the pastor-congregation duet
In a time of shifting worldviews and changing expectations of the church, how does a pastor navigate the challenges, joys, and pains of ministry? How does a church support, love, and hold accountable its pastoral leaders? The key lies in the relationship between pastor and congregation – in the duet they are singing, in the rhythms of their life together.
In this book, Gary Harder reflects on the difficulties and rewards, the missteps and humour that are part of learning that ministry duet. Here he celebrates the mysterious ways God works through, and sometimes in spite of, the people singing God’s songs together. We reach for harmony. We hear dissonant notes. We catch only a glimpse of God’s beautiful music. And that is enough.
"Gary Harder, a treasured and instrumental leader and pastor of the Mennonite Church in Canada, weaves together wisdom and insights gathered from over 50 years of pastoral experience. At the heart of healthy ministry is a relationship between the pastor and congregation, a partnership that can be beautiful, rich, messy and arduous, all at the same time. With many stories, and an occasional sermon woven throughout, the book is held together by a deep sense of gratitude and love, and a recognition of how a pastoral vocation never quite ends, even when the work is finished."
- Dr. Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Canadian Mennonite University
"Gary Harder explores the rhythms of healthy pastoral-congregational relations, which he likens to a duet – intimate and mutual. He gives rich examples of what honest, reciprocal, and supporting relationships look like, and how these are critical for navigating conflict and change. He is exceptionally self-aware, attentive to context, committed to wrestling with the scriptural text and to search for the Spirit’s guidance. While ecumenically open, he sees ministry through an Anabaptist lens –following Jesus into peace and justice and community and inclusion."
- Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, PhD, Associate Academic Dean, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto
DANCING THROUGH THISTLES IN BARE FEET: a PASTORAL JOURNEY
Gary Harder reflects on 42 years as a pastor. With deeply personal stories, he recalls the surprises of God's mysterious healing work. Amid the chaos of people's lives, Harder finds God is often present in unexpected ways. Harder creates a candid and lively conversation between experience and reflection; between the biblical witness and the stark reality of conflict in the church; between crisis and opportunities for ministry.
"Gary is the retired pastor of Toronto United Mennonite Church in Toronto. This is his account of his pastoral journey over the past 42 years with several different congregations. I really appreciate his honesty in the telling of some of the challenges he's faced and theological quandaries he's had to lead a congregation through. His intense desire to not abuse his position of power and authority, but to engage in a process that listens to every voice, is a testament to how he has served his congregation and his God."
– Goodreads Reviewer
"I found this book to be helpful in navigating the world of grief for a pastor who is moving from one call to another. I also will use it in the future as I research healthy grieving patterns among clergy."
– Amazon Reviewer
Gary Harder was a Mennonite pastor for over fifty years, as a full-time pastor and most recently as a part-time interim pastor together with his wife, Lydia. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (Elkhart, Indiana) and a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Stephen’s College (Edmonton, Alberta). As a reluctant pastor whose youthful longings leaned toward music and sports and whose introverted personality did not suggest a career in leadership, Harder struggled with the vocation to church ministry. He has served in various church leadership positions, mentored other pastors and student interns, and taught courses on church and ministry. His life is enriched through his relationship with his three children and their spouses and his nine grandchildren. He loves to garden, sing in choirs, and play hockey.
Harder’s previous book, Dancing through Thistles in Bare Feet: A Pastoral Journey, was published by Herald Press in 2008. He has also published several booklets, as well as articles and stories in various magazines and journals.