The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as the Interim Coordinator, Preparation for Ministry/Exams for Mid Council Ministries of the Office of the General Assembly.
“... the Land that I Will Show You” is the blog of the Office of Preparation for Ministry/Examinations of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This blog is designed to serve as a resource for those discerning and preparing for a call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament as ordained teaching elders of the church. It will also provide a place for reflecting on and dialoging about the changing context of pastoral ministry in the early 21st century.
For quick announcements about changes or developments in the preparation process, dates related to exams or other key events, discussion boards, surveys, etc., you can follow us on Facebook at “Preparing for Presbyterian Ministry.”
In just over month we will enter the second year of fully online ordination examinations. We have learned a lot in this first year, both about how candidates and readers prepare themselves for the online exam process and how they use the system. In response to feedback we have received we have continued to make changes and additions both to our resources and the online exam programming. Today we are formally releasing two updated resources incorporating these changes.
In the examinations section of the Preparation for Ministry portion of the denominational website (http://www.pcusa.org/exams) we have added a new “FAQ” page. Like examples on other sites, the page presents a list of the most frequently asked questions we get about the online ordination exams. By clicking on the question, you are taken to a short answer to the question (in most cases a single, brief paragraph). Where it can be helpful, the responses also have a “VIDEO” link that can be clicked for a brief demonstration posted to YouTube. Most of the videos are roughly a minute long, and none are much longer than two minutes. Here are links to a few of the most frequently asked questions to give you a taste of these videos:
How can I recover my “Username” or reset my password? VIDEO
Can I try out the exam system before the testing date? VIDEO
How can I move between the different pages of an examination? VIDEO
That last sample demonstrates one of the newest features of the exam system—and the most often requested by both candidates and readers. We now include a “Go To Page” navigation button that allows users to skip ahead (or back) over several pages to go to a particular place in the exam. It will prove especially helpful in the Exegesis examination because of its longer format.
The other resource we are releasing today is an updated Handbook to the Standard Ordination Exams. It is a PDF file that can be downloaded from the pcusa.org/exams website, and it includes the FAQ materials along with links to the related videos. If you are reading the handbook on a computer or tablet device, you can click the links to watch the videos. For those who prefer to work with a printed copy, the full Internet address for each video is provided.
All the changes that have been made to the examinations system over the past few years have been designed to improve the process for both candidates and their presbyteries. We will continue to listen to and take seriously comments and suggestions that we receive.
As I work with presbyteries across the church one of the questions I am often asked is about training opportunities to support preparation for ministry committee leaders and members. Well, this year will mark the fifth biennial Healthy Ministry Conference, the primary national training event in this area. It is part of Big Tent that will be held in Louisville, Kentucky from August 1-3.
The Healthy Ministry Conference addresses a broad range of issues related to mid council work with candidates, teaching elders and congregations, so in this blog I want to highlight some of the workshops that focus on ...
Today the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) announced modifications to its plan for increasing the opportunities provided to candidates for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to take the standard ordination examinations. I have provided the full text of the PCC's announcement below, but first let me highlight the following points:
It is proverbially said that the oft-eventful weather patterns marking the transition from winter to spring cause the month of March “to come in like an lion, and go out like a lamb.” While it remains to be seen how quickly things will settle in the grass like a lamb, it is certainly the case that this month has been a roaring lion of activity in the area of preparation for ministry. So, this blog post shares some odds and ends about recent and upcoming developments.
Office of the General Assembly Reorganization. On March 6, the OGA staff was realigned ...
Last week readers elected by their presbyteries gathered together in Atlanta to evaluate standard ordination examinations. Even as they met in Atlanta, readers elected by presbyteries across the upper Midwest and Plains were also evaluating exams. What these readers shared in common was that all the exams they read and evaluations they wrote were managed through an online system. What distinguished them was that the Southern Region readers in Atlanta marked the end of a roughly 45-year practice of bringing people to central locations to perform this work, and the Midwest Region readers joined readers from the Northeast and Central ...
I have previously written in this blog about the PC(USA) initiative to begin 1,001 new worshiping communities in a ten-year period (for more about that mission emphasis, see http://www.pcusa.org/1001). Whenever I write or talk about “1001” particularly with our inquirers and candidates, they are usually simultaneously interested and also full of questions. Not surprisingly those questions are very pragmatic:
Like tens of millions of Christians around the world today, I stepped away from my usual midday routine to attend an Ash Wednesday service. At about the midpoint of the service I filed forward with the other congregants, and one of the liturgists—a colleague and friend in ministry whom I have known for almost two decades—dipped her finger in the oily ashes and as she traced the shape of the cross on my forehead repeated the solemn words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I cannot hear those words any longer without also ...
The Office of Vocation is currently receiving applications for its fourth class of pastoral residents in the “For Such a Time As This” program. The commitment of all those involved in the program is to small church ministry that is “Growing Leaders, Growing Churches.”
Since 2009, there have been 22 pastors serving in their first calls with 26 congregations in ten different presbyteries. The residents serve in temporary pastoral relationships with two-year terms. Of those in the first class, virtually all continued as pastors with the congregations once that term was concluded. A similar pattern is anticipated as the second ...
I recently attended a meeting of colleagues from member communions of the National Council of Churches of Christ who work in support of professional church leadership, theological education, and support of candidacy for ordination to ministry. The focus of this year’s gathering was emerging trends in theological education.
One topic of discussion was the emergence of “MOOCs”—Massive Open Online Courses—that are now being offered by such prestigious educational institutions as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Literally tens of thousands of students participate in single courses taught by prominent members of the faculty, with much ...
A comment posted to my most recent blog raised a couple of interesting issues that go beyond what can be reasonably answered in the space of a comment response, so I offer here a few more statistical snapshots. The issues concerned the number of inquirers/candidates relative to open positions, and whether female candidates were taking longer to secure first calls than their male counterparts.
Inquirers/Candidates relative to Open Positions: The commenter noted that there are “four times as many candidates as there are total positions available.” Assuming that the commenter is using “candidate” in a more general sense ...