January 12, 2023 | by JB Brayfindley
“It is amazing to be able to take courses from people who have been clergy, have Ph. Ds, are seminary instructors, and in one case was an active Bishop!” states part-time local pastor Tara Macy serving Shasta Lake’s Community UMC. “The quality of the instruction has been personally and professionally beneficial, and the fellowship among other Licensed Local Pastors has created a great support system.”
After scheduling challenges due to Covid-19, The Western Jurisdiction Course of Study (WJ COS) is moving forward with a continuation of coursework for Licensed Local Pastors (LLP). The 2023 schedule is available online at localpastors.org.
The series of twice weekly classes extend four weeks. The first session is from January 31 to February 23, registration closed January 4. The second session is from April 25 to May 18, with registration closing on March 29. Summer session is July 11- 28 with registration ending June 14. Fall session begins October 3. The Winter, Spring and Fall sessions are all on Zoom. The summer session is a Hybrid session of Zoom and in-person classes for a week at a location yet to be determined.
“I’ve worked with the Western Jurisdiction Course of Study for over 25 years. The Local Pastor program offers a particular gift and blessing to our denomination,” states Rev. Dr. Faith J. Conklin, director of the Course of Study program. “It’s needed more than ever in these changing and challenging times. The Local Pastors I’ve worked with are passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic individuals. They bring a love for Christ, for the church and for the human community. It’s a privilege to be able to provide this education for their ministry.”
Course of Study (COS) is a 5 year program of 20 classes required as continuing education for the licensed local pastors. “It is an alternative to seminary work but consists of many of the same classes with the same texts, even taught by some of the same professors, with a slightly lighter workload,” states Macy. Online courses through the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM) are also available.
Each class supports some avenue of pastoral role, including leadership, personal development, theology, and biblical studies which influence the LLP’s preaching life. Enrollment directly impacts class offerings for each session. Registration deadlines assure that a minimum of 5 students are enrolled before a class is offered. Wide participation of local pastors in the program ensures a complete offering of curriculum each session for all students.
Licensed Local Pastor Cohorts, a strength of the COS experience, have been disrupted by the pandemic during the last few years. “Yet the silver-lining has been that we have developed new and expanded connections,” states Macy noting the new online format provides interaction with a wider variety of colleagues. “Connections span not just our conference but the jurisdiction!” Students can develop close friendships and confidential support with other LLPs as they all navigate the challenges of pastoring.
Although retired, Local Pastor Betty Weiser continues to take coursework to finish her program because “I think that there is such great value to those classes—it is much more than just education…the building of camaraderie, the cohorts of friendship that are developed and the extension of knowledge… things I think are really important.”
“The classwork, in addition to being mandatory for every licensed local pastor, is incredibly rewarding,” states Macy. “We of the WJ COS strongly encourage all of you who have not completed coursework to look at this year’s offerings and sign up as soon as possible. You will benefit personally, and your church will benefit from your education, while you build relationships with your colleagues.”