We’ve long since heard these words, affirmed them, but perhaps not really implemented the broad spectrum of what they might mean for our church as a whole. This year in the School for Ministry we set out to change this reality, not because of the pandemic, but because it has been a part of our vision since the inception of our local School for Ministry. I am reminded of a quote from Lesslie Newbigin:
Once again it has to be said that there can be no going back to the ‘Constantinian’ era. It will only be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sector of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of public life to the illumination of the gospel. But that will only happen as and when local congregations renounce introverted concern for their own life, and recognize they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society.
With 23 students who went through discernment and acceptance in the summer of 2020, we have journeyed with these students in “expanding and adding to” the tools with which they already are or will be merging into ministry leadership positions in their local contexts. These students embody what Newbigin prescribes: a people that seek to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society.
Given such a prescription, you might wonder, who are these people? Here is a list of our soon-to-be graduates and their parishes:
*Key to designations:
D=Dual Worship Leader and Preacher tracks
(P) Joel Williams, St Mark’s, Troy
(W) Jeffrey Babine, St. Michael’s, Ozark
(D) Debbie Waldrop, St Peter’s, Bon Secour
(W) Phyllis Findley, St. Andrew’s, Mobile
(PC) Sue Rollins, Redeemer, Mobile
(D) Ryan Gillikin, Immanuel, Bay Minette
(W) Mike Harding, St James, Port St. Joe
(PC) Mimi Smith, St. Matthew’s, Chipley PC
(W) Van Smith, St. Matthew’s, Chipley
(PC) Nicole Vaughan, TBD
(P) Kay Dennis, St. Luke’s, Marianna
(W) Vicky Patterson, St. Matthew’s, Chipley
(D) Chris Patterson, St. Matthew’s Chipley
(PC) Anita Ford, St Christopher’s, Pensacola
(PC) Ed Austin, Holy Trinity, Pensacola
(P) Ted Kirchharr, Holy Trinity, Pensacola
(W) Sally Crenshaw, Holy Trinity, Pensacola
(W) Cris Turnage, St Cyprian’s, Pensacola
(D) Leanne Whalen, Holy Trinity, Pensacola
(PC) Samantha West, St Simon’s, Fort Walton Beach
(W) Stuart Richeson, St. John’s, Monroeville
(P) Haden Tirey, St. John’s, Monroeville
(D) Salem Saloom, St. Stephen’s, Brewton
As the corresponding article in this edition noted, these students have taken a variety of courses to help further equip them to do specialized ministries in our diocese. Our goal was to help them to develop a deeper and broader appreciation of the riches of our tradition along with newer ideas and support for the challenges facing churches right now.
A particular challenge facing the church is the rise of pastoral care needs. As we have experienced first-hand or read about, many have endured great loss and strain during the pandemic. The church as a whole has tried in varying ways to adapt to these increasing challenges and losses. As a result, we have realized that pastoral care is not just something that clergy do but something to which we are all called.
Given that, we had six students undertake a specialized curriculum that would help them navigate the particular needs of their contexts in becoming Pastoral Care Leaders. Their course of study, led by the Rev. Deacon Clelia Garrity, included:
The Theology of Pastoral Care
Pastoral Identity/Pastoral Presence
Theological themes and reflexivity
Narrative themes of grief and loss
Pastoral Care in the times of COVID and Social Unrest
I am grateful for the way the School of Ministry is expanding. It is my deepest desire that we honor the biblical injunction to “go forth and bear fruit”. I am excited to see how God will use these gifted persons in their contexts and how these students will become teachers to others who are equally interested in deepening their faith and participation in God’s dream for our world.
---Dean Joy Blaylock