Last fall Rev. Jonathan Malone, Pastor of First Baptist Church in East Greenwich, approached me with an interesting proposition. He is seeking to partner with another American Baptist Church in establishing a resident Pastor position, which would provide a recent seminary graduate with two years of “hands on” experience serving in the local church setting in order to hone skills and perspective for pastoral ministry. I agree with Jonathan that a seminary education, as good as it is, cannot provide all the training and preparation needed for pastoral ministry in the 21st century. A resident pastor position would be designed to offer the graduate practical training in a safe environment, prior to taking on his/her first pastorate.
I have spent the past few months in dialogue with church council and team members, in order to see if this might indeed be an initiative that would resonate among our people. We have spent time talking through the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, and I have encouraged their prayers on this matter, so that we might see how the Lord is leading. Last month, a representative group from WCBC met with folks from First Baptist so that we could begin to get a feel for each other, dialogue on our mutual visions and hesitations, and explore effective ways to journey towards a final decision, whether it be yes or no. It was encouraging that both churches agreed that such an endeavor must be seen as an engagement in ministry and mission, not with “What’s in it for us” as the foundational piece. There is a positive feeling between the groups, but we realize we are a ways off from making any kind of a commitment to this ministry. I have made it very clear from the start that if we follow our primary responsibility, to seek God’s guidance in the decision, I will be content with whatever that decision is.
As you can imagine, many things would need to be ironed out among the churches if we decide to engage in this ministry. Some things we know at this point:
- It will involve a minimum of a two-year commitment, with a possibility for a third year.
- It will involve a seminary graduate – this is not field education – which could be male or female, young adult or second career aged.
- It will make our churches “teaching institutions” akin to teaching hospitals where doctors do residencies.
- The resident will engage in all aspects of ministry with us, obviously on a half time basis.
- The partnering churches will be represented by members appointed to serve on a team that will work out details as to how we will share the resident’s time, how to evaluate, how to best keep lines of communication open, etc.
- In that we must provide at least starting pastor compensation for the resident, the churches will split the costs, which would be about $23,000 per year.
- If we decide to pursue this endeavor, we are looking to begin the residency in June of 2014.
In as much as the church council and teams have seen possibilities in this proposal, we want to bring it before the congregation, in order to foster open communication and get a greater sense of the church’s feeling for it. Please feel free to engage council and team members in dialogue, and of course, I am more than happy to entertain questions and thoughts. Those who attended the joint meeting with 1st Baptist are Dan and Claire Walker, Dick and Bev Wood, Linda Knutton, Tom Archer, and Lori Bergman.
On February 24, 2013 Jonathan and I will be doing a pulpit exchange (that’s exchanging pastors, not pulpits)
in order for us and our congregations to continue to familiarize with each other, so that our decision will be informed. Also, in coming weeks, some of our folks will worship in East Greenwich, and some of their folks will pop up in our sanctuary.
I hope that you will add your prayers to those from our council and teams, as we seek God’s will and guidance in the coming months.
Residency Ministry Update – November 2013
We have moved into the planning phase of this new educational ministry. Four members of WCBC have met with four from East Greenwich, with the task of working through the various agreements, commitments, and publicity/recruiting tasks that are part of the process. WCBC represented by Ron Zangari, Bev Orzechowicz
Melanie Nelson and John Thorpe. We have begun carving out the details including the best ways to share the resident over weeks and months (hours, tasks, and ministries), agreements as to finances and facilities, recruitment details, and resident selection. At the November meeting, we will work to produce a covenant agreement that will guide our expectations and provide the principles by which we will share the resident Pastor.
From the beginning of this ministry possibility, the church council and finance team were in agreement that, having just finished a very successful anniversary campaign, WCBC would not undertake any kind of capital campaign in order to fund this ministry. We will be creative in our thinking, and trust that the Lord will guide us in this endeavor. We do recognize, however, that there may be those who wish to help fund the project, which we anticipate to cost about $24,000 per year over two years. Perhaps legacy gifts, memorial gifts, or outright donations are possibilities. Of course we encourage all acts of generosity!
The Pastor, Treasurer and President will be happy to assist you in this area.
Sunday, January 12 at 4:00 PM
We invite you to a gathering with the FBC of East Greenwich, with whom we are partnering in the residency program. This relaxed, fun activity will give us another opportunity to increase our friendship with our friends from down the street. At 4:00 we will meet at the home of Heidi Toppel, one of the FBC representatives on the residency planning team for a “Pot Luck” of dessert offerings, beverages, and games and fellowship. Heidi’s address is 180 Wampanoag Road, in the Potowamet section of East Greenwich (yes, it is a big house!) Those wishing to car pool or caravan will leave the WCBC lot at 3:45. A signup sheet will be posted.
Residency Program News
Our Warwick Central/East Greenwich team has been meeting regularly, has reviewed a few applications, and, in May, will conduct our first interview with a young man from Andover Newton Seminary.
Please continue in prayer for our endeavors.
Again, the WCBC representatives are Bev Orzechowicz, Ron Zangary, Melanie Nelson and John Thorp.
A JOYFUL ANNOUNCEMENT
It is with great joy that we announce , after tw0 years of effort, that we have found a wonderful candidate for the Pastoral Residency position. Ebony Grisom is a graduate of Duke Divinity School (MDiv), Providence College (MA), and University of North Carolina (BA). She has worked as an admissions counselor at Duke Divinity School for 2 years, and is now feeling called toward pastoral ministry.
In as much as we are thrilled to present Ebony with a two year learning and growth experience, we are equally excited about what she brings into our church family. The team agrees that from her written application profile, and especially from our interview with her, she will be an asset to both congregations. She revealed a lively faith and extraordinary communicative skills as we spoke with her in April. Having a female resource as clergy is welcome treat, and Ebony’s African American heritage will bring a fresh perspective and encourage our march towards a well rounded ministry.
At the Annual Meeting of WCBC in 2013, the Church Council received an overwhelming mandate to proceed with this vision for ministry: a Residency shared by two American Baptist Churches. Four representatives and Pastor from each church (WCBC and 1st Baptist of East Greenwich) have spent two years seeking God’s guidance in order to make it a reality. We are confident that both churches will be blessed (and be a blessing!) as we step closer and closer to living the vision that has propelled this search. Let’s keep Ebony in our prayers, and offer her the warmest of WCBC welcomes!