Reverend John Zehring
Interim Sabbatical Minister
Reverend John published this message of welcome in the March 2015 edition of The Spire.
Please read our own message of welcome to Reverend John in the same newsletter.
Shalowm is a Hebrew word. It serves as both a greeting and farewell, much as we might say Hi and Bye or Have a nice day. But Shalowm means much more. It is a wish on behalf of another, with a breadth of meanings. Shalowm means:
I wish for you peace.
I wish for you to be well.
I wish for you a friendly relationship between us.
I wish good things for you – good health, prosperity, peace, safety.
I wish for that which makes for your best welfare.
That is a lot bigger than wishing someone to have a nice day, isn’t it? It is like a blessing, asking God to bless the other. Shalowm sounds similar to the word for Christian love (agape): “I wish for you everything that makes for your highest good and best interest.”
Shalowm is my wish for you as I come to you as your Interim Pastor. I look forward with excitement to the adventure ahead of us as we grow in our faith, in our knowledge and love for God, and in our service and outreach to God’s children. Jesus said: I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. I look forward with eagerness to the new bonds we will form as I come to know you, to serve you, and to care for you like a Shepherd cares for the flock entrusted to him. My Shalowm for you comes with joyful anticipation, enthusiasm, and the expectation that God will continue to act in the life of Park Avenue Congregational Church.
An in-between time like this can feel like living between trapezes. My conversations with the search committee, church leaders and staff have revealed a group of people who have weathered well and serve gallantly in a time of uncertainty. Uncertainty may lead to a feeling of anxiety. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” Jesus said, “for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” We are people of the Resurrection, believing in hope in the unseen and affirming that the best is yet to come. And so, let us look ahead to the season before us with hopefulness, Lenten reflection, and a building up of our faith in God.
And now, a few practicalities: What to call me? I’d suggest Rev. John rather than Pastor John, for Bill is your Pastor, on sabbatical. When to call me? Feel welcome to call me on my cell phone or send me email.
- You are never an interruption. I am here to serve you. Never feel like your call is a bother.
- I check messages. If I do not answer, leave a message.
- If you are going into the hospital, call me or have someone else call me. The hospital does not. I cannot know unless you tell me.
- I pray. If you would like me to pray for you or for someone you love, let me know. At any time of crisis or difficulty, keep me in the loop.
- I love ideas. Did you visit a church and see something you like? Tell me about it or give me their bulletin. Have you been thinking about an idea but do not know who to tell? Share it with me.
- I listen. And talk. If you would like to come to the office for a conversation, contact me by phone or email and we will set up a time. Tell me if you would prefer to talk right away or if it can wait for few days. I make my own appointments.
- I do lunch. I enjoy going to lunch with members of the church. Feel welcome to invite me out. Favorite foods: Chinese, Thai, anything else.
- Please remember to greet me every time by saying “Hi, my name is…” That is not a bad way to greet everyone. Who wants to confess that they cannot remember a name?
- You have retained me part-time. I need to sense the congregation’s need, so cannot say yet which times I will be in the office. I’m guessing I will be at church Sunday (and will make visits or office appointments in the afternoon), Monday, and Wednesday. Tuesday I will work at home on the worship service, emails, administration and communication. But, that might change depending on the congregation’s need.
It is my pleasure, my calling and my honor to help Park Street Congregational Church in its time of need and to be a support for my clergy colleague Bill while he is on sabbatical. I love being a pastor and for a season or so, I will love being yours.
In faith, John Zehring
Information about John Zehring
John Zehring has served United Church of Christ congregations for twenty-one years as Senior Pastor in Massachusetts (Andover, South Church), Rhode Island (Kingston), and Maine (Augusta). Prior to parish ministry, he served in higher education for more than two decades, primarily in development and institutional advancement, as a dean and as a vice president at a seminary and at a college.
He is the author of nineteen books or eBooks (see his web site for more information). Recent eBooks include:
- Psalm 23: An Everyday Psalm
- What the Bible Says About Homosexuality: A Bible Study for Progressive People of Faith.
- Treasures from Philippi: GEMS for You from the Epistle to the Philippians.
- Clergy Guide to Making Visits
- Public Speaking for Executives, Leaders & Managers
- Did He Hit Her? A Compassionate Christian Response to Abusive Relationships
- For People of Faith, Torture is Always Wrong
His current project underway is a book for Judson Press titled Beyond Stewardship: Church Leaders Guide to Successful Annual Giving Campaigns. Earlier print books include You Can Run a Capital Campaign (Abingdon Press) and Working Smart: a Guide for New Managers (Garrett Park Press). His articles have also been published in more than 200 magazines and journals.
John holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, Rider University, and the Earlham School of Religion. John is married to his high school sweetheart Donna and they have two children and five grandchildren. He lives in two places, in central Massachusetts and summers by the sea in Maine. He enjoys kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing (a perpetually advanced beginner), working with tools (claims to be the Molding King), chocolate, reading by the fire, writing books, travel, being with his grandchildren, and enjoying the fullness of life with his wife.