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Retired engineer ventures into calling of ‘pastoral relief work’

CHEHALIS, Wash. (BP)–This retiree is entering an unusual calling: “pastoral relief work.”
Charles “Chuck” McCombs’ first ministry field: Dayspring Baptist Church, Chehalis, Wash., where he provided relief for pastor Jack Whitfield, whose wife of 48 years, Joyce, was battling cancer. Her year-long bout with the disease ended in October.
“Chuck completely relieved me of all pastoral duties, led the church to ordain two deacons, baptized four people, reorganized the Sunday school, trained the deacons and last Saturday he and Zane [Bartel, Southwest Washington Baptist Association director of missions] conducted the most beautiful memorial service for my wife,” Whitfield said.
“He’s a man I could trust completely. He’s been a pastor to me and my wife.”
When DOM Bartel became aware of the stress Whitfield was under, trying to care for his congregation at the same time his wife was so ill, Bartel called on a Texan he knew who had a desire to serve as interim for a hurting pastor.
Said McComb, “My sense of God’s calling is to do pastoral relief work to allow pastors a respite from the stress of ministry, a sabbatical for seminary or other training or to meet personal needs.
“I’ve been an active deacon for 31 years and have been close to every pastor, so I am keenly aware of the enormous stress pastors are under,” said McComb, of Friendswood, Texas, who recently retired as a mechanical engineer from Monsanto Chemical Corp.
The catalyst that propelled McComb full-time into pastoral relief work was hearing about a pastor who hung himself a week before he was scheduled to take a break.
“I felt God calling me to a ministry where I could help out before it’s too late,” McComb said.
His concept is to serve three to four months in a church, with a written agreement that sets up parameters the pastor feels comfortable with.
McComb’s term at Dayspring ended in early November. He and his wife, Pat, have returned to Texas to await direction from the Lord.
“We’re willing to serve wherever the Lord wants us,” McComb said. “We’ve got a fifth-wheel and take care of our own expenses.”
Part of McCombs’ ministry is to ensure the pastor does not suffer financially from his time away from the pulpit. McComb does not accept a salary; he requires the pastor continue to receive his, and suggests additional compensation to cover any costs related to the sabbatical.
“At no time did I ever feel threatened by this man,” Whitfield said. “He has never made even any minor decision without consulting me and asking me if it meets with my approval.
“My care and my concern for my congregation was never diminished, but I could trust this man 100 percent to shepherd my flock in an extremely responsible manner,” Whitfield said. “He came in and assumed 100 percent of my responsibilities, and he did it in a loving, compassionate manner, and always completely respectful of my position. He referred to me as senior pastor.
“Senior in years, maybe. He was always ahead of me in knowing what my needs might be.”
Of an “intentional interim” training to be offered next spring by the Northwest Baptist Convention to minister to a congregation between pastorates, McComb said, “I think it has the potential for resolving a lot of heartache.
“What I do is a bit different. My ministry is to go when a pastor is still on the field but needs a break either locally or away from the area.”
McComb can be contacted at 412 Carriage Creek Lane, Friendswood, TX 77546; e-mail, [email protected]; phone, (281) 992-1695.