For those who have felt the call to serve as deacons and ruling elders, many believe that worship is the role of the minister. An upcoming webinar could change that perception.
The Office of the General Assembly will be hosting a Leader Formation Webinar on March 30 titled “Good Stewards for God’s Grace.” The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Office of Theology & Worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, will be leading the session.
“He was really excited to do this and is passionate about the fact that worship isn’t just the responsibility of ministers,” said Martha Miller, manager for Ruling Elder Resources and Educator Certification in the Office of the General Assembly. “That’s what this webinar will focus on, honing the skills of deacons and ruling elders and helping them claim the identity as being worship leaders. It may not necessarily be delivering sermons, but it is also visitation, communion to the homebound, as well as assisting in services of ordination, installation and commissioning. David is going to focus on those more practical pieces.”
Gambrell collaborated with Miller for the Year of Leader Formation series last year, writing and recording new worship music as an additional resource for the campaign.
After a year of providing new resources to ruling elders and deacons and knowing that formation is a continuous process, a survey of participants showed that a year wasn’t enough, so Miller has continued the Leader Formation series.
“It showed us that ruling elders and deacons are hungry for more. Just by sheer webinar attendance and use of resources, we determined it couldn’t just be a year. We have the ability to do this, why not do it?” asked Miller. “What became clear in the survey was practicality. There were not a lot of questions about theological issues but rather accessing the tools of providing ministry. Many said they need help in how to pray with people when going to the hospital and visiting the sick.”
Miller says that, in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic helped spur the need to take advantage of the technology available to churches.
“The pandemic really helped us learn how to use technology,” she said. “I think that once people were used to Zoom, webinars, going on computer to form community and be more connected, we realized the value of this.”
Before COVID-19, there was always a ruling elder luncheon during General Assembly. Miller says that provided the only opportunity for ruling elders to gather in one place.
“Two years ago, Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly, was scheduled to speak at the luncheon, but the pandemic forced the church to hold a virtual Assembly instead,” said Miller. “Instead of a luncheon, it was a webinar and that really spurred our interest in continuing these. Folks didn’t have to be in person to feel connected. We could have done this for years, but who knew? I don’t know if we would have gravitated toward this, but it has become a part of what we do.”
The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30, 7–8:30 p.m. (EDT). The deadline to register is March 23. Click here for more information and to register.