St. Paul pastor leaves
St. Paul United Church of Christ Pastor Jane Ireland came to Eudora prepared to leave. As an interim minister, her service in the congregation was about preparing it to move forward and receive its permanent pastor. After three years at St. Paul, that time will come Sunday when Lisa Gardner conducts her first service as the church's permanent pastor.
Her awareness she would depart sooner or later didn't make leaving behind the community any easier, said Ireland, who conducted her final service in Eudora Sunday.
"You do a different kind of ministry than as a permanent pastor," Ireland said. "I'm enjoying this kind of work, but it is different.
"When you come in as an interim, you work with healing ministry. No matter whether it's been a pastor everybody really loved or really didn't like, there are a lot of grieving issues."
Interim ministers also aren't supposed to immerse themselves in the community as a permanent pastor might, Ireland said. Even though her charge was to prepare the congregation for change rather than instituting it herself, she said sometimes she thought she had more influence as an interim pastor.
"My overarching issue was to give them opportunities to see different things and show them different ways so they're ready for when someone else comes in with new ideas," she said. "They may accept it more because they know it's temporary."
One aspect Ireland brought to St. Paul was an ecumenical approach that reflected her diverse spiritual background.
"I've had quite a varied experience," she said.
Having studied with community churches as well as at the North American Baptist Seminary, Ireland worked in Christian education while her children were young, as a hospital chaplain, and as a therapist working with young boys. Ireland has also pursued her interest in world religions by studying Buddhism, Hinduism and other faiths.
Although she said her knowledge in other faiths sometimes showed up when she'd quote other texts during her sermons, it was most evident when she opened a meditation center in South Dakota's Black Hills.
"I was interested, and the time was right," she said. "It was for people who were going through crises. They weren't getting their needs met."
Ireland's vast background will come into play at her next assignment, in Harveyville and Eskridge, where she will split her time between a joint Presbyterian-Methodist congregation and another Methodist congregation, meaning she will perform three services each Sunday.
"It's because ministers are becoming more scarce," she said. Ireland, who will retain her status in the United Church of Christ, said this was a challenge she faced before when she pastored to congregations of Lutherans, Methodists and UCC members simultaneously.
"I grew up ecumenical, so that's been my real interest," she said.
Although leaving her Eudora congregation wouldn't be easy, Ireland said she was confident in Eudora as a growing community with plenty of opportunities.
"I feel good about this church," she said. "I feel that they really care about one another, and they can be ready to take a new step."
Making bonds with others and then moving on is just another part of life, she said.
"You become connected, and that's what life is all about relationships with God and one another," Ireland said. "I leave a part of myself here, and take a part of them with me."