NWC Presbytery Commissioned Pastor Development Process
(Important note: Download and save this application to your computer BEFORE entering your information as it is NOT automatically sent to us through the form. Once complete, please return it as an email attachment to Janice Smith.)
For more information please contact Janice Smith, Pastoral Associate for Commissioned Pastors.
The Commissioned Pastor: Prepared for Service and Ready for Change
By Janice Smith
Since the 1500s, the Kirk has committed itself to providing congregations with an educated clergy. For most, that has meant traditional academic preparation within the seminary system, requiring at least four years of undergraduate work followed by 3 years in a Master of Divinity program. This preparation provided a strong academic background but it has become increasingly expensive and time consuming for many who may be called to serve but whose life circumstances have left them looking for a way to live out that call.
Additionally, smaller church attendance, increasing costs of goods and services, and ever larger student loans, has resulted in a shortage of clergy prepared to serve small churches that can no longer afford full-time pastors. New expressions of the church have also arisen requiring agile leadership prepared to serve in both ministry and secular circles.
Many denominations, including the PC-USA, have recognized the need for an alternative means of meeting the goal of having educated clergy available to all congregations and ministries. The Book of Order provides for imaginative and creative means to meet these two goals. Here in the Northwest Coast Presbytery, an innovative program has been developed and is being field-tested at this time.
Currently, there are six commissioned pastors serving congregations or ministries, one expected to be commissioned in October, and four candidates either enrolled currently or in the process of applying for the program. Some are bivocational, some semi retired but all are following God’s call to serve the Kingdom.
Let me introduce you to one of these intrepid men and women:
Kerrie Bauer was commissioned in June, 2019 to serve as Commissioned Pastor to Children and Families at First Presbyterian Church of Bellingham and as on-call chaplain for Peace Health: St Joseph Hospital, also in Bellingham. Like most of those in the commissioned pastor program, she comes to the ministry with great life experience and has committed herself to sharing that wisdom with others.
Kerrie grew up in the Seattle area and brings an understanding of the spiritual situation present in this area. She also brings something else to the table, a background in children’s ministry as her parents worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship. During Kerrie’s early years, her parents were the house parents for a boy’s home. As Kerrie said, she liked the energy of that ministry from the beginning.
After high school graduation, Kerrie attended Seattle Pacific University and was profoundly moved by the diverse Christian community she found there. Her Bible professor helped her see her faith as an invitation to a relationship, beyond “bounded control” revealing “the ways God works in the messiness of life.”
During the interview for this story, Kerrie explained her long-standing call leading to the commissioned pastor program. Having grown up in a situation where women were not encouraged to think about ministry, she none the less felt “both genders needed to be able to express their gifts.” All throughout her adult life, she looked for ways to prepare to minister. In between raising her two, now young adult daughters, serving as an elder and enjoying time with her husband Brett, Kerrie kept taking graduate classes toward a diploma in Christian Studies from Regent College in Vancouver. Reflecting on the opportunity to serve in pastoral ministry, she said, “being here is a wonder to me.”
Over and over again that sentiment has been expressed by those who have wondered about how to express their call to ministry professionally and personally in the face of what seemed like a continuing set of closed doors. Northwest Coast Presbytery has been privileged to begin to open those doors, allowing the Spirit of God to bless many through these remarkable commissioned pastors.