June 23, 2011 Leave a comment
“Oh dear God, please tell me that we will not have to have recently graduated pastor’s for the rest of our existence.”
Those words came to me from a very dear friend in my congregation as we were talking about the strengths of this church. I said that Westminster has been a wonderful place to get a feel for my ministry because they had such good leadership from within the congregation and had a sense of their identity. I then said that perhaps the next time they begin looking for someone to be their pastor they should look for a recent seminary graduate (like I had been).
I was a little disappointed that my friend did not see where I was coming from. She was worried that recent seminary graduates filling the pulpit would mean that Westminster had hit the bottom of the barrel. Always having to teach new pastors meant that they would never get to the big important things.
Recently an open letter was sent out from the Committee on Theological Education highlighting ways that churches, seminaries, the denomination and students could move forward into new patterns and models of ministry. I am excited about the letter, I think a lot of the ideas are great, but I wonder: who has read it? (You can read it here)
Are Presbyteries forming discussion groups? Are churches talking about it after worship? Are seminary presidents going to be coming and speaking at Synods or Presbyteries? Besides the few people that blog and tweet about these things where is the conversation happening? Most of the people that I know who have read the thing are already convinced of the things in it, but what about my friend or the rest of my church?
Recently Westminster has begun a conversation about changing some things that we do (more on this later) . People get discouraged and say how what we are planning wont work. It is at this point that I find myself saying over and over that we can’t just change a structure, we have to change the culture of Westminster.
This denomination does not just need to change the structure of how ministers are trained, we need to change the culture within our churches. We have to begin having serious discussions about what churches think about pastors. We need to begin working within individual congregations to talk about what values they place in those they call and why they want those values. Do want someone who is young but with 4 years of experience and who you will pay the presbytery minimum? Well, that is not going to happen but there are churches out there that think that works.
I love the PCUSA, I loved seminary and I love my church. We need to do more than just send out e-mails with ideas, we need to come up with ways to spread and discuss and refine those ideas. I will be asking our CPM or whatever committee my presbyter directs me to to serious talk about this and to hopefully talk with the rest of the presbytery. I encourage you to begin discussion of your own.