Retired, looking for adventure? Able to cook up a good Tex-Mex meal for 20 or more while meeting pastoral needs and perhaps seeing to minor maintenance on a building initially constructed in 1660 A.D.?
If so, Friendswood’s Charles McComb may have the perfect working vacation for you. McComb runs American Interim Pastors Ministries, Inc. which places retired Texans (and others) in the United Kingdom for six-month pastoral stints with most expenses paid. Both ordained pastors and experienced layman are being sought for English churches that might otherwise close while waiting for a native preacher to appear.
“Truly, the blessings from volunteering as interim pastor in a British church is a two-way street,” McComb said. “The British love the rock-solid Bible preaching and teaching from American volunteers. They also appreciate the hospitality we show, not only to church members, but to their community.”
It’s not just Sunday sermons, he added.
“Folks are always welcome in the manse and a cup of tea and cookies is no bother to offer,” McComb said. “And, they appreciate the visits in members’ homes and in the homes of non-church goers. They admire the boldness with which Americans invite unchurched people to church events and services.”
English congregations provide airline tickets, a furnished place to live and use of a car for the six-month’s working vacations. There are nominal fees for visas and the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) national health insurance that aren’t covered, plus the food and other items that remain out of pocket.
What do the layman and retired pastors receive for their time?
“For the Americans, the most valuable benefit after the ‘Well done’ from our Lord, is the life-long friendships that are made. Those relationships are priceless. And, it is a well known fact that everywhere in the U.K. has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. One need only drive 20 plus miles in any direction to see awesome scenery and history buffs are overjoyed just being in the U.K.”
The Rev. Jim Booth knows all about this. After leading Galveston’s Island church for 35 years, he found himself drawn to the needs of England’s small churches.
“My church there gave me a surprise 75th birthday party,” Booth recalled. “We had about 80 people each Sunday in a building built in 1660. The people were so gracious and they hope to have a young English pastor soon.”
Unlike Booth, John Ward of Lake Jackson is no reverend.
“I was not a preacher,” he said. “I was and remain an engineer. This was way out of my comfort zone.”
So what was the upshot of his service in England?
“It has been the most fulfilling thing in my life,” Ward said. “We served five times, in the small communities of Skegness, Stow-on-the-Wold, Henley-in-Arden and Bootle in Cumbria. Each is quite different, yet each had similar issues of struggling small churches in small towns and villages.”
American Interim has had 38 men like Booth and Ward serving, plus a larger number of youth leaders (who are offered a different package). They have served in 18 churches, 17 Baptist and one Evangelical Free church. Of these volunteers, 15 were layman without seminary training.
“Laymen do an excellent job,” McComb said. ”What they learned serving their U.S. church prepared them very well for serving small U.K. churches.”
One key may be the lure of good Texas food. According to John’s wife, Jan Ward, typical British plates provided Yorkshire pudding, with beef and gravy, ploughman’s platters, potato and leek soup, fish and chips, and all the sticky puddings.
To this, the colonials offered a reprieve.
“When we weren’t dining at a local pub or some other local eatery, we had folks over to the Manse or pastor’s home for the American experience of good Mexican food and our traditional holiday meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Jan said. “The people would come when we served food. Jesus knew how to draw a crowd.”
The Rev. Bob DeGray of Friendswood’s Trinity Fellowship is an anglophile who’s looking forward to a working retirement in England some day.
“If I ever get the opportunity, I would love to spend a season at one of these U.K. churches,” he said. “There is so much wonderful Christian history in these churches, but also a real present need for the good news about Jesus to be preached in these towns. The idea of a low cost way to spend an extended time there is really appealing. I would love to be in the middle of that history, but also love to get to know the people of those churches and provided the pastoral care that they are missing.”
For details, on American Interim, visit americaninterimpastors.com or call 281-799-1869.
Next week in Our Faith: What is Resonate?