Preparing for Real-World Ministry

The Rev. Scott White ’96President, Alumni Executive Committee

When I graduated from General Seminary in 1996 I felt fully prepared for the ministry that lay before me. I could not have asked for better preparation to lead the worship life of the congregation I had been called to, or more properly prepared to study the Scriptures in a way that led to preaching with intellectual integrity and spiritual conviction.

Yet what I was not prepared for was the sheer weight of everyday parish ministry. I had been raised from birth in the life of the church, had served on a Vestry and had even been a member of a search committee; yet the full dynamic of leadership as a priest was a whole new ball of wax. Within the first 12 months of my new ministry, there was the suicide of a dear member, the flooding of the parish day school, and then the sudden departure of the person I worked for, which led to a leadership role for me, altogether unexpectedly. The expectations that came with preaching week in and week out, the juggling of difficult and, frankly, dysfunctional personalities, the analysis of financial reports never before seen by my eyes, and a whole host of other expectations I had never considered were ever present, all as I sought to build my own personal life, outside of my parish, in a city I had never even heard of until I moved there.

I have always believed that there had to be a way to include a deeper experience of everyday ordained ministry – beyond Field Education – in the course of seminary formation, a process that included a support structure and a healthy way to process both failure and success.

This is why I am excited about The Way of Wisdom. Arranging the seminary experience in such a way that the student has the opportunity to enter real-life parish ministry as a part of seminary formation is an arrangement that is long overdue, and an answered prayer for many of us. General Seminary’s new initiative to immerse Senior seminarians in congregational life will give students an opportunity for learning that integrates the classroom with the nave in ways that will only lead to healthier ministries all around.

I am ever thankful for the band of priests and friends who shepherded me in my first years of ministry and overjoyed to know that the incoming students of GTS will have the opportunity of which I have only dreamed.

This article originally appeared in GTS News Quarterly, Summer 2014, The Way of Wisdom issue. To read all articles from General Seminary about The Way of Wisdom, go to www.gts.edu/wisdom.