In the fall of 2021, St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church was invited by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to be a pastoral residency site. Pastoral residencies have come about over the last generation or so as a way to give seminarians opportunities to learn and gain skills in supportive ministry environments before embarking on longer term calls and opportunities. Several studies have been done in recent years that discovered that a seminary graduate would last in ministry on average five years. Pastoral residencies have been successful in helping seminary graduates with strong gifts for ministry get extra opportunities for developing their skills in a supportive environment and fostering habits that will lead to faithful ministry over the long haul.

What is a Pastoral Residency?

This particular pastoral residency is a two year position for seminary graduates hosted by teaching churches in the region in connection with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Over the course of a pastoral residency, pastoral residents will have the opportunity to preach and lead various parts of worship, teach Sunday School classes, participate in pastoral care, all aspects of congregational life, and the ministry of administration, and learn the many dimensions of working on a pastoral staff. After an application process this fall and interviews with a pastoral residency committee (Catherine Edwards, Allison Thomas, Sarah Chancellor-Watson, and Chris Currie), a candidate was selected to serve as our pastoral resident beginning in June of 2023 and serving in that role through August of 2025.

Welcome, Ashley Brown!

Ashley is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a BA in International Studies and will graduate from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in May. Ashley grew up in Greenville, SC, was formed through the congregation at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and is under the care of Foothills Presbytery as a candidate for ministry. Ashley has written articles for the Presbyterian Outlook including a recent piece about her own grandmother’s struggle with dementia. She is excited to participate in the Aden program as well as work with youth, college age students, and SCAPC young adults. Here are her hopes for this pastoral residency: ‘I hope to explore all the elements of the church so that I can better understand what healthy ministry really looks like. I am curious about learning the ‘business’ side of the church (understanding realistic tithing expectations and working with the Session on understanding budgeting as well as church membership and attendance, working alongside staff, etc.).’

The Bottom Line

What about the costs? A generous donor made a gift to Austin Seminary to help fund two pastoral residencies each year to worthy graduating seniors who have gifts for ministry and for building up the future of the church. The seminary would help fund about 2/3 of the pastoral residency costs and the partner congregation helps fund the remaining costs. When this residency was proposed to the Session and Personnel Committee of SCAPC in the fall of 2021, a generous member of the congregation offered to underwrite the church’s costs, so this two-year pastoral residency will not impact our annual operating budget.

A Moment for Stewardship

I would like to take the opportunity to offer a moment for mission while I have your attention. This pastoral residency opportunity would not be possible without the vision and generosity of a donor to Austin Seminary who wanted to make sure the next generation of pastors get good training and opportunities for learning and developing their skills. The opportunity to enjoy an additional member of our ministry staff at SCAPC would not be possible without the generosity of members of this congregation who saw the promise of this opportunity and wanted to make sure it would come to fruition here and not be an extra financial burden on this congregation. Long ago I heard Presbyterian minister Tom Tewell say at a baptism that ‘the church is always one generation away from extinction.’ That is the way it has always been, except by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, new generations continue to be raised up to use their gifts and to participate in Christ’s mission in the world. Thanks be to God for those who have helped this pastoral residency come to pass, and thanks be to God as we welcome Ashley Brown as our pastoral resident.

Chris Currie, Senior Pastor