By Rev. Lisa Garvin
The Residents in Ministry (RIM) program of the Mississippi Conference is an opportunity for persons in their first years of ministry to build collegial relationships, share their journey with peers and mentors and to continue to be formed as disciples of Jesus Christ and ministers of the gospel. So, it’s not really a program; it’s a way of life, particularly for those in the first three years of ministry, which shapes our life into the future.
In 2009 there is good news for the Mississippi Conference and for our residents in ministry. First, those who have been commissioned to do ministry will no longer be called “probationers.” (General Conference does good work!) Those persons will be provisional members of the Annual Conference and in Mississippi we’ll simply call you “residents.” Residency is the period of time during which, under the supervision of a district superintendent and with the companionship of a mentor and peers, new clergypersons will practice the work to which they are called and for which they have been trained. And they will continue to be formed in their vocation.
Second, we have more residents this year than we’ve ever had before! Fifty-three Residents are in ministry around our Conference. They are diverse in age, ethnicity, gender and gifts. They serve large churches, new churches and social service agencies. They are shining Christ’s light from the sandy beaches to the hills and everywhere in between.
As is the case for all of us in ministry, these residents are learning something new every day. Residents in ministry are learning in peer groups, in their conversations with their clergy mentors and in formation seminars and other continuing education events. Yet, our greatest learning in ministry comes from the people with and for whom we serve in the local church – laypeople who call out the best that we have to offer. Laypeople shape and form our ministries through their criticism and their encouragement. They challenge us to be our very best — in good times and in bad.
In the coming weeks, lay on-site visitors will be worshipping in the congregations where residents are serving. They will participate in worship and they will be in conversations with laypersons in the church and with the resident. They are “teachers” (in a manner of speaking), but they are not there to “grade” the resident. Rather, they are there to observe the clergyperson “doing what they do” and to hear from those who are most personally impacted by their ministry. The lay on-site visitors will offer honest, constructive feedback to the resident that will help them grow in their effectiveness in ministry. Lay on-site visitors will challenge these residents while they support and affirm their ministry.
Lay on-site visitors are a gift of grace to our residents and to our churches. I give thanks for their commitment to the church and to the formation of new clergy leadership. There are too many of them to name here – at least 82 – but I invite you to join me in praying for them as they travel and share in holy conversations in the weeks ahead. May each of our lay on-site visitors be blessed to be a blessing, for they are indeed blessings to us all.
Lay On-Site Visits
Dates: Jan. 4, 7, 11, 18
A typical visit: 2-3 visitors per resident, worship, lunch, interviews with laypeople, interview with resident
Number of residents receiving visitors: 41
Number of churches receiving visitors: 40
Number of people who will participate in a visit this year: Approximately 300 (includes visitors, laypersons, pastors and residents)