Mission Engagement and Support Senior Director Rosemary C. Mitchell announces retirement

Lead mission engagement advisor and PC(USA) minister Chris Roseland named acting senior director effective June 30

by Emily Enders Odom, Mission Engagement and Support | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Rosemary and Joe Mitchell (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — As the Rev. Rosemary C. Mitchell looks forward to celebrating 45 years of ordained ministry later this year, she remembers if not exactly the “good old days,” then at least a simpler time.

“Back when I started out in ministry, the biggest challenge we faced was whether you could play the guitar,” Mitchell said with her characteristic sense of humor.

And now, more than four decades later, as grateful colleagues across the PC(USA) reflect on Mitchell’s storied ministry career and her abundant accomplishments in the increasingly complex landscape of the PC(USA), the Presbyterian teaching elder and certified fundraising executive looks forward to her next opportunity to serve even as she concludes her season of leadership with the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA).

“Rosemary is such a valued partner to mid councils,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles B. “Chip” Hardwick, synod executive for the Synod of the Covenant. “The breadth of her experience with so many aspects of the Church helps her to understand the challenges and joys we face. Her appreciation and encouragement have buoyed my spirits, and her ministry has consistently inspired me to greater generosity.”

Mitchell, who joined the PMA in December 2013 as a mission engagement advisor, was promoted two years later to interim senior director for Funds Development. She was then appointed senior director for the newly named Mission Engagement and Support (MES) in August 2016.

Renaming the ministry area was Mitchell’s idea.

“My goal was to bring sanity and coherency to funding at the national level,” she said. “Moving from a ‘funds development’ model to a ‘mission engagement’ model was critical to achieving that objective, as were our team of ‘mission engagement advisors,’ who were there to interpret Presbyterian mission to mid councils and congregations.”

In her nearly 10 years of service with the PMA, she worked tirelessly to put the PC(USA)’s mid council leaders “front and center.”

“Mid council leaders are the focus of our connectional system,” she said. “They are our primary connection.”

For Mitchell, a credentialed fundraiser, the work of MES was always about “making a case for why to support Presbyterian mission amid so many other worthwhile ‘charities’ that congregations and mid councils can choose to support.”

“We always have to be ready to answer the question, ‘Why Presbyterian mission?’ and to distinguish the difference between mission interpretation and ‘news,’” she said. “Over the years, we grew increasingly better about being proactive about interpreting Presbyterian mission.”

Prior to joining the PMA, Mitchell served as vice president for Seminary Relations at Princeton Theological Seminary. Before working at Princeton, Mitchell — who was ordained by Susquehanna Valley Presbytery — served two congregations, the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. She was also the founding executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley in Rochester.

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Rosemary Mitchell since her development days at Princeton Theological Seminary,” said the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard, executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Chicago. “She has always brought energy, creativity and humor to her work. Rosemary has been a confidant, advisor and model of leadership for me in the church. Rosemary brought a sea change to the PMA. Through her vision and leadership, fundraising became relationship building. This shift has made all of the difference.”

Mitchell, who has spoken at and led workshops on stewardship and philanthropy at the North American Conference on Christian Philanthropy and the Northeast Ecumenical Stewardship Council Conference as well as for such groups as the Association of Fundraising Professionals, has a wide variety of media experience. She has hosted and produced a weekly radio program, contributed to a network television special, and co-authored two books, “Birthings and Blessings” (Vols. I and II), published by Crossroads Press, and “Grace and Gratitude,” a companion stewardship workbook to “How Much is Enough?” by Pamela York Klainer, published by Basic Books.

A native of Endicott, New York, Mitchell was raised in the Waldensian tradition. Her great-grandfather had converted to Protestantism in Italy, and when her grandparents came to the U.S., they joined a Presbyterian National Mission congregation in Susquehanna Valley Presbytery.

“Ours is a radical Protestant tradition with a history of women as leaders and preachers,” she said. “From the moment I felt called to ministry at the age of 18, I received wonderful loving support from my congregation. As a woman in ministry, I give thanks for the women who paved the way for my generation of clergywomen, especially Presbyterian Women, who were always out ahead ensuring that women were at the table and reminding the church that women also respond to the call of their baptism to serve the church in ministry.”

Of the many women in ministry who continue to inspire Mitchell, she reserves special praise for the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, with whom she has frequently collaborated through the years.

“On the occasion of your retirement,” wrote Lindner in an email to Mitchell last week, “I am reflecting back upon the length of your career and giving thanks to God for the blessing of your ministry in Rochester, in Princeton and in Louisville. Having worked with you in those situations, I am grateful for your thoughtfulness, collegiality, your sense of humor, your wonderful intellectual curiosity, your devotion to the highest principles of the Reformed tradition and your generosity to me and to everyone. Yours has been a remarkable and steadfast service to the church and its mission and witness. For me, you have been the epitome of one who kept the promise to serve with all the energy, intelligence, imagination and love, with which you have been blessed. My declaration to you at retirement is, ‘Well done good and faithful servant!’”

The Rev. Chris Roseland

As Mitchell prepares to depart the PMA on June 30, she looks forward to spending more time with her husband, Joe, to whom she has been married for nearly 45 years, and their three adult children and five grandchildren. She leaves with gratitude that interim leadership of MES has been entrusted to the Rev. Chris Roseland, who has been named its acting senior director. Roseland, who joined the PMA in 2009, has served as MES’s lead mission engagement advisor since 2016.

And while she doesn’t yet have specific plans for her retirement — nor does she know what the future will hold — Mitchell is confident that it’s all in God’s hands.

“In my life and ministry, I have always had a sense of being surrounded by ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ from the past and, in the present, by an incredibly loving family who put up with my long hours and demands of ministry,” she said. “God is good, and I am grateful.”

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