If you have been reading the Synod newsletter over the last few months, then you have likely read something about the Synod receiving a $1.25 million Lilly Grant to fund a new Initiative, Cultivating the Gift of Preaching (CGPI). As the newly appointed director of CGPI, I’m excited to tell you more about this new thing God is doing in our Synod.
The rationale for the Initiative is the fact that nearly all denominations across North America are facing a shortage of trained preachers and the PCUSA is no exception. In our Synod of some 650 churches, nearly 200 do not have an installed teaching elder or CRE and a majority of these churches are being served by individuals with no formal training in preaching, biblical interpretation, and theology. Our new Initiative aims to address this problem.
We seek to identify, train, and provide support for 140 lay preachers over the next five years from across the Synod. We will have four, 18-month programs; the first beginning this June and another each June until 2027. Participants will engage in cohort-based learning in which they will attend two annual conferences, video training from leading preachers and church leaders in biblical interpretation, theology, sermon writing and deliver, and the use of new media and technology.
These new preachers will be equipped to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ by serving in pulpit supply, filling in for sabbatical or medical leaves, or serving in a particular congregation on a regular basis.
We plan to have applications available by March 1st and they will be due on April 5th. For the first two years of the Initiative, we will solicit recommendations from presbytery leaders, asking each presbytery to recommend at least individuals to be part of the Initiative. We will also be seeking experienced preachers from across the Synod to serve as cohort mentors. We will soon have further information available on the Synod webpage.
The Initiative will begin June 5-9 with our first annual conference held at Alma College. The cost of the program is minimal: $250 to be paid by each participant and $1000 (paid in installments) by their sponsoring church or presbytery for the entirety of the 18-month program.
I have already begun reaching out to presbytery leaders and attending presbytery meetings. I ask that you please send us recommendations of individuals who may be called to preach and who desire to be well-trained in order to proclaim the Gospel faithfully. Moreover, I ask that you pray for God’s blessing and guidance as we begin this Initiative.
May God bless us all as we enter the Lenten Season,
Dr. Matthew J. Aragon Bruce