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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

February 13, 2013

An Ash Wednesday Reflection on Ministry

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 ...

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January 30, 2013

Pastoral Residency Accepting Applicants

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 ...

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January 24, 2013

MOOCs and Contextual Pastoral Formation

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 ...

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December 27, 2012

Year-End Snapshots, Part Two

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 ...

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