The Pastoral Excellence Program has come a long way over the past ten years under the creative and wise leadership of Susan Dickerman and her team. In one of our many conversations, Sue humbly said, "we brought the program to where it is today. It has room to grow and expand beyond what we dreamed possible." It is a privilege to be in this place at this time as we begin a new era, standing on the solid foundation of what Sue and so man of you have created.
The PEP continues to make significant differences in the lives of clergy and their congregations. With Sue's inspiration, your continued thirst for excellence and God's grace, it will continue to grow and expand for another ten years and far beyond.
Rev. Ellie Richardson
Associate Conference Minister for Lay & Clergy Development
Support of Pastoral Excellence Sustainability Campaign Honors Sue Dickerman's Legacy and a Commitment to Ensuring Ongoing Clergy Vitality
Bud and Jean Muller are deeply committed members of the Hingham Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, and have been for decades. The Mullers have a history of involvement in leadership roles in their local church, the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ (MACUCC), and at Andover Newton Theological School. And while they have long been committed to helping the United Church of Christ bring its vital ministries to the larger world, the MACUCC’s Pastoral Excellence Program struck a particular chord with them. For that reason, the Mullers made a generous personal gift to the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign, and hosted a dinner in their home to encourage others to support the program as well.
Bud Muller noted that his perspective developed over his years of engagement with the church. “Both of us have been moderators in our church, and have served on multiple boards. When that involvement first started -- now almost forty years ago -- we began with work in youth ministry. And we recognized that younger pastors coming into the ministry need an avenue, a venue, where they can both learn and share their experiences, also struck as important and needing our support.”
“In addition,” Muller added, “we have felt tremendous respect for Jim Antal, Susan Dickerman and Andy Gustafson, and we hold them in very high regard. Susan Dickerman played a huge role in moving the Pastoral Excellence Program concept forward and was identified as a leader nationally for this work. Our support of this program honors her role.”
Bud Muller remembers, “Not only through my work in the Massachusetts Conference but also through [my wife] Jean’s involvement with Andover Newton Theological School, we have had an ongoing interest in helping establish systems that will produce good pastors. Pastors are in a unique position,” Muller observed, in needing to balance their relationships with their parishioners and the public…“and they carry a heavy load. So the concept of supporting people who have dedicated themselves to this field, and empowering them to support those who are entering the ministry, or who have encountered some difficulty in their ministry, strikes us as critically important.”
Muller, who works as an investment broker, reflected, “Churches are challenging organizations to serve: everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and that goes for pastors as well. Some are great at preaching, some good at pastoral visits, and so on. Unlike corporations, churches don’t have the financial capability to provide staff that can support succession planning. Churches are not corporations, so supporting programs that allow pastors to build strength and resiliency is critically important.”
“If pastors are good at their jobs and have been exposed to a number of life situations, they are going to be better at serving the church. Developing skill sets in key areas through sharing is a key to success, and that is what the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign is all about.”