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The Pastor Emeritus

The term "Pastor Emeritus" is used by a local church of the United Church of Christ to honor a person who has served that local church long and well at the time of that person's retirement from that pastorate and from active ordained ministry. Conferring this status is an act of a local church. You are reading this because you have some interest in the role and function of the pastor emeritus. You may be thinking about conferring this status. You may be someone who is being given this recognition. You may be one who is wrestling with a predicament that is taking place because of confusions about roles and responsibilities related to pastor emeritus.

know that three things are important. First, the person is being honored out of the merit of service rendered. This is a very special honor. Past service has distinguished itself over a long period of time, likely ten years or more. Both the person honored and the local church need to have a sense of the specifics of the merit behind why the person is being singled out for this recognition. Second, the person and the local church need to know that the person so honored is no longer the active pastor of that local church. This is a very tender point. When someone has served a local church with distinction over a long period of time, it can be difficult for both the person and the local church to sever functional ties. This is a crucial dynamic. When ignored or resisted, painful moments of confusion and resentment can become ugly and undercut cherished memories and ongoing relationships. Third, it is very helpful for a local church to have policy guidelines regarding the role and functions of anyone whom it chooses to recognize as pastor emeritus. Lack of clarity about this before the recognition is conferred can lead to a great deal of unnecessary awkwardness. As a local church begins to write policy guide-

lines it will likely discover that roles and functions are non-existent because pastor emeritus is an honorary title, not a functional position. The local church is well advised to avoid writing policy, which encourages any forthright functions. It will do better to consider "responsibilities" for both the pastor emeritus and church members. The following are suggestive of responsibilities of the pastor emeritus and of church members. 1. The pastor emeritus and members are to hold in regard the health and vitality of the pastoral office and to do that by treating the present pastor as the acting pastor of that local church. 2. In those instances where a member seeks to have the pastor emeritus active in a pastoral function, it will only happen with the concurrence of the present pastor, a named church body, and the pastor emeritus. This is properly initiated by members first contacting the appropriate church body. 3. The local church will seek to inquire about and be concerned for the ongoing health and happiness of the pastor emeritus and will maintain contact to ensure ongoing concern and support.

Before Conferring

It is important to know what pastor emeritus means. The word "Emeritus" has to do with being retired from active service while retaining one's title as an honor. The retaining of title is offered because of merit earned during the time of active service. When someone is a pastor emeritus, that person and the local church need to

Conferring the Recognition

The local church as the entity conferring the recognition of pastor emeritus does its conferring at the time of the person's retirement from that pastorate and the active practice of ordained ministry in that local church. Conferring takes place within the worship life of that local church. There will likely be other celebrative activities, but the actual conferring is a ritual act. At some point in the worship service, it is appropriate for an officer of that local church to call upon the person to hear words to the following effect: "Recognizing your pastoral leadership of this congregation since the year____, we bestow upon you the honor of being known to us and to others as Pastor Emeritus of this congregation." "We remember with regard...(and here specifics are named.)" "In conferring this honor, we join with you in a continued appreciation for the pastoral office. And though you will no longer actively serve as pastor, your... (name some qualities)...help us to regard not only you but the office you have held while serving as our pastor."

"In conferring this honor, we pledge ourselves to continued concern for your health and happiness. We will hold you in our prayers and cherish the contributions you have made." It can prove helpful to review material found in the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ. Also, it can be particularly meaningful if persons who represent the United Church of Christ as a denomination are invited to participate as witness to the act of conferring. A certificate related to Pastor Emeritus can be secured from Parish Life and Leadership. This certificate can be given to the person as a part of the act of conferring.

the present pastor and work to assure that divisive gestures are deterred. The local church and its members can be helpful by staying in touch and actively caring for the pastor emeritus. They can also remain aware of potential difficulties and actively avoid inappropriate pressures to involve the pastor emeritus in the regular duties of the present pastor.

Maintaining the Honor Conferred

The present pastor, the pastor emeritus and members have a role to play in maintaining the honor conferred. The present pastor helps by being open to requests to involve the pastor emeritus and can initiate active participation of the pastor emeritus at special celebrations in the life of the church. The pastor emeritus can help everyone by firmly referring well-intended invitations for pastoral service to

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