In the Beginning
In light of the changing situation of many of Utica Presbytery's churches in the new century, it became apparent that there was a growing need for trained lay pastors. Some training was being done on an ad hoc basis, but then a special task force was set up to consider a more organized and intentional approach. In May 2005, the Rev. Sarah Sanderson-Doughty brought a report from that task force to the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM), which then voted to initiate a commissioned lay pastor (CLP) curriculum consisting of one foundational course and one continuing education course to be offered each year. In June 2005, the task force began to establish the Lay Academy. It formed a planning committee, which met for the first time in September 2006 with the Rev. Sanderson-Doughty, Rev. Lawrence Bartel, Rev. Robert Umidi, Rev Naomi Kelly, and Elder Harry Young as members. This committee adopted a mission statement, drew up job descriptions for the co-deans, and made provision for a steering committee. At that time, the Revs. Sanderson-Doughty and Bartel served as co-deans. In 2008, the Rev. Naomi Kelly became a co-dean in place of Sanderson-Doughty.
The mission of the Lay Academy is to:
The Lay Academy Today
Currently Rev. Bartel is the co-dean for communication and Rev. Naomi Kelly is the co-dean for content. Rev. Bartel does all the publicity for the courses, communicates with the students enrolled and keeps records of those who have completed course work. Rev. Kelly outlines the course descriptions and finds teachers who then flesh out their course syllabus and makes arrangements for where and when the courses will be held.
Students of the Lay Academy are elders who are interested in preaching or in expanding their biblical, theological and/or Presbyterian knowledge. Some people just take courses because they are interested in more advanced study than they would get at a normal church study group.
For graduation a student must complete a year or Reformed Theology, a year of New Testament, a year of Old Testament plus intensive courses in Polity/Church History, Worship & Sacraments and Preaching. The courses are very similar to what is taught in seminary, there is much required reading, as well as research papers, and writing and preaching sermons.
When someone graduates from the Lay Academy it means that they have satisfactorily completed all the required course work and that their preaching and teaching has met with the approval of the Lay Academy Steering committee. The Lay Academy then recommends the person to the Committee on Ministry . Someone from the Lay Academy, a teach or one of the deans, writes the student a recommendation based on hearing a sermon preaching, and observing the student leading a worship service the Committee on Ministry reviews the recommendation and if they accept that they move the student to the pulpit supply list. The student is on an Authorized Lay Preacher (ALP). If there is a church that needs leadership and the Committee on Ministry determines that an certain ALP is a good match, the ALP becomes a Commissioned Lay Pastor (CLP). The CLP presents a statement of faith to the Presbytery and is urged to take a pastoral care course. The CLP can moderate the session of that particular church he/she is commissioned to as well as celebrate Holy Communion, conduct the Baptisms and perform weddings. The CLP is allowed to perform this functions only in the church they are commissioned to for as long as the commission lasts.
The Lay Academy Steering Committee