“Nourish” and “Encounter,” two halves of the “Along the Road” podcast whole, are back with a second season. Building off last season’s discussions for ruling elders, deacons and other leaders at congregations and mid councils, season two will feature inspiring conversation for anyone in the church seeking to pair tradition with creativity. Because 2024 is a General Assembly year, there will be looks up the road to Salt Lake City.
Listen to episodes directly from the Mid Council Ministries section of pcusa.org or from popular streaming services. You can also access episodes below.
The first Nourish episode dropped last week, with host Ruling Elder Martha Miller, manager of Ministry Education and Support, discussing “the hope we gain from children” with the Rev. Rachel Pedersen, associate pastor for Children and Family Ministry at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church outside Philadelphia. The release, “Joy and Wonder: Learning from the Wisdom of Children,” has already proven popular, with 128 downloads in its first five days.
Nourish episodes focus on deacons and ruling elders and typically run 10-20 minutes. Miller, who also hosts the Leader Formation webinar series, said season two will continue to offer a mix of spiritual practice discussions, devotionals, call stories and church impact stories, with the addition of “polity nuggets” that will raise awareness of the General Assembly process. “We hope those will be helpful for ruling elders and deacons in their own ecclesial formation,” Miller said.
“It’s easy for someone in a congregation to think, ‘What does GA have to do with me in my little church in Michigan?’” said Miller, using her home state as an example. “But because of our polity and connectional approach, the General Assembly does impact them.”
“So many ruling elders and deacons didn’t grow up Presbyterian, so we want to emphasize what it is to be a leader in the PC(USA),” Miller added. “That’s why the first polity nugget is going to feature the Rev. Bronwen Boswell [Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly] talking about Presbyterian identity.”
Other upcoming Nourish episodes include talks with the Rev. Jerrod Lowry, General Presbyter and Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina, about the spiritual practice of caring for our bodies, and with the Presbyterian Historical Society about Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, which has roots at First Presbyterian Church in Bridesburg, Philadelphia. “It’s a story of how a church can make a big impact in the world,” Miller said.
The first episode of “Encounter,” which focuses on church and mid council leaders, dropped Tuesday night, featuring conversation with Ruling Elder Kate Trigger Duffert and the Rev. Marissa Galván Valle, part-time pastor at Beechmont Presbyterian Church in Louisville and senior editor for Spanish-language resources at the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
“We talked about the transformational imagination of our embodied Presbyterian values,” said Manuel Silva-Esterrich, manager of Call Process Support and one of Encounter’s co-hosts. “That includes re-evaluating our traditions around worship and meetings.”
“Kate” — the newly appointed director of General Assembly planning — “has worked with these topics in the past, and Marissa is a pastor of a church that has embodied this for decades now,” Silva-Esterrich said.
“[In the episode] we emphasize ways of knowing beyond the academic and written word and tradition,” he added. “In the PC(USA), we have Robert's Rules of Order, but we also have created different strategies to be found in the Book of Order that are specific to us. Those can be used by mid councils and congregations in their settings.”
“Sometimes we look at tradition as something that constrains creativity,” Silva-Esterrich said. “But Presbyterians have a tradition about being creative. That is something to embrace.”
This season he will be joined during episodes by co-host valerie izumi, manager of General Assembly Nominations. izumi hosted Encounter episodes last spring, and can be heard sharing favorite memories with Silva-Esterrich and Miller on the Along The Road season one finale: “Listening, Laughter, and Looking Back.”
Praising izumi’s gifts as a podcast interviewer and presenter, Silva-Esterrich said, “The dynamic between our backgrounds and ways of thinking complements each other.”
“We’re always looking at topics that are relevant right now to church and mid council leaders,” he said. “We want to share more ideas about what they are doing in ministry.”
izumi seconded that goal, giving an example from this season’s first Encounter.
“Our invitation to Kate and Marissa was to help us explore what might it look like to have a spirit of openness to transformation and change as we seek to be more faithful to the values of openness expressed in the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity, F-1.04,” she said.
“Upcoming episodes will feature ‘Polity Conversations’ on a variety of topics such as: ‘Going Forth as Agents of God’s Mission in the World,’ ‘Polity Puddles and Puzzles: When the Book of Order Doesn’t Say No!,’ ‘Unleashing the Power of Overtures,’ ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’ and two episodes around issues of trauma informed care,” izumi said. “Our hope is that mid council leaders will share these episodes with congregations. Wouldn’t it be great if this sparked conversations among church members and leaders as well as innovative engagement with our polity?”
Like Nourish, Encounter will include General Assembly discussions, but connected to wider themes — another way tradition and innovation will work together in the podcasts.
If you have podcast feedback, or ideas for episodes or guests, the Along the Road hosts and production team (including director of Mid Council Ministries the Rev. Jihyun Oh, sound engineer the Rev. Josh Park, project manager Omar Chan and communications adviser Angie Stevens), would like to hear from you. Email them at email@example.com or take a short survey at https://forms.office.com/r/gDUiLx8WMr.