Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
Last week I spent a day preaching and connecting with the folks at a Heartland Presbytery meeting in Kansas City, MO….The presbytery, like many others, is concerned about congregations moving through discernment processes to leave the PC(USA). In meetings like this, it is easy to lose hope about the denomination.
Yet when Executive Presbyter Charles Spencer gave his report, he pointed to hope. Sure, he acknowledged the difficulties facing the church at all levels, but then he pivoted to very exciting news.
I was very glad to co-author with Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter an article that appeared recently in the Presbyterian Outlook. The article is about leadership development and the ways that seminaries are working to expand the ways in which they go about this task. In particular we discuss the merits of a partnership between Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Last week I traveled to Charlotte to visit Union Presbyterian Seminary. I was very impressed to learn about a preparation for seminary program called “Communities of Learning” offered to incoming students. It is “designed to increase readiness fort theological education among admitted students by shaping them into learning communities.” Through on-line communities and a mid-point retreat, the ministry covers basic biblical literacy, theological vocabulary, the nature of theological education, spiritual formation, foundational concepts, critical thinking, and communication skills.
On Monday and Tuesday I was in Nashville spending time with members of the Company of New Pastors, which is a program coordinated by Theology and Worship (one of the ministries of the PC(USA) with whom I work closely). This program helps seminaries transition into ministry by encouraging spiritual disciplines (like reading the Bible and praying) and small groups. These disciplines and groups begin in students’ last year of seminary, and then after graduation continue on for about four more years, with the same disciplines and newly configured groups.
Pleasant Ridge is a strong supporter of the Theological Education Fund, which distributes money among ten Presbyterian seminaries to support their preparation of men and women for various types of ministry. In my sermon, I thanked the congregation and then asked them what they are actually building when they donate money for this cause.
Sabbaticals are one way for pastors to work on their discipleship. Day in and day out pastors are structuring lessons, writing sermons, and leading Bible studies thinking about how the Gospel speaks to those who will be listening to them. During a sabbatical, pastors can reconnect with what the Gospel says to them—they can rediscover how much Jesus loves them, and what it means to join his mission to the world.
In a recent blog post I wish that I had made more explicit my friend and colleague Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter’s contributions to a conversation with faculty and staff from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and to the topic of expanding leadership training beyond seminaries through the non-profit management departments of business schools.
Earlier this month I was in Chicago and met with a representative from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, an institution of the United Methodist Church, two coordinators for executive non-profit education from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, at the invitation of my long-time friend and colleague, Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter.
A couple of weeks ago when I was in Atlanta, I preached and presented at North Avenue Presbyterian Church, where I had formerly served as an associate pastor. I was pleased to meet someone who has become a part of the church since I left in 2003. He told me, “Now when you get back to Louisville, you tell everyone how important it is that we keep educating our pastors.”