Reflections of an Interim Minister
By Rayce Lamb
When I submitted my application to attend Wake Forest University School of Divinity, I did not know where or what God was calling me to at the time other than seminary. What I did know, however, with the utmost certainty, is that I was not being called to congregational ministry.
Five years later, I found myself surrounded by my ordination council at Wake Forest Baptist Church and the question about where and what God was calling me to came up. Once again I echoed a familiar line, “I don’t know, but I am certain it is not to congregational ministry.”
Three years later, here I am serving as Interim Pastor for the very congregation that I told I would never be a congregational pastor. I know, I know. ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ ‘We make plans and God laughs.’ Believe me, whatever whimsical quote you have in mind, I guarantee you I’ve heard it!
But the truth is, even as I was being installed, I still had a lot of uncertainty about whether this was the right step. After all this time, was God really asking me to be a pastor to a congregation? An interim pastor? But I took a step of faith, and within the last eight months I have witnessed the spirit of the Divine more than I ever have before.
There is something profoundly holy about holding space in the in-between—that time where tomorrow is uncertain, but the past has already slipped out of our reach. My time as Interim Pastor has been a bit unique. When I was installed, Wake Forest Baptist Church was not actively conducting a pastoral search for a new senior pastor and it knew there was a possibility that they may never do so again. Rather, they were in a deep discernment process, consciously hitting pause in order to have the capacity, space, and time to listen to where and to what God might be calling them to next even if that meant death.
When a person or a faith community is faced with the possibility of dying, holding space is a profound act of love. It is a way to say, you are not alone and whatever tomorrow may bring, I will be here with you just as God is with us now. Your presence is holy and more often than not your main task is to simply be. But the time of the in-between can also be a time of liberation. When yesterday is gone and tomorrow is uncertain, there seems to be a new freedom in what can be done today. For my church, this freedom came in the form of a renewed energy around the call of the local church to community. Since January 2022, Wake Forest Baptist Church has launched a small group ministry, welcomed new members, marched for women’s rights, collaborated in student formation with the School of Divinity, and even formed a national partnership with Q Christian Fellowship to bring a Queer Bible Study to the campus of Wake Forest University this fall. By intentionally hitting pause, we experienced a liberation and for the first time in a long time were able to simply be present.
On August 7, 2022, Wake Forest Baptist Church voted to dissolve after 66 years of ministry to the Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem community. For us, death went from a possibility to a certainty, and now we find ourselves in a new in-between. We are exploring how to die well and ways our assets can be used to propel our legacy of justice into the future. A decision to close a church is never easy, but the people of Wake Forest Baptist Church took root in love and set pride aside for a vision of God’s kin-dom that is greater than any church can be.
I’ve learned a lot from my time as Interim Pastor at Wake Forest Baptist Church, but perhaps the biggest nugget of wisdom I’ll walk away from this experience with is that when we are presented with the opportunity to enter into a time of the in-between, we should welcome it. It grants us space to rest, to imagine, and to do things just for the sake of doing them. It frees us to move alongside the Spirit, embracing today as a gift and leaving the realities of tomorrow, for tomorrow.
I will be forever grateful for the love and compassion shown to me by the people of Wake Forest Baptist Church. And as they have reminded me week after week, let me now remind you: our faith in God allows us to not be afraid of what tomorrow might bring, but to live today in the hope of what tomorrow could be.
Rev. Rayce J. Lamb is the Interim Pastor of Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He also serves as the Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and is the founder of Faithonomics, a social venture committed to providing holistic financial formation to faith leaders and their communities. You can learn more about Wake Forest Baptist Church by visiting www.wakeforestbaptist.org or more about Rayce by visiting www.raycelamb.com.