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The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Stated Clerk for Preparation for Ministry in 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 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 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.”

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February 23, 2013

1001 and FIRST

FIRST logoI 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 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:

Well, I recently heard about one presbytery that is ready to put into practice one possible model.

New Castle Presbytery in Delaware is now taking applications for its FIRST program—“Freeing the Imagination of the Recently Seminary Trained” (see for the details and application form). It is conceived as a partnership between the presbytery, churches and “starters” to imagine and begin new worshiping communities. The presbytery provides financial support, health insurance and mentoring to a cohort group. The congregation provides support and networking. The “starter” provides imagination, entrepreneurialism, and at least a one-year commitment (with the option to continue in the partnership with presbytery support for up to three years).

They are clear that these are not “full-time jobs” (they envision 20 hours per week) and that the level of financial support being provided would require outside work to supplement the income. The initiatives would not likely begin as validated ministries, although “at some stage” they may develop into validated ministries to which the starters could be called and ordained. While current congregations are key partners in the program, these are not program enhancers for those churches. Rather it is “a chance for a church located near a large young adult population (for instance) to shepherd/provide a home-base for a person that wishes to begin an emerging worshipping community with twenty-somethings.”

What other models are emerging that you know about?

Categories: Ordained Ministry

  1. I will leave it to New Castle Presbytery to explain their particular rationale (there is some discussion of this point in the materials on their website). As regards my own advice to inquirers and candidates, I try to help them understand the relationship between two issues. First, our functional view of ordination means that our church ordains as teaching elders those whose calls require performing the functions of ministry of the Word and Sacraments. Second, being hired to and beginning work in positions in institutional settings before one is "certified ready to be examined for ordination, pending a call" can create an appearance that the position does not in fact require performing functions of the ministry of Word and Sacraments. I can, however, see how a presbytery may support the work of gathering a community around service, study, and worship but wait to validate that work as a ministry requiring ordination as a teaching elder until the new community's life together develops to the point where it is able to live out the shared responsibilities of the ordered ministries of the church with regard to the sacraments.

    by Tim Cargal

    PC(USA) Staff

    February 23, 2013

  2. Is there a rationale for why they are not seen as validated ministry from the start? And is there some sense of benchmark before it would be? I remember in one conversation with you, the advice was not to get too invested in a nonordained ministry because the church might not ever see it as such...

    by Laura

    February 23, 2013

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