The second set of “Along the Road” podcasts is now available for mid council leaders (Encounter) and ruling elders and deacons (Nourish).
The new episodes — accessible from podcast services or the Mid Council Ministries section of pcusa.org — discuss church leadership traits and how worship is both a communal exercise of faith and an inspiration for individual leaders.
Nourish: Leadership Formation (10 mins)
The Rev. Jihyun Oh, Director of Mid Council Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), talks with Nourish host Martha Miller about the process of ecclesial formation for ruling elders and deacons. Listen to the episode here.
Oh, also a teaching elder and member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, discusses serving the church in different roles and jokes that “There have been lots of times when I asked, ‘Why did I say yes to serving in this capacity?’” In trying moments, she takes inspiration from people and stories in the Bible.
Oh and Miller explore how Leader Formation relates to Christian groups generally and specifically to Presbyterian traditions of discerning together.
They identify characteristics of good leadership, with Oh highlighting a capacity for wonder: “As leaders we should be open to surprise” to where God is leading us. To reconnect with a sense of wonder, Oh recommends spending time with children. “Listening to what faith means to them… Doing that has renewed my sense of faith and soul.”
Encounter: Worship in the process of leader formation (46 mins)
Encounter host Manuel Silva-Esterrich talks with Kate Trigger-Duffert, Manager of General Assembly Business and Per Capita in OGA, and the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The three discuss how worship forms “leaders, community and kin-dom.” Listen to the episode here.
Trigger-Duffert, whose work includes tracking underway changes to the Book of Order, explains how that foundational document guides church life throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “God is present everywhere and in everything,” she says before describing how Presbyterians discern God’s call when gathered together, including during worship.
Gambrell, a theologian (who worked with scholars and worship leaders on the recently revised Directory of Worship) and musician (he helped with the Along the Road jingle), credits learning to sing in church as a child with laying the groundwork for his current-day work making music and worshiping with people around the world.
The guests look at the linguistic roots of “worship,” form the English to Hebrew to Greek. When Silva-Esterrich mentions the Spanish for worship (“adoración”) Gambrell notes that it can be understood as “learning to love the one who loves us.” Trigger-Duffert explains the term “work-ship,” where congregations do work in their communities to express faith.
The guests turn to practices of communal and personal worship, and how they encourage each other. Trigger-Duffert delves into the science of how worship repetition strengthens a person’s neural connections to the idea of God, with Gambrell following up about how the revised Directory of Worship connects personal and communal worship practices. Silva-Esterrich talks about the ways communal worship can break down biases.
After the three discuss the importance of confession in worship, the beginnings of their own interest in worship and the call to worship found in baptism, Gambrel returns to etymology, explaining that “Shema: the great commandment” can be understood as “you should love God with everything you have.” That means that loving your neighbors is also a form of worshipping God.
The podcast ends with Silva-Esterrich asking how church leaders can promote worship in different contexts.
Blended worship (as opposed to strictly traditional or contemporary worship) is one way to encourage diversity, Trigger-Duffert says, adding that diverse worship “starts with showing up in the community in ways that recognize its diverse gifts” and creating inclusive worship spaces. Gambrell urges worshipping “actively, knowledgeably, and emotionally.” Church leaders, including sessions, can find guidance for doing that in the pages of the revised Directory of Worship, including the new section on culture.
“All we do can be worship,” Silva-Esterrich says during his podcast benediction. “Let’s remember that.”
The third Nourish episode, currently available, focuses on practicing “Mindfulness” and features conversation between Miller and Michelle Thomas-Bush of Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The next Nourish episode, for release on Nov. 30, will feature a conversation with the Rev. Dr. Chip Hardwick, Executive at the Synod of the Covenant, reflecting on Hebrews 11 and living out faith “as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
The third Encounter episode, scheduled for release on Nov. 23, is titled “Being a Church of Rules and Polity: Faith, Theology and Welcoming.” The Rev. Tricia-Dykers Koenig and the Rev. Alex Evangelista will share stories with Silva-Esterrich of how Presbyterian polity influenced where God called them to ministry and how polity seeks to recognize all voices.