Pastor's Message - View from the Pulpit...
While we think about and even may have been lifting up in prayer the person who will come among us as our new Senior Pastor in the coming months, I have been thinking about the preparation of pastors. New Goshenhoppen Church is in the midst of assisting two people as they consider next steps in faith from the perspective of studying for seminary education on the master’s degree level. This is wonderful! One is already studying at Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, the other plans to soon matriculate at Lancaster Seminary. Such a level of intensity of education takes a great deal of commitment, and I applaud these individuals for the steps they have already taken to do this. I share with you some of the aspects of this plan of study, in case you or someone you know has this also in mind.
1) With nearly 300 years as a local church, we have received the gifts and leadership of many pastors over that three century time frame. I would wonder if our congregation has provided as many seminarians (students in seminary) over the years to the larger work of the church as the number of pastors who have come from the wider church. Perhaps the historians among us will know the number?
2) In our tradition we expect students in seminary to have completed a four year undergraduate college degree before being accepted for seminary studies. Typically the seminary degree leads to (but is not exclusive to) later expectations on the part of the person seeking this to become a pastor.
3) Those involved in the process seek and secure the emotional (and usually financial) support of the local congregation in the process. This path is not simply an educational one, but also one in which Christ’s Church is involved. After meeting with the leaders of their local church, they also meet with and benefit from the care of, in the United Church of Christ, the Committee on Ministry of the Association in which the local congregation is a member (in our case the Ursinus Association of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference).
4) Some people feel called to attend a seminary of the United Church of Christ; others wish to study in a school which is less affiliated with the UCC. Moravian Seminary is an example of a relatively local seminary which is not affiliated with us in the UCC, but which has many UCC students in attendance. At times, some choose to travel a distance to get a feel for another locality and even another region of the UCC which is different from here in Pennsylvania.
5) The process referred to above can take a number of years from start to finish. One of the results of this number of years is that the personnel in the leadership of the congregation, association, and conference may change between initiation and conclusion of the course of preparation.
6) Seminaries can be very historic or relatively new. This is another aspect of where to choose to apply.
7) It is unusual for a seminary graduate to come back to their local church to serve as pastor, but the person’s home church always has a special place in their heart!
For those who may be thinking about the possibility of serving as a pastor in the future, may God bless you!
In Christ, Rev. Royer