Greensboro, N.C.

Presbyteries in North and South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, and Mississippi have been selected as ministry settings for the inaugural year of “For Such a Time as This,” an innovative Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastoral residency program designed to serve underserved congregations and develop missional pastors.

The presbyteries of Heartland, St. Andrew, Northern Plains and South Dakota — the latter two contiguous presbyteries working in partnership — will compose the pilot program’s initial group of ministry settings for 2010. In order to qualify as partner presbyteries, each was asked to identify several small churches that would serve as especially good learning settings for first call pastors. The three presbytery clusters in the program’s first year will have two to four residency churches each, for a total of nine openings.

Named for a reference from the Book of Esther, “For Such a Time as This” deliberately invokes Esther’s unexpected rise to leadership in her day. Similarly, the PC(USA) is calling forth leaders to serve in a rapidly changing and challenging 21st century context, in which half of the denomination’s more than 10,000 congregations have 100 or fewer members.

“We are extremely excited to have been selected as a pilot presbytery for the new pastoral residency program, ‘For Such a Time as This,’” said the Rev. Gregory Goodwiller, executive presbyter and stated clerk of the Presbytery of St. Andrew, based in Oxford, Miss. “We are made up of mostly smaller congregations with no large cities in our bounds. It is therefore very difficult to attract new ministers to our area, particularly if they have no roots or past experience in Mississippi. But we also find that once folks arrive here, they quickly come to appreciate the area and its opportunities for meaningful ministry.”

“This new program is ideally suited to our needs,” he continued. “It addresses a long-standing issue in our denomination by making ministry in smaller and less urban settings more enticing to new seminary graduates.”

Each of the nine pastoral residents in the class of 2010 — for which applications are now being received — will be supported and guided by a network of pastor/mentors, and presbytery, seminary and national church leaders. Because isolation is frequently cited as a concern for pastors in these settings, a pastor/mentor will be assigned to each resident. Residents from each presbytery cluster will also meet together with their respective pastor/mentors for peer learning and support.

During the two-year residency, there will also be three national gatherings in Louisville, paid for by a grant through the office of Vocation, which will include pastoral residents, pastor/mentors and a representative from the presbyteries.  

“Because I have been involved in our synod’s program for first call pastors, and am responsible for pastoral care of our ministers, I look forward to being directly engaged in the mentoring and care process that is at the heart of the residency program,” Goodwiller said.

Pastoral residents will be ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA). All positions are full-time, designated pastor positions and will be compensated at presbytery minimum salaries. Pastoral residents will be enrolled in the PC(USA) Board of Pensions plan and may qualify for the Board of Pensions seminary debt assistance program.

Application and recommendation forms, as well as further information for pastoral resident candidates for the class of 2010, are available on the program’s Web site. Information is also available on the Web site for presbyteries interested in applying for the 2011 program year.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) comprises more than 2 million members in more than 10,000 congregations, answering Christ’s call to mission and ministry throughout the United States and the world.