Albany Synod Launches Fellowship Program
By Annie Reilly
It was a year in the making—arranging the details, figuring out the finances, recruiting participants, and pairing them with ministry sites. The Albany Synod Fellowship Program has finally come into being and, as of last fall, has begun.
The big dream of the Albany Synod Fellowship Program is to support recent seminary graduates as they transition into ministry. The program provides graduates with two years of housing, benefits, coaching, and a network in which to root their professional life. This is attractive to recent graduates because it gives them secure work and experience in an environment that encourages exploration and experimentation. When the fellows leave this two-year program, they will have robust résumés and incredible confidence as they continue service in God’s kingdom.
The fellowship program is also attractive to ministry sites. They get the fresh ideas and energy of a new seminary graduate and the synod’s help with compensating the position. They also get the benefit of an additional minister to share the pastoral responsibilities and to devote time to new ventures. These ministry sites get to come alongside the fellows in deep relationships of mutual support that move everyone toward flourishing together.
The program is a collaboration all around. It is funded by congregations, classes, and the regional synod, all working together and providing whatever financial support they’re able.
The program has been launched with three fellows: Mark Mares, Jennifer Legg, and Marcy Rudins. Mares is the fellow for youth and young adults, discipleship, and community ministry development for the Shared Ministry Churches in Montgomery Classis— Canajoharie Reformed Church, Sprakers Reformed Church, St. John’s Reformed Church in St. Johnsville, and Reformed Church of Fort Plain. Legg is the Schenectady Classis fellow, serving the Turning Point Churches—Fort Miller Reformed Church in Fort Edwards, and Bacon Hill Reformed Church and Old Saratoga Reformed Church in Schuylerville. Rudins serves Delmar Reformed Church in Albany Classis. All three are graduates of Western Theological Seminary and are serving in their first call as ministers of Word and sacrament.
If three fellows alone were starting their ministry in Albany Synod, there would not be a very large cohort for them to find support and collegiality. There is a great benefit to having a robust group of peers learning together from their early ministry experiences. This is why the Regional Synod of Albany Fellowship Program is excited to be partnering with the RCA’s First Call Initiative.
The First Call Initiative is spearheaded by Andy Bossardet, the RCA’s coordinator for equipping thriving congregations. Bossardet has traveled to Albany Synod on a number of occasions to meet with pastors who are entering their first calls and guide conversation, offer support, and provide educational opportunities. The RCA is investing real time and money into these new ministers, with direct benefit to communities in every classis of the synod. The result of this partnership between the Albany Synod Fellowship Program and the First Call Initiative has been the formation of a learning community of highly talented, young, and energetic ministers who commit themselves to transformational and missional ministry throughout the synod.
This is an exciting time in Albany Synod. Thank you for your support of this program and for your prayers for these new ministers. It takes all of us together to meet the challenges and triumphs of faithful witness today.
Annie Reilly is communication coordinator for the Regional Synod of Albany.