Lending a measure of stability amid a time of big changes, Newberg Friends Church announced that pastor of spiritual health and care Steve Fawver will serve as interim lead pastor when Gregg Koskela steps down at the end of June.
Koskela announced in the fall that he planned to step away and the church's council of elders proposed that Fawver take over about one week before the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends announced it will split in two over the 18 months.
Maintaining some continuity had already been a factor in the elders' decision to turn to Fawver and for him to serve on an interim basis, but it became more pronounced after the NWYM meeting announced it would restructure, which it did Jan. 28, just one day before Fawver's appointment was approved.
Fawver has served on the pastoral team for 25 years and knows the church just about as well as anyone could, according to council of elders clerk Beth LaForce.
"I think stability was definitely a word that we used and thought about in the process," LaForce said. "The other reality is that this would be a complicated time for any new person to come into. That's nothing negative about Steve. It's just a fact. Because he has that stability and experience and knowledge, we were pleased that he was open to considering to serving in that role."
LaForce said that because different members of the pastoral team do preach from time to time, the congregation is "aware of Steve the preacher" and described him as exceedingly qualified.
"And he is a very good teacher," LaForce said. "That is really his strength. He is very good in relational situations, small group ministries and those types of things."
LaForce said that Fawver and other staff members will be welcome to apply when the search process to find a permanent lead pastor begins, but that isn't expected to happen until Fawver takes over for Koskela on July 1 at the earliest.
Koskela's tenure will fall one month short of 15 years when he steps down at the end of June, but he said that he felt a growing sense that he was being released from leadership.
"There wasn't a whole lot of clarity other than the sense of God leading in that process," Koskela said. "I've had three adult jobs in my life and I left each because I had a clear sense of going to something else, so this is kind of new territory for me feeling released from something but not having a clear idea of what's next. I'm kind of having my own new faith journey in this process."
What he does know is that Newberg Friends Church will be in good hands.
"I feel like our staff here is incredible and I have huge amount of trust in everybody, so I'm very confident with everybody who is here," Koskela said. "I have high respect for them and the hardest part about leaving will be not having the chance to work with these folks again."