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The Presbytery of Wabash Valley Ministry Formation Program was created to meet the need for training Ruling Elders of the Wabash Valley Presbytery, Indiana.
The Presbytery needed an online program to accommodate the needs and schedules of ruling elders in a widespread geographic region.
A collaboration with the CLL led to a certificate course of study consisting of six online courses.
The Presbytery conducts in-person components to complete the certificate program.
Since partnering with Columbia in 2017, the presbytery has had 14 ministry leaders go through the formation program.
The interview below details the experiences of two program graduates: Richard Fair and Heather Casiano.
RF: Columbia’s educational program is very strong. I particularly appreciated the rigor of the classes. I have taken other online courses and sometimes it is hard to find the right balance between challenging and doable given it is taught remotely and there is a wide range of backgrounds in the class. Looking back, CTS found the right mix, in particular with adding the special project piece. For example, I was able to complete a personal statement of faith with supervision by a very capable, Ph.D. trained instructor that served me well as I just submitted said statement of faith to my presbytery for a pulpit supply application. It went through with flying colors and it all started with the CTS class.
HC: Overall, I enjoyed participating and being a student in this program between the Presbytery of Wabash Valley and CTS/Lifelong Learning. It was beneficial to learn from such a variety of people who for the most part are actively working in the church at some level, in addition to teaching. Their experiences gave more than a “classroom” approach to concepts and topics. I also appreciated the fact that the online classes were only about 6 weeks at a time, and were asynchronous so I could keep up with the classwork and reading no matter what my personal schedule looked like from week to week.
RF: I will be calling on the various courses and texts as I move into more active ministry. I have recently used the statement of faith developed during the reformed theology and confessions course, for example. I loved the course on the Psalms and am currently reading a Psalm a day to further enhance my knowledge and appreciation of that important book. So, it will be an ongoing process as my ministry deepens but the MFP program has been such a good start.
HC: My current vocation is with Christian Education and Faith Formation at a small suburban PCUSA church. Everything I learned – from history to theology to polity – is applicable in a variety of ways as I try to engage both the congregation and community in the life of faith. I am able to look at Biblical material and faith in different perspectives than I was before, which helps me when trying to plan and include a wide range of ages, stages and Biblical familiarity. Recently I have started doing some preaching as occasional pulpit supply, and the concepts and ideas we talked about in our classes ring in my mind as I prepare my sermons.
RF: My service to Wabash Valley Presbytery is greatly enhanced by our Ministry Formation Program and the classes we took at CTS. Not just the coursework but the projects that we had to complete, which provided opportunities to get to know other ministry leaders within the presbytery and prepare us for eventual service. I am so glad this program was created and feel it is very well led.
HC: I have been part of several presbyteries around the United States, and Wabash Valley is the first one that I’ve been a part of that offers this type of hybrid program for ministry formation of ruling elders. In most other presbyteries that I am aware of, either ministers of word of sacrament would teach the classes as they had time, or interested elders were given information about seminaries that offer their own courses for ruling elders and told to do it on their own. The program Wabash Valley has set up in collaboration with CTS offers the best of both – online courses through a great seminary, and in between those courses we met with local presbytery leaders for additional training and learning.
If you could tell an audience one thing about the Ministry Formation Program, that matters to you most, what would it be?
RF: The opportunity to get to know our presbytery leaders and others like me who are looking for a place to serve. It has been engaging, fun and most of all inspirational and I am so grateful for the program. Thanks to to Columbia Theological Seminary for being such a good partner and providing excellent educators. It has all been so positive and encouraging.
HC: The program, as presented initially, may sound overwhelming and daunting. I had a ton of questions as I considered signing up – cost, time, ability, etc. I’m working and raising kids and I had serious doubts about how I could keep up. The program is not at all as daunting as it seems up front — all the classes, costs, time, etc. get spread over about two years, and the people involved are so great in answering questions and making sure you feel successful. If you feel called to this type of ministry formation program for any reason, I would encourage you to go for it. Have faith, take that step forward, and enjoy the process.
This program is open to participants from other presbyteries and to those who want to take individual courses or enroll in the whole program. Learn more by contacting the presbytery office at 574-223-5678 or by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting https://ourpresbytery.org/leadership/ministry-formation-team/