A farewell

Posted Nov 18, 2016 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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By Lawrence Peers

"For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened." - Matthew 7:8

As the Pastoral Excellence Network concludes its work after almost four years, we have sometimes found ourselves using the expression “PEN is closing its doors.” As I’ve reflected on that phrase, I realized that it somehow doesn’t quite fit with my experience. 

Over these four years, our work has opened many doors for clergy across many faith traditions who, because of the training, resourcing, support and modest grants we have offered, have been able to be part of a clergy community of practice, work with a mentor or clergy coach, or experience a pastoral residency. 

We had no idea when we began this work how significant the response would be as we brought the wisdom that was honed in the prior Sustaining Pastoral Excellence (SPE) and Transition into Ministry (TiM) programs to a much broader range of religious organizations. We built upon that work, providing only modest grants, as one organization after another gave their financial resources and talents to extend this work in their own settings.

Those doors will continue to open for clergy as congregations, clergy, regional and national denominational organizations, seminaries and others we’ve collaborated with over these four years continue to live out the mission that has guided our work: 

“Dedicated to strengthening and sustaining excellent pastoral leaders for a lifetime of creative and effective service to the church.”

During the ten years that I was a senior consultant with the Alban Institute, one of my most treasured projects was to work with the Pastoral Excellence Program of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. As part of that work, I met Susan Dickerman who was the coordinator of this SPE project. Sue had a favorite phrase when confronting what seemed to others an insurmountable obstacle: “Not a problem.” When PEN launched, Sue was to be a director. However, she became ill and passed away before she could take on this role.  As we began the work of the Pastoral Excellence Network, I asked that we get buttons made with that phrase, “Not a problem.” We’ve occasionally given out those buttons at our PEN trainings. 

As I mentioned in a recent PEN Talk, “Transitions: Embracing the in-between,” organizations, individuals and even countries go through important transitions that can seem insurmountable, but often provide time for deeper reflection, redirection and renewal. 

I feel fortunate to have worked with some wonderful people across the religious landscape in this work with PEN. I am deeply thankful to have worked with Willie Sordillo, an amazingly talented person who tirelessly offered his organizational, editorial and administrative talents to PEN’s work and whose worship music-making outside of PEN stirs the spirit. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to bring to PEN the extensive work that I had previously done in clergy support and professional development and offer it through PEN trainings, webinars and resources. Since this work has so defined my ministry for some decades now, I know that it will continue to be part of who I am and what I will be doing in my ministry going forward.

Please stay in touch,

Lawrence Peers


Lawrence Peers, Director of Learning of the Pastoral Excellence Network (PEN), trains clergy group facilitators, new clergy mentors, and clergy coaches. He brings a broad experience of working with clergy across many faith traditions and in every season of ministry. 

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact wsordillo@cts.edu.

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