Company of New Pastors provides framework for ministry
July 9, 2016
The transition from seminary to ordained ministry can be rough. All the hypotheticals and case studies of the classroom become real when you are in a session meeting or at a hospital bedside with people you are learning to love. Thank God we don’t have to make that transition alone!
About a year ago Byron Wade asked me to be his co-pastor mentor for the Company of New Pastors (CNP) program. What a privilege to be invited to accompany new pastors on their journey! The Company of New Pastors is a pastoral formation program that has helped deepen and sustain the theological foundation of new pastors in our denomination for over 15 years. Many begin their participation in CNP in the last year of seminary, meeting with professors for theological reflection in a cohort group. Upon graduating and receiving a call, they can continue their theological formation in what are called covenant groups led by experienced pastors, called pastor mentors. The Company of New Pastors includes over 400 current participants, 500 alumni and seven seminaries—Presbyterian and non -Presbyterian.
Byron is pastor of Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, a congregation in the Presbytery of New Hope. He and I are the pastor mentors of the CNP Southeast Covenant Group, a group of nine new pastors who are serving in churches from Virginia to Georgia. We have the privilege of spending the next five years committed to the personal spiritual discipline of daily prayer and meeting approximately every eight months for daily prayer, fellowship and theological reflection. We both serve as models, counselors, accountability partners, teachers and friends to those in our group.
In May we met for our first retreat, on Johns Island, South Carolina. The retreat theme was developing a theology of ministry, with our worship and theological reflections drawing on Paul’s experience as a pastor in 2 Corinthians 1:1–11. Subsequent gatherings will continue to explore ministry through the first five chapters of 2 Corinthians.
In preparation for our retreat everyone read Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery by Richard Lischer and wrote reflections to share with the group. Our participants found much to draw on as they reflected on ministry. Together we shared experiences of coming to terms with the fact that the church we saw on a Ministry Information Form and in the interviews wasn’t necessarily the church we ended up in. As Lischer struggled to understand the people of tiny New Cana, Illinois, our group shared stories of getting to know the matriarchs and patriarchs in their congregations, of navigating the ins and outs of hospital visits, and of recovering from missteps made while learning the culture. Like Lischer, our group is discovering the meaning behind unlikely symbols in their congregations and the power of vulnerability.
As pastors, we get to witness theological divisions overcome by bread and cup. We get invited, at the request of a young child, to participate in rituals like pet funerals. We get to see the body of Christ at work in our polity, in committee meetings, while riding in a car being shown around town, at the ballpark, in text messages from youth and in so many other ways. Ministry is an awesome and peculiar thing to be called into and to live into. But we are not called into it alone. It is a blessing to have peers walking similar paths to support, challenge, affirm and console you. It is a blessing to have trusted mentors who’ve been on the same journey.
Camille LeBron Powell, Pastor Mentor for Company of New Pastors and Teaching Elder at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
God, we love our neighbors as we love you. Let us feel your embrace when we embrace others. Amen.