The following letter was read to the Providence congregation on Sunday, July 31st. Dr. Canipe delivered the sermon during the combined worship service, then Bunnie Walker, Chair of the Pastor Search Committee, presented this letter to those in attendance.
Dear Providence Family,
This has been a long journey for your Senior Pastor Search Committee. If you will indulge me, the committee would like to share with you how we got to the place where we are today.
Over a year ago, this group of diverse people stood before you and was commissioned to find a new senior pastor for our church. We had already met at that point for several months, planning strategies, and meeting with consultants, talking with each ministerial staff member, seeking guidance from our retiring pastor, and getting to know and trust each other.
From that point, we held three listening sessions, which informed us in the development of a church profile, as well as pastor profile. Every member of the church was asked to provide feedback via a survey. Upon approval by the congregation of that profile, we began months of vetting resumes, phone and Skype interviews, and in-person meetings. Through each step of this process we have prayed as we tried to trust God in following our chosen verse Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”
We believe that God has indeed made straight our path. As we now present to you Dr. Lee Canipe, we would like to take a moment to explain how your feedback helped to shape the discernment process. You asked us to find a senior minister whose top strengths were “pastor, preacher, and visionary”. In Dr. Canipe we believe we have found all of these things and more. You will find him as comfortable in the pulpit as by the bedside of a member in need. He demonstrated this to us early in the process when he asked that we might move a scheduled call later in the evening so that he could attend a special recognition service for one of his senior adults. His willingness to put others before himself and the way he speaks with deep love for his congregants in Murfreesboro showed us his heart as a pastor.
Through the survey, an overwhelming 87% of people responded that a “challenging and inspiring preacher” was one of the most important leadership qualities for our new senior pastor as well as being a “strong public speaker.” The committee believes that Dr. Canipe fits this characteristic wonderfully as his sermons carefully combine deep scriptural and theological insights with practical applications to our daily lives. His energy and passion from the pulpit is inspiring. We will leave Sunday worship both enlightened and motivated to act upon what we have heard. Along with that, you desired a pastor that was a good communicator and listener with a warm and engaging personality. It has been a delight for the committee to get to know him and his wonderful wife, Hilary. The time always passes too fast when we have been together.
Lee possesses a true vision of what the church will need to do to survive and thrive in the world today. This was the key task that you hoped our new pastor would accomplish in the first six months—an increased or renewed vision for the church. He has been instrumental in leading his church in a yearly visioning process as well as strategic plans and capital campaigns. He also has joined together with other churches in his community to foster greater cooperation and unity. He has the skills and demeanor to minster effectively to a “big tent” congregation like Providence where he seeks to come along side each person wherever they are on their Christian journey.
On a personal level, you hoped that our new pastor would be honest, prayerful and thoughtful. The committee has been impressed by Dr. Canipe’s authenticity and willingness to come alongside people where they are by showing his own struggles and weaknesses. He spoke with us of his deep and rich prayer life and the methods he uses to sustain it and to bring prayer into a deeper part of his congregation. He is thoughtful and takes time to process completely what has been said before launching into his own thoughts on the matter. He is intentional in crafting his responses to help communicate his ideas as carefully as possible. He has been described by a recommender as “giving his best day every day” and has a commitment to be in the continuous process of self-improvement. His hard work is evident not only by his service in his current church, but by his deep involvement at Chowan University, in CBF, and his local community.
His personal statement of call is: “Having been called by God to the Gospel ministry, I seek to live out this call through pastoral service in the local congregation, building up the body of Christ and equipping saints for the ministry of the church in, and two, the world.” We cannot wait to see how this call will play out at Providence Baptist Church. We truly feel that God’s hand has been at work on each step of our pastor search. The committee members have seen God clear away obstacles and point clearly in the direction we should go. Our hearts our filled with gratitude for God’s faithfulness in this process.
It was after a unanimous vote by the twelve members of the Pastor Search Committee that a call was extended to Dr. Canipe.
It is important to note that this call was accepted prior to any discussions concerning a compensation package. As chair of the committee I personally met with Jeff Hartman, Chair of Finance and Angie Dickison, Chair of Personnel, to ask that a package be prepared to extend to our candidate. The finance committee met and agreed to a compensation package with a unanimous vote. That package then went to the personnel committee where it was also approved with a unanimous vote. The salary & housing presented and approved for Dr. Canipe will be a base/housing, plus a benefit package that includes major medical insurance, retirement, social security, auto expense allowances, conference & community involvement allowances, etc. Anyone wanting a complete breakdown of this package, of course is welcome to review it, and can obtain a copy through Richard Landers, the Church Business Administrator.
One other important note; once this call was extended to Dr. Canipe, we felt it was important for our Ministerial Staff to also have the chance to meet with him prior to all of the festivities of this week. They had individual time with him last Thursday and Friday, and every one of our staff came away from those meeting with positive feedback and encouragement for our decision.
For these reasons, and countless more, the Senior Pastor Search Committee unanimously and joyfully recommends Dr. Christopher Leonard (Lee) Canipe to be our next senior pastor.