastoral.”
“I help people to grieve the loss of the pastor and to accept change—this might be the most crucial part of my work, helping them to deal with this change,” he said.
“I listen a lot to people, and I have to love them a lot with the spirit of Christ’s love, and be a presence for them, helping them to anticipate change, which is always difficult. I once read that the only human being who likes change is a baby.”
This is the second time in his 44 years working in the ministry that Corbett has served as an interim pastor. He said that the process of hiring a new pastor is typically long, and the new pastor probably won’t arrive until 2013.
“But until then, everything is the same here,” he said.
While Corbett understands that there is what he calls a natural attrition in churches, due to things like deaths, people moving away, families splitting up and other reasons, while he is with Mission del Sol, he will do all he can to make sure the church remains as vibrant and active as possible.
“Churches that are not growing are dying, so we have to continue to move forward. I hold new member orientation classes on usually the last Sunday of the month,” he said.
“This church is filled with caring people; it’s a healthy, solid church.”