To the Rev. Nathan Mochizuki, the Small Church Residency Program is an adventure.
Mochizuki, who was called in August 2013 to the First Presbyterian Churches of Carmi, Eldorado, and Harrisburg, Ill. — a cooperative parish in the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois that he serves with another member of the program, the Rev. Elizabeth Moses — joined the other members of the Class of 2013 for a midpoint informational and sharing session at the Presbyterian Center here from August 25–29.
Members of the program’s fifth and newest class gathered at the same time for a comprehensive orientation program, during which they were commissioned for a two-year pastoral-residency relationship in their small membership congregations.
Established in 2009, the Small Church Residency Program—an initiative of the office of Theology and Worship — is a timely and innovative program focused on spiritual, vocational and congregational transformation.
Although the program’s name and application process may have changed since it began ― it was originally called “For Such a Time as This” ― its goal of pairing small, underserved congregations in rural, small-town and urban settings with recent seminary graduates remains the same.
Since the Small Church Residency Program began, 33 recent seminary graduates will have served 39 congregations in 15 presbyteries.
“My journey into ministry wasn’t expected, and the process of preparing for ministry was an adventure,” Mochizuki said, “There’s always a sense that I’m going somewhere that I’m not sure what to expect, and for me that was the journey that God has taken me on. The Small Church Residency Program just fits into that idea of being on an adventure, experiencing new things, and just trying to figure out where God is leading me.”
Throughout the course of the weeklong orientation and midpoint check-in, the Rev. Cindy Cushman, the program’s coordinator, emphasized the critical role of pastor-mentors, who were also on hand to receive coaching skills training.
“By surrounding these first-call pastors with such a strong network of support at the congregational, presbytery, and national levels,” Cushman said, “we are able to provide them with the kind of guidance and companionship they need to help make them effective leaders.”
The Rev. Craig Butler, transitional associate for congregational development for the Presbytery of West Virginia, attended the August 25–29 program to support the presbytery’s two pastoral residents, Pat Ryan and Andy Rice, at the midpoint of their ministries. The presbytery previously welcomed two members of the program’s Class of 2011, both of whom continue to serve in their respective churches.
“The real impact of the Small Church Residency Program is that it offers the congregations and presbyteries an opportunity to engage new people in ministry in an atmosphere of support, direction, and guidance,” Butler said. “The energy that’s developing between the pastors and the congregations in West Virginia has become almost contagious with the other churches in the presbytery.
“If any presbytery could come up with at least two residency host churches,” Butler added, “it doesn’t matter if you’re a small, rural, remote presbytery or in one of the big cities — they would be amazed at what would happen.”
For more information on the Small Church Residency Program, contact Cindy Cushman by phone at 502-569-5381 or by email.