Six recent seminary graduates have received their first calls to ministry of the Word and Sacrament in the inaugural year of For Such a Time as This, an innovative Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastoral residency program designed to serve small, under-served congregations and develop missional pastors.
Applications for the first class of six pastoral residents were evaluated and chosen by the seven members of the PC(USA)'s pastoral residency team. In addition to national staff, a representative of the anonymous foundation – which committed a grant of $450,000 over the four years of the pilot program – also participated on the pastoral residency team and in the selection process, as did the Rev. Garrett Andrew, pastor of the church in Georgia that served as the program’s inspiration.
The pastoral residents – listed with their calling congregations and partner presbyteries – are:
- Lois Aroian - United Presbyterian Church, Willow Lake, S.D. (South Dakota Presbytery)
- Trudy Dumont - Presbyterian Church of Rolla, N.D., and St. John Presbyterian Church, N.D. (Northern Plains Presbytery)
- Susan Fellows - First Presbyterian Church, Grenada, Miss. (St. Andrew Presbytery)
- Jason Ku - First Presbyterian Church, Holden, Mo. (Heartland Presbytery)
- Mark Terayama - First Presbyterian Church, Sisseton, S.D., and Presbyterian Church of Veblen, S.D. (South Dakota Presbytery)
- Michaele Wood – First Presbyterian Church, Pontotoc, Miss. (St. Andrew Presbytery)*
(*pending congregational and presbytery actions)
All of the pastoral residents, who have been certified as ready to receive a call by their respective presbyteries of care, have already been approved by their calling congregations, with the exception of Michaele Wood, whose congregational vote is scheduled for later this month.
"It is heartening to see the commitment of the pastoral residents, the congregations, and the presbyteries to this new venture," said Marilyn Johns, D.Min., coordinator for For Such a Time as This.
"Everyone involved is taking a chance, and everyone involved has developed a spirit of mission. Pastoral residents are uprooting and going in some cases to remote areas to serve where God has called them. Congregations are welcoming new pastors, some of whom come from places very different than theirs, and expressing their openness to transformation. Presbyteries are providing support through pastor/mentors and programming for these first-call pastors and for the churches.
It is this 'pioneer spirit' and openness that will make this project a success."
Following a comprehensive orientation to be held here from September 8-11 – during which the pastoral residents will be commissioned – the members of the Class of 2010 will be ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA) to serve their respective churches as designated pastors, with the exception of Lois Aroian, who was already ordained by National Capital Presbytery on August 8. All of the ministry positions are full time and will be compensated in accordance with presbytery guidelines.
"For the past 15 years we have been without a full time pastor," said Edgar Thompson, an elder at First Presbyterian Church, Grenada, Miss. "We have maintained the life of the church faithfully, filling the pulpit with guest ministers and for the past 4 years with a resident elder lay preacher.
We have prayed that God would send us a full time pastor who can help this church grow in faith and in numbers and that we would find the necessary resources to support such an effort. For Such a Time as This represents an answer to our prayers. We are excited that God has opened this door, and we are trusting God to lead us into a new day."
Thompson's enthusiasm is shared by the pastoral residents.
"I am excited to participate in For Such a Time as This because it provides a great opportunity to step into ministry with guidance and support from mentors and peers," said Mark Terayama, a 2008 graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and a candidate in Seattle Presbytery. "It is also a chance for my family and me to experience life and ministry in a whole new context."
The program is currently seeking potential partner presbyteries which are under-served and have difficulty attracting first call candidates, but which have three to four small churches – 100 or fewer in average worship attendance – that could serve as good learning settings for first call residents. Partner presbytery application forms – due December 15, 2010 – as well as further information for presbyteries and pastoral resident candidates for the class of 2011, are available on the program's Web site.