Six recent seminary graduates have received their first calls to ministry in the third year of For Such a Time as This, an innovative pastoral residency program designed to renew the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by providing transformational leadership for small churches while surrounding new pastors with a network of support.

Launched by the Presbyterian Mission Agency (formerly General Assembly Mission Council) in fall 2009, For Such a Time as This is a timely program that matches new seminary graduates seeking their first call with small, underserved congregations in rural, urban, or small town settings in a two-year pastoral residency relationship, during which they are supported and guided by a cluster of pastor-mentors.

The pastoral residents for 2012—listed with their calling congregations and partner presbyteries—are:

  • Jay Kim, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2008: Corder (Mo.) Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Higginsville, Mo. (Heartland Presbytery)
  • Yvonne Thurmond, Columbia Theological Seminary, 2010: Quaker Meadows Presbyterian Church, Morganton, N.C. (Presbytery of Western North Carolina)
  • Harold Bennett, Samuel Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University, 2004: Dulatown Presbyterian Church, Lenoir, N.C. (Western North Carolina Presbytery)
  • Virgiliana Pickering, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2011: Keystone Presbyterian Church, Odessa, Fla. (Presbytery of Tampa Bay)
  • Boone Clayton, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2009: First Presbyterian Church of Elberton, Ga. (Northeast Georgia Presbytery)
  • Paul Snyder, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, 2012: Glencoe-Sloan Presbyterian Church, Bismarck, N.D., and First Presbyterian Church of Wilton, N.D. (Presbytery of the Northern Plains)

Applicants for the class of 2012 submitted a Personal Information Form (PIF), a sermon, references, and answers to questions, which were evaluated in April. The selected finalists were then referred to the participating presbyteries for consideration by the Pastor Nominating Committees of the program’s identified congregations.

Jay Kim, who was born in South Korea and raised there in a “small church on a hill” before immigrating to the U.S. in 1995, looks forward to the joys of serving a small congregation. “Being a part of a small church is like going back home, remembering the nurturing loving care of a small church family,” Kim said. “I now live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, where my house is located in one of the busiest regions.  I would really like my two boys to experience the same loving and caring small church community I got involved in when I was a child. I am really looking forward to building a community like a family.”

Following a comprehensive orientation to be held here from August 20–24, during which the new pastoral residents will be commissioned, the six members of the class of 2012 will serve their respective churches as pastors for a designated two-year term. All of the ministry positions are full-time and will be compensated in accordance with presbytery guidelines.

Because the orientation of the 2012 class will overlap with a midpoint event for the 2011 class, members of the previous class will also have an opportunity to share their learning and insights with the new pastoral residents.

“Since the program was launched, the growth in our For Such a Time as This churches has been amazing,” said the Rev. Dr. Marcia Myers, director of the office of Vocation, a shared ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly, which oversees the program. “The churches are reaching out and welcoming newcomers to the faith. Adults are returning to church, Sunday school and youth programs have been revitalized, children are hearing the good news, adults and children are being baptized, and the Holy Spirit is clearly at work in so many ways. Through For Such a Time as This, God is providing the means and the leaders to reverse the denominational trend of declining membership and renew the churches’ hope.”

The Rev. Kenyon G. Meeks Jr., general presbyter of the Presbytery of Northeast Georgia, Watkinsville, Ga., has already witnessed the program’s positive impact through the ministry of the Rev. Jason Clapper, a member of the class of 2011. The experience of the Lavonia Presbyterian Church—which has grown in vitality and in outreach to the community since Clapper’s arrival last summer—inspired the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Elberton, Ga., to apply to the program.

“The vision of Northeast Georgia Presbytery is ‘Building Community for Partnership in Mission,’ ” Meeks said. “When I heard that the Presbyterian Mission Agency was seeking to embody precisely this kind of partnership with presbyteries, I entered into For Such a Time as This with great hope. Based on my participation in the orientation program last summer and our continuing experience of the program as it relates to the Lavonia Church, I see the For Such a Time as This pastoral residency program as the best example of this kind of true and meaningful partnership.”

The Rev. Cynthia Cushman, who serves as the For Such a Time as This coordinator, says that she is excited to welcome this new class of pastoral residents from diverse backgrounds who are willing to take risks in following God’s call to ministry.

“We look forward to seeing what fresh ways of serving and ministering they will bring to these small congregations, which have also committed to stepping out in faith through this program,” she said.

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For Such a Time as This: A Small-Church Residency—Growing Leaders, Growing Churches is currently seeking gifts to allow the program to continue to help reenergize and renew small-membership congregations. Visit the website for further information or to make a gift online.