Heartland Presbyterian Church is adjusting to a new face leading its congregation this month. Dr. John E. Cole began his role as interim pastor on June 1, helping the church transition from the departure of its previous pastor of 18 years, Dr. D. Mark Davis, who was called to a church in California at the beginning of this year.
Dr. Cole — originally from Daytona, Florida — moved to Iowa from South Carolina, and he specializes in transitional ministry, the skills for which include studies in family systems, claiming congregational identity and imagining the pastor who will lead the church in the future, according to Fani Lemken, who is a volunteer on the Session of the Church and communications team. The interim period is designed to focus on issues that ensure the next pastor does not become an “unintentional interim.”
“More than anything, the interim pastor simply provides pastoral leadership for a church in transition, providing teaching, preaching, pastoral care and administrative leadership while raising questions to better prepare them to receive their next pastor,” she explains.
As Heartland’s first interim pastor, Dr. Cole is entering a steadily growing church. Attendance has continued to increase since the church was first built in the 1990s and through its major upgrading construction in 2012, an addition that more than doubled the church’s size.
Dr. Cole’s contract is for one year, but his tenure depends on how the transition unfolds. Interim pastors typically stay for 18 months to two years. The church will elect a pastor nominating committee comprised of congregation members who will begin the search for the next installed pastor near the beginning of 2015, says Lemken. Unlike installed pastors, interim pastors like Dr. Cole are called by the Session, which is the local governing body of Heartland Presbyterian.
A graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Cole has served in churches after the departure of longtime pastors who had served for 20, 32, 30 and 27 years before coming to Heartland. He’s been involved in presbytery leadership, served on ministry committees and developed an aptitude for systems theory and conflict management, according to church records.