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4 Pastorates, One Congregation: Learnings of a Long-tenured Pastor


A guest post by Rev. Harry Heintz, special assistant to the dean at Northeastern Seminary


A year ago I completed a 38-year pastorate.  That’s not the longest one on record, but it is far longer than the average one.  People often congratulate me for staying such a long course. Then they ask me: “How did you do it?” 

iStock city church

My first response is that I didn’t do it by some grand design. Entering as solo pastor of Brunswick Church (Presbyterian Church, U. S. A.) right out of seminary, I knew that I wanted to stay long enough to learn a lot and to give a lot. I had resolved to stay beyond the five-year mark even though the first pastorate commonly lasted three to five years.

At about the seven-year mark I experienced some restlessness. This led me to write and circulate a new resume. Some interviews came, and went well, but they effectively served to confirm my calling to Brunswick. And as time passed I began to realize that I was moving through multiple, roughly-defined pastorates within a single pastorate.

The first pastorate culminated in the addition of a second Sunday morning worship gathering and a modest building project, both in the five to seven year period. These energized me and used some of my gifts that were otherwise underutilized. 

As that pastorate ended the second one was marked by the development of staff colleagues, both as associate pastors and niche ministry leaders (music, children’s nurture, youth, office, business, etc.). We added these one by one, often without funding in hand. A second building project added needed Christian education and community space, and toward the end of this pastorate we added a third worship gathering.

My third pastorate was marked by studying for a Doctor of Ministry degree. The class work, spread over half a decade, along with writing a dissertation on an aspect of preaching, sharpened my pastoring skills and affirmed my sense of the kind of pastor I had been and intended to continue being.

The final decade featured growing global outreach, our largest—and by far most challenging—building addition, and the planning for my retirement and a healthy transition for the church and for me. The administrative load had grown considerably and, frankly, tired me at times. I had to work to keep my visionary posture clear and prominent; I didn’t always succeed. In this fourth pastorate I found myself returning to some aspects of pastoral care that had dropped off in my second and third pastorate, and returning with greater joy than I had previously known in them.

A casual observer likely wouldn’t have noticed these pastorates, but those closest to me, chiefly my wife and my associate pastors, could see changes in me and in my work—four pastorates emerged, each lasting seven to 10 years, all while staying with one congregation that was also changing and experiencing different seasons.

In each pastorate, continuing education events, major conferences, and opportunities to serve beyond the parish enriched me and kept me fresh.  With thanks to the Lord of the Church, my long pastorate was filled with great joy and satisfaction and, for the most part, I think stayed fresh and vital.

How long have you been in ministry and have you seen pastorates like this emerge?

Harry Heintz Times Union article


Rev. Harry Heintz, retired pastor of the Brunswick Church in Troy, N.Y., serves as special assistant to the dean at Northeastern Seminary. 

Misconceptions About Clergy and Laity



A post by guest blogger, Todd Daningburg, adjunct professor at Northeastern Seminary.


stockvault high altitude121761On a recent flight back to Rochester, N.Y. from Los Angeles, in seat 45K—the window seat in the last row, the person in seat 45J was very nervous about the flight. At one point, she intended to get off the plane before we left the gate because the co-pilot was running late and she took that as a bad sign. With a five-hour flight and little to do to fill the time, besides watching the movie, "Cowboys vs. Aliens," we chatted about our lives. When she found out I was a pastor, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. She thought that might reduce the likelihood that we would have catastrophic problems with our flight.

Clearly, she elevated a person in ministry to a "higher plane" (pun intended) than other "ordinary" lay people. Somehow, she believed that my vocation put me in a privileged and protected relationship with the Almighty, which she would benefit from (along with all 245 people on board) because she was sitting next to me.

I share this to point out a common, but incorrect assumption, that clergy are somehow "closer to God" than other people, and that lay people do not carry the same weight when it comes to interacting with God. Such thinking fosters the notion that pastors are special and privileged when it comes to things divine and that lay people are not as capable of hearing from and serving God. The reality is, we all, clergy and laity alike, have "equal access" to God through Jesus Christ. We are all called to follow and serve Him. The Holy Spirit is given to all who accept Him as Savior and Lord. Understanding, proclaiming, and implementing the principle of the "priesthood of all believers" in the Church will foster greater fulfillment of God's Kingdom mission in the world today.

How might you harbor misconceptions about the roles of clergy and laity and their relationship to God?

Todd Daningburg
Adjunct professor
Northeastern Seminary


Learn more about enrolling in the Equipping the Laity class offered February 27 – March 26, 2012. 

Like Walking on Water: A Christmas Poem by a Seminary Graduate


A guest post by Thomas Worth, master of divinity and doctor of ministry graduate of Northeastern Seminary:

Like Walking on Water
By Thomas Worth
A Christmas Sermon for 2011 

ChristmastextLike walking on water He came to us
When the night was half spent
And the wind was against us.
When our best efforts could not move us any further…

Like walking on water He came to us,
In the impossibility of the Virgin,
In the wide eyes of her wonder,
In the humility of her trust.

Like walking on water He came to us:
In the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost,
In the brooding of the Spirit of God
Over the face of the waters of our humanity.

Like walking on water He came to us:
When from the mountainside of heaven
He saw that we were in trouble and toiling,
Toiling against sorrow and sin,
Against the chaos that would whelm over us.

Like walking on water He came to us:
On the fluid, turbulent upheaval of our condition—
Neither hovering above it nor sinking beneath it,
But in contact with the troubled sea of our humanity,
Touched with the feeling of our weaknesses and infirmities.

Like walking on water He came to us:
Solid and real, not a ghost, but Incarnate,
He took hold of the gunwales of our nature with his bare hands
And hoisted Himself into the same boat we are in.

Like walking on the water He came to us,
In the familiar miracle, the startling humility of his birth,
Displaying who He really is and helping us remember
From the heart what we had failed to understand.

Like walking on the water He came to us,
Born to Mary and Joseph long ago
Born our Savior, Christ the Lord,
Coming to us in the fourth watch of the night
And saying, “Take heart! It is I! Do not be afraid!”

Tom Worth, D.Min. 07, M.Div. 03
Community Covenant Church
Manlius, N.Y. 

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