Every November, the Montana Synod gathers pastors in their first three years of ordained ministry into an event we call First Call Theological Education. It is always a joy to spend three days with our newest colleagues, hearing their stories and telling them about some of the ins and outs of the Montana Synod. Every ministry site is unique, but there are some common features of the congregations of the Montana Synod, whether large or small, urban or rural.
So who are these newest pastors? In the first year class we have Todd Wright, originally from Illinois, now serving at First Lutheran in Glasgow. Also in that class is Jake Schumacher, serving Immanuel in Absarokee, originally from Washington. The most recent arrival is Sean Janssen, from Washington and Arizona, serving Christ in Big Sandy and Messiah in Havre. We welcome them to the Montana Synod from three different seminaries, three different parts of the country.
The second year class includes Havre native Jessie Obrecht, serving the Fairfield Parish, and Belgrade native Marlow Carrels, serving the Westby Parish. Jayson Nicholson, who serves Our Savior’s in Laurel, comes to us from California, having done his internship in Montana. Jean Hay serves Bethlehem in Billings, and proudly claims her heritage as a Navy brat. Her most recent home was Minnesota. Doris Tollefson, from Hinsdale, was also ordained in 2017, and continues to serve faithfully.
Finishing out her third year is Carol Seilhymer, who serves our congregations in Plains and Thompson Falls. She comes to us from Minnesota. It is a delight to meet with these colleagues, who are faithfully serving congregations in the Montana Synod.
You have probably heard that we have more vacancies than we do candidates. And you may have heard that for every 2 pastors who retire, one is ordained. So we have to think in new ways about how we do ministry in the Montana Synod, how we fill pulpits, how we make best use of gifts.
In October, the Montana Synod was assigned 2 more seminary graduates. One has already received a call in the Synod, and the other is interviewing. We hope to have both in place before long.
This past weekend the Candidacy Committee met and granted entrance to 2 more candidates. LPA Tim Tharp, who is serving Savage and Skaar, is officially enrolled in TEEM at PLTS, and LPA Kristin La Ve is set to enroll in a Distributed Learning MDiv in the fall. They join Wendy McAlpine, LPA in Suburst who officially began TEEM this fall, and Melanie Forrey, who began Distributed Learning MDiv at Luther this fall. They join other Montana Synod students at various places on the journey to rostered ministry.
There are many ways to engage in theological education, both at seminary and elsewhere. I encourage you to look around you for who might be a pastor or a deacon in the future, and to tell them you see potential. That’s how many of us get here.
And of course, while we are encouraging people to think about seminary education and becoming pastors, we continue with our robust LPA training programs. We currently have 3 going on—a new class based in Great Falls, a continuing class based in Glendive, and an advanced class (LPA 2.0) for LPAs who are functioning as Synodically Authorized Ministers.
I am grateful for all who serve, in a variety of capacities.
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA