A parish faces acclivity after the departure of a longtime religious leader — namely, the journey for a new one.
But the Rev. Stephen Brewer joined Davis Community Church in mid-July to provide help on the climb forward. He will serve as interim pastor while the congregation conducts a search for a new pastor to succeed the Rev. Mary Lynn Tobin, who led the church for 24 years.
Davis Community Church, founded in 1869, is Davis’ oldest Protestant congregation and is a consistently progressive voice in the community. DCC is at 412 C St. downtown.
Brewer is a graduate of the University of Idaho and San Francisco Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in divinity in 1980. He was honored by faculty for his academic work upon graduation.
He has since served in Presbyterian churches from Utah to Texas, though he’s set roots down in Santa Cruz. And while he lives there, he’s been answering calls for interim pastors, as he did in Medford, Ore., before coming to Davis.
As with all interim appointments, Brewer hopes to provide a smooth transition from one leader to the next. He will live in Winters with his wife, Chrissi, while fulfilling his role here.
His leadership at DCC came after the church bid farewell in May to Tobin, who plans to start her own company focusing on leadership coaching, team development and facilitation in business and education. She and her husband, David Campbell, plan to remain in Davis.
Brewer reflected on some of his first impressions upon arriving at the church: “It’s a great place. Davis Community Church is an intentionally open and inclusive. It’s a place of strong emphasis on reaching out — in terms of social ministry, and in partnering with other churches and the community.”
He praised the efforts of associate pastor Bill Habicht and Tobin in establishing the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter, a program that enlists help for the homeless from community members and churches in the region.
“It’s an example of how the congregation finds ways to be different from the old model,” Brewer said. “With the decline in church membership everywhere, it’s important to look for new ways to relate to the community.”
As further evidence of DCC’s progressiveness, he mentioned the plans to develop Mosaic Tea and Coffee, a proposed gift economy tea and coffee house that will offer job training opportunities for disabled adults.
Though projects like Mosaic Tea and Coffee are still underway, Brewer may not see such things through himself. His main focus as interim pastor is to guide the congregation to its next permanent pastor.
This transitional period has been well planned for, Brewer said, who credits Tobin for being familiar with interim appointments. Still, after 24 years of her leadership at DCC, letting go won’t be easy for parishioners.
“She was very popular and well-loved,” he said. “The challenge will be having the congregation accept that the next pastor will not be her, but will have his or her own gifts and talents.”
The work leading up to the new pastor’s appointment will take at least 18 months. Brewer said this allows for a re-examining of what the congregation understands the ministry to be, and discerning how it should proceed.
Once the ministry’s goals have been established, the congregation nominates a selection committee that will sort through up to 200 résumés — and come to a considered decision on who may suit the church best.
After that, there’s a just short waiting period between the new pastor’s arrival and the interim pastor’s departure. Brewer expressed his feelings on the task he’s been appointed to in the meantime:
“I’m delighted to have this opportunity. It’s an exceptional, highly functional church. I don’t see any major crises or divisions. And it’s a progressive community and church, which fits my theology and life philosophy.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett