Our best laid plans at times need to be altered, especially when we find ourselves living during a global pandemic and we are ordered by our governor to “shelter in place.” At this time, we have no idea how many months it will be until we will be able to return to our congregations for worship and other activities. Therefore, if your congregation is currently in transition, it is important to continue actively moving forward with the call process. If you prolong the process too long, you may lose a quality candidate to another congregation.
1. Your congregation, if it doesn’t already have one, can purchase a Zoom license so members of the Call Committee can meet virtually online to prepare for an interview with prospective candidates. This is easy to do! Go to Zoom.us, click on “plans & pricing,” and select the option that will work best for your needs. One person is designated to serve as a host for the meeting and invites committee members to attend the meeting at a designated time by sending them a link. At the time of the meeting, each member clicks on the link and joins the group.
2. This same Zoom platform can be used to conduct initial interviews (or even second interviews) with candidates. You would conduct an interview in the same manner you would if the candidate were physically present with you. Introductions would be made, a committee member would lead an opening devotion, and then questions would be asked of the candidate, with time allowed at the end for the candidate to ask his/her own questions.
3. Before or after the interviews, the Call Committee may like to prepare a video recording to send to the candidates, giving him/her a virtual tour of the church facility, the parsonage (if there is one), and glimpses of the community, such as schools, a hospital, nursing home, etc.
4. Once the Call Committee has identified their candidate of choice, and the candidate expresses an interest in moving forward in the process, a meeting with the Congregation Council is scheduled. This also will be conducted via the Zoom platform. This meeting is a “meet & greet”, where conversation is shared, the salary/benefits package is discussed, and after the candidate is dismissed, the council votes whether or not to recommend the candidate to the congregation for call.
5. If the Congregation Council decision is positive, they set a congregational meeting according to the Constitution and forward the candidate’s name and salary/benefits package to the congregation. Most likely, your Constitution contains the following (or similar) wording from the “2019 Model Constitution for Congregations of the ELCA”:
C10.03. Notice of all meetings of this congregation shall be given at the services of worship on the preceding two consecutive Sundays and by mail or electronic means, as permitted by state law, to all [voting] members at least 10 days in advance of the date of the meeting.
C10.04. percent of the voting members shall constitute a quorum.
C10.05. Voting by proxy or by absentee ballot shall not be permitted.
C.10.08. This congregation may hold meetings by remote communication, including electronically and by telephone conference, as long as there is an opportunity for simultaneous aural communication. To the extent permitted by state law, notice of all meetings may be provided electronically.
6. What does all this mean? You must give appropriate meeting notice for the congregational meeting. Announcements can be made at virtual worship services, sent by regular mail and/or by electronic means. A congregational meeting for the purpose of calling a rostered minister can be conducted electronically, such as by Zoom, as long as those who do not have access to the Internet are able to call into the meeting and hear what is being spoken and can be heard if they speak. This is possible with a paid Zoom account.
7. The congregational meeting is conducted in the same manner as it would be if members were physically gathered in one place. However, before the beginning of the meeting, the secretary of the council needs to prepare a written list of all those who are in attendance at the meeting and are eligible to vote. To save time, people could be invited to pre-register for the meeting. Then, on the day of the meeting, the secretary would simply read the list and ask people to individually respond “present” when their name is called. It would then be announced if there is a quorum present. The rostered minister candidate would be invited to attend the virtual meeting, be asked to speak to those in the meeting and answer any questions asked of him/her. When this portion of the meeting is over, the candidate leaves the meeting and the congregation votes.
8. If your congregation’s Constitution specifies that the vote to call a rostered minister must be done by written ballot, each eligible voter would hold a paper up to the screen with the word “YES”, “NO” or “ABSTAIN” to indicate their vote on calling the candidate. Those who are calling in would need to be identified and asked verbally how they wish to vote. The votes would then be counted. A 2/3 majority of those present and voting is required to call a rostered minister. If a written ballot is not required, the president would simply ask all voters to respond by saying “YES”, “NO”, or “ABSTAIN”.
9. If the vote is favorable, the president and secretary of the congregation sign the Letter of Call and forward it to the synod office for the bishop’s signature. This document is then forwarded to the rostered minister who, within 30 days of the vote, either accepts or declines the call.
10. If the candidate accepts the call, a beginning date is set for his/her ministry to begin in the congregation, as well as the date for the formal Installation of the rostered minister.
Pastor Marilyn Hanson
Call Process Coordinator
Northern Illinois Synod
(5/13/2020; revised 6/8/2020)