Reflection on Loren Mead’s Life and Ministry

Reflection on Loren Mead’s Life and Ministry

Recently there have been several significant deaths of persons who have impacted my ministry along my journey.

Last week it was Dr. James Cone, founder of black liberation theology. Cone was a powerful preacher, teacher and writer.  One powerful book by Cone entitled, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, is a timely reflection on racism in this era of Black Lives Matter and important work to do around racial justice.
This week I received news that Rev. Loren B. Mead, Alban Institute founder and former director, had died at his home in Alexandria, Virginia.  Mead created quite a sensation early in my ordained ministry with his book The Once and Future Church, which came out in 1991 and still stands as Alban Institute's all-time best seller. Loren B. Mead was a priest, educator, and author as well as founder of the Alban Institute – a remarkable source for so many practical things having to do with ministry and upon which I depended for so many years.

Having been ordained to authorized ministry in the United Church of Christ in 1990 the idea of a church in a post-Christendom era was a new one for me.  I had not yet heard much about a post-Christendom era from my seminary years. I came out of seminary hoping to help folks become better disciples of Jesus Christ. Much of my time had been spent in examining Biblical texts and coming to understand a wide variety of ways to interpret and understand the texts to help folks live as disciples of Jesus.  Imagining a future beyond Christendom simply wasn’t on my radar at that time. This week it struck me that I really need to go back and read Mead’s book again to see how it resonates in this twenty-first century world!  

Over the many years Loren Mead helped develop a number of resources now widely used -- the role and work of the interim pastor, the use of conflict management, the work on clergy stress and burnout, concepts of change and development in congregations and judicatory systems, and training methods for executives and judicatory leaders. When I moved into interim ministry as a specialized calling it was Mead’s books and writing about Interim Ministry that helped me understand what the tasks were for an interim pastor.  In 2016, Mead was interviewed about his life and ministry by Alban. In that conversation, he returned to the themes that marked his life, his ministry, and his teaching. Specifically in regard to understanding the role of interim ministry, Mead remarked, “We started learning about interim pastors.  In some churches there’s blood on the walls when one pastor leaves and you need to put somebody in there at least to clean up the walls before the next pastor comes in.  But a skilled one can go in and really help unpack some of the time bombs that are around there.  So the new pastor comes in and he (she) has a lot easier chance getting going.  So that’s what interim pastors were for.  There is now a national network of those people.” 

What an amazing legacy Loren Mead has left and how lucky I was to be able to benefit from so much of his ministry.
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