One in an occasional series of articles about the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign.
Rev. Dr. Karin A. Case, who currently serves as interim pastor at the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury, has a deep commitment to offering “the best ministry I can” to her congregation. An experienced interim minister, she has ministered to and with the church to help them move through several complicated transitions. Case, who leads a Clergy Community of Practice (CCOP) and participates in one as well, says that having “the wisdom of colleagues, their strategies, [and the ability to] talk through complex dynamics, has been very important in the last few months.”
As an original member of one of the Massachusetts Conference’s new clergy groups funded by the Lilly Foundation, Rev. Case recalls, “That was an absolutely sustaining practice that helped me get established in ministry. I had come out of a Ph.D. in Christian social ethics, an academic context, into youth group ministry. I was the Associate Pastor in my first parish job and the CCOP helped to equip me with some of the tools of concrete, practical ministry, which is not something that I got in seminary at all. And the CCOP supported me through that midlife transition into ministry as a second career.”
Why are Clergy Communities of Practice so important? Case says, “I think this program is the hope for the future of the church. Clergy Communities of Practice support, sustain and mentor clergy. They are an ideal context for sharing best practices, a great source of new ideas, and a place to strategize about how to solve thorny issues. Things you encounter daily in the parish are not things you could ever imagine sitting in a seminary class. To become better equipped to deal with the human complexities, complexities of building and staff management, of how to be the church as it is transforming for the 21st century…Clergy Communities of Practice are a proving ground for new ideas.”
Rev. Case observes, “The people who are coming into ministry in the Massachusetts Conference are truly excellent and diverse. It is exciting to see the breadth of knowledge and expertise that our colleagues are bringing to our conference and to Christian ministry in the world.” Case sees ministers in large, urban congregations in dialogue with ministers of small, rural congregations, sharing ideas, tips and support, “and it has been wonderful to have an up-close view of what ministry is like in a family sized church vs. a large congregation with multimedia, a strong clergy presence, multiple systems, and so on.”
“As new clergy, we spent a lot of time thinking about and studying the models of church…traditional, urban, and so on. Ways of studying, worshipping, organizing ourselves, that are the expressions for the church. They are incredibly diverse. And to think about where society is headed, the generational shifts as Gen X’ers are more in the mainstream of leadership and older folks are in a different place. There was a generation of Christendom where there was no hockey or soccer on Sundays…and things are different now. We need to be a different organism in order to be responsive and faithful to those who embrace Christianity in the world.”
Karin Case has made a personal commitment to support the Pastoral Excellence Program. She knows how important it is to ensure that programs like this continue to exist, for, she observes, “Younger people are the future of the church. So it has been really challenging and interesting and engaging to think about how to be flexible in our models of ministry – as in the Pastoral Excellence Program – to help us lead congregations through adaptive challenges.”
You can join other lay leaders, pastors and congregations by making a pledge of support, payable over three to five years, or taking a special offering. Pleaes contact MACUCC Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development Andrew Gustafson: (508) 875-5233, ext.231 (email: email@example.com), or Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development Sue Dickerman: ext.233 email: firstname.lastname@example.org).