It is the time of year when people are planning high school graduations. Graduations, especially in Class C communities, are such a big deal for the whole town that a resolution was passed by the Synod Assembly in the '90's forbidding Synod Assemblies to meet at the same time as Class C graduations. We can never avoid conflict with all graduations, but we do our best to accommodate people's schedules.
May and June bring college graduations, as well. Whether it is community college or graduate school, institutions of higher learning are honoring their graduates this month. And we wish them well, also.
It is also the time of year when seminaries graduate their students, and synods and congregations look eagerly for new graduates to serve. But, in case you haven't heard, there are fewer seminary graduates than there were a decade ago--about half as many, to be clear. Right now, the Montana Synod has 8 openings that would normally be filled by new seminary graduates. And we received 2 graduates in the spring assignment process. That means that 2 congregations who have been waiting for a pastor will get one, and the rest will not. In addition to the 8 openings for new graduates, we have at least as many other openings, for positions that have normally been filled by more experienced pastors.
This is the new normal. But do not fear. God is with us. And God has given us the resources that we need to serve our congregations. One of those resources is...you. Yes, you. To everyone reading this I invite you to come to the Synod Assembly with the name of at least one person you think God might be calling to ministry. It could be someone who has been thinking about ministry, and needs some affirmation. It could be someone who has never seen herself in that role. It could be a child, for whom the invitation to consider becoming a pastor might be a life-changing thing. It could be an older person who is thinking about early retirement.
Ministry takes many forms. LPA's serve their own congregations and help out in others. We have a new class of LPAs starting in the fall.
There is more than one route to becoming a pastor these days. Seminaries offer on-campus traditional routes. TEEM is another option. Distributed learning is another. There are many ways to become a pastor, and our candidacy committee will help discern which fits best.
There are many kinds of ministry--all valuable. But we do need pastors, and we need more than we have. So I am inviting you to bring to the Synod Assembly names of people in whom you see potential for ministry. We'll have an offering of names.
And so that we can follow up with the person, please list the name, congregation, and contact information. And put your own name on the sheet, too, so we know who nominates whom.
Will you pray about this, and then look around in your congregation, your youth group, your women's Bible study, your outreach committee?
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA