Dear Friends and Members of Albany Presbytery,
A “Required” Blessing
I wish to share with you all a blessing that is been a part of my life because of Albany Presbytery and the Synod of the Northeast. Rachel Mastin and I have just completed our third year of the Early Ministry Institute (EMI). This program is for those who are newly ordained and serving in the Synod of the Northeast. It is open to all presbyteries, but only some require it. Albany is one of those that require attendance, and I could not be more grateful for that requirement! If I am honest with myself, I know that I probably would not have gone if I hadn’t been “forced”, and the experience of EMI has been one of growth, blessings, connection, and fun.
What is EMI?
EMI is a three-year program which meets once a year in late April or early May at the Stony Point Center in Stony Point, NY. Some of the activities include workshops on both the practical nuts-and-bolts of ministry and innovative ways of doing church in the twenty-first century, experiencing different types of worship together, and a trip to NYC to see a Broadway show.
The main focus of the five days together, however, is the cohort groups. We’re with the same cohort for all three years, and we’re assigned two experienced mentors. We spent many hours together during each gathering sharing our stories, asking for advice, laughing, crying, hugging, and praying. We learned from each other, and we formed deep relationships that I expect (and hope!) to be lifelong. We prayed over each other in times of difficulty or discernment. We struggled together with difficult questions about ministry and how to live out God’s calling in our lives. It was a sacred time in which we helped equip each other for the work of ministry and being a pastor.
Another valuable aspect of the program is the space to rest, relax, and socialize. We played games, went on walks, had impromptu singing sessions, went out for ice cream, and laughed until our faces hurt. These friendships formed an invaluable support network for the first three years in ministry. Knowing there is a group of people praying for me was a great comfort in times of difficulty, and knowing that I have people I can go to with questions or to talk through a problem is a wonderful resource both now and in the years ahead. I am blessed and grateful to have experienced this program and glad for the role the presbytery played in getting me there.