A New Vision for Pastoral Leadership at FPCY

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The Session has unanimously voted to propose a change in pastoral leadership at First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown. The details of this proposal were presented to the congregation at Sunday’s special meeting. For the benefit of those who could not be present we would like to share that information.

The process of this change began in January at the Session’s annual retreat. Laurie Ferguson, a minister and former pastor facilitated our journey through most of the weekend. One of the sessions involved having us examine the changes our congregation has gone through in last 10 to 15 years. We developed a timeline of our milestones, the ebb and flow, our highs and lows, good things and not-so-good things as we traveled through our pastoral history. Sometimes to look forward, it’s a good idea to look backward.

It became clear that since Chip’s arrival we have been moving in an upward direction in many areas: technology, commission work, and mission outreach. Making Tami Parish Associate played a part in the surge along with membership increases and pledging support.

All of which seems fine, doesn’t it? But with Chip giving 100% (or more) of his time and effort and Tami giving more than the hours in her terms of call, we were concerned about pastoral burnout, or worse. At the very least, there was no room for growth, and we worried about becoming stagnant.

So we had to face the big question: What is going to help FPCY move forward with vision and faith toward greater engagement and growth in our ministry and mission?

We decided to explore a change in our pastoral model. Instead of having a Pastor and Parish Associate, maybe we could have two pastors. And with neither being the senior pastor, maybe we could have co-pastors, sharing the pastoral responsibilities equally.

Over the following 5 months we conducted research, and met or spoke to several people who were familiar with a co-pastor model, some of who were in our own Presbytery, such as the Rye Presbyterian Church. We found that while not a common model, congregations that were using it were very happy with it and felt it benefited them. Then we examined whether and how it would work for us.

We developed a rough framework, which would look like this: we would have two, ¾ time co-pastors, with equal terms of call, equally sharing the public roles: preaching, worship leadership, pastoral care (weddings/funerals/baptisms) and moderating the Session. The other areas of our ministry would be equally staffed by the co-pastors with a matrix of duties to be decided upon by the Session and the co-pastors.

By doing this neither pastor’s time would be saturated, as it is now, and would allow us to expand our commission and mission work, provide greater community outreach and better meet the needs of our congregation.

We are truly blessed to have the quality people that we have in Chip and Tami and would like to use them as fully as possible without overloading either of them. We believe the co-pastor model we are proposing will do that. We would like every member of the congregation to learn more about our proposal so we will be having continued conversations after each worship service over the next few weeks. The schedule is as follows:

Sunday, September 28 @ 11:15 am (after special 10:00 am worship service)
Sunday, October 5 @ 9:30 am & 12 noon (after both worship services)
Sunday, October 12 @ 9:30 am & 12 noon (after both worship services)

If you have any questions, please contact any member of the Co-Pastor Task Force:
Gordon Braudaway – (914) 245-6646
Bruce Johnson – (845) 528-4000
Eugene McGrath – (914) 528-3501

A special meeting of the Congregation will be held in the Sanctuary on Sunday, October 19, 2014, at 9:30 am (changed time) to review and discuss the co-pastor model, and to vote on creating the positions and approving the Terms of Call, if the way be clear.

To enable Church School teachers to attend the meeting, Church School will be led by Chip and Tami this day.

Here is additional information on the co-pastor model and how it would work at FPCY.

(Bruce Johnson’s comments at the Congregational Meeting on September 21, 2014)