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From Your Synod Executive...

This weekend the inaugural conference of the Cultivating the Gift of Preaching Initiative will take place at Alma College!  It will be great to host the 20 budding preachers as together we begin to develop their gifts of proclamation.  I am already dreaming about how their ministry will strengthen congregations and presbyteries.  The Holy Spirit is already at work, bringing this future toward us!


This ministry has been funded by a $1.25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, which provides for four eighteen-month cycles in which participants will attend two annual conferences and spend time in zoom cohorts learning to preach.  By the end of the program, God willing, there will be more than 100 freshly-minted leaders ready to proclaim God’s Word.


At the conference, they’ll hear keynotes by Paul Roberts, the President of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary (JCSTS), and attend workshops on an overview of the Bible, basics of Reformed Theology, story-telling, exegesis (digging into a scripture for preaching), and public speaking.  They’ll worship together every day, and on Sunday 6/9 at First Church in Alma (Lake Huron Presbytery) when President Roberts will preach. 


Of course, a ministry like this thrives with lots of contributions by lots of people.  Participants will be guided by cohort mentors Nancy Dederer (Scioto Valley Presbytery), Christina Jensen (Lake Huron Presbytery), Derrick McQueen (JCSTS), and Jeff Schooley (Maumee Valley Presbytery).  Chaplain Alissa Davis and students from Alma will lead worship, and Michelle Olson (Lake Michigan Presbytery) will provide a pastoral presence.


I’m most grateful, however, to the Director of the Initiative, Matt Aragon-Bruce, and its Administrator, Heather Johnston.  The two of them began working part-time on this initiative in January, but the workload of late has been much more than part-time.  They have met every challenge with a smile! Our mantra has been, “Just wait until next year when we have more time to put this together!” 


The next cycle will begin in June of 2025.  If you’re interested in taking part, or have someone to recommend, please contact Matt ( or Heather (  Meanwhile, please pray that the conference exceeds all of our expectations by God’s grace!


Your partner in ministry,


(Signed) Chip       


Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD  



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