Presbyterian Mission Agency’s For Such a Time as This, which pairs small, underserved congregations with recent seminary graduates in a two-year pastoral program, has received the program’s largest single gift—$25,000 from Presbytery of Tampa Bay.

“Our hope is that other presbyteries that benefit from this program will follow our lead and support For Such a Time as This,” says Tampa Bay transitional presbyter Nancy Kahaian.

“We’re grateful for the generosity displayed by Presbytery of Tampa Bay,” adds Charles Wiley, coordinator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Theology and Worship ministries, which oversees For Such a Time as This.  

“This gift reflects the spirit of the new partnership model of support we’ve been working on. It will help us broaden the program’s impact, which continues to transform small churches and the communities that surround them.”Since For Such a Time as This began in 2010, 22 recent seminary graduates have served twenty-six congregations in ten presbyteries—each supported and guided by a cluster of pastor-mentors.

“It’s well worth our support,” says David Baker, chair of Tampa Bay Presbytery’s Evangelism and Church Development Committee (ECDC), which recommended making the gift. “It’s a wonderful win-win. Seminary graduates get extended training support. Struggling churches in need get served by leaders with new, fresh ideas.”

Currently, the Presbytery of Tampa Bay has one pastoral resident—Virgiliana Pickering—serving at Keystone Presbyterian Church in Odessa, Florida.  Pickering’s mentor, Kaaren Nesmith, interim pastor at Bayshore Presbyterian Church in South Tampa, serves on the ECDC. In the fall, pastoral residents from the class of 2013 will serve congregations at St. Petersburg’s Lakeview Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Safety Harbor.

“All of us are strong believers in the program,” says Kahaian. “We welcome the fresh infusion, external perspective, and new energy these leaders bring. It’s vital in helping our smaller, underserved congregations move forward.”

Wiley says Theology and Worship ministries are working on a plan for the future costs and administration of For Such a Time as This to be shared with the presbyteries, which are its main supporters and beneficiaries.

“While there will still be a national component of oversight and coordination—including moving the matching process to the PC(USA)’s Church Leadership Connection in order to broaden the pool of interested applicants—the new model will be designed to reflect and encourage increased ownership by the presbyteries, and the congregations they serve.”