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The First Year

Authored by: The Rev. Clelia P. Garrity, LCSW

Hard to believe, but my first year of the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) Program at The General Theological Seminary (GTS) has now been successfully completed. The program leadership, the curriculum, and the focused and challenging conversations with my fellow classmates have all brought me to a completely new way of perceiving my ministry of spiritual leadership. I am eagerly anticipating year two.

The year passed quickly but the work was rigorous, thought provoking, and inspiring. Two month-long classes on the basics of research in the field of Practical Theology, and two week-long "intensives"; one addressing Spiritual Leadership and the other Theories and Theologies of Change formed the class-room portion of our program. Extensive reading and a fair amount of writing took up much of the time between classes.

Following each of the classes and completion of their final assignments I was a bit numb. But after a week or so everything that had entered my brain, and my heart, began to coalesce and pave the way for a new way of looking at spiritual leadership. A brand of spiritual leadership that has the possibility to be the brave and informed guide needed in our journey of adaptation and change. The adaptation and change in our church culture that must occur if we are to keep Christianity alive in our communities and in the world.

Briefly, to change church culture, we must move from a mentality of technical change to one of adaptive change. By technical change I am referring to our tendency to add new programs, in many instances by simply renaming and rearranging old programs, as a "fix" to whatever the current perceived need appears to be. By adaptive change I am referring to effecting changes in the culture of our church. Changes that emerge as the product of an honest, and not infrequently painful, examination of what lies behind our own resistance to change, and our commitment to overcome this resistance and rather, embrace a style of spiritual leadership that neutralizes resistance and facilitates movement into a new space.

Programs are technical changes; adaptive changes are changes in culture. Strong spiritual leadership is leadership unafraid of crossing the threshold that currently is before us as we seek new ways in which to proclaim the gospel in the world – our mission in Christ. As ethicist and theologian Stanley Hauerwas says, "The heart of the gospel is that you don't know Jesus without the witness of the church. It, [the gospel] is always mediated.” That means the work that you and I must set about doing to make that happen – however challenging.

I owe thanks to GTS for having the courage and the leadership to develop this innovative D. Min. program and for accepting me into it as a member of the program's first cohort. And I am also most grateful for the financial support that I received from GTS, the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, and my family. Without their support participation in the program would not have been a possibility. Finally, many thanks to all of my friends who listened as I incessantly worried, aloud, over every step of this past year's journey. You are all deeply appreciated.


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