Conference Addresses Recent MDiv Graduates
Session topics range from stress and conflict to effecting change as a new pastor
“The responsibility of Fuller Seminary does not end when you graduate.” These were the words of Scott Cormode, Hugh De Pree Associate Professor of Leadership Development, in the opening session of a conference for recent MDiv graduates held at Fuller’s Pasadena campus on May 7 and 8. Entitled “Now What? The First Years After Seminary,” the conference was designed to address topics of special interest to MDiv graduates who are in their first five years out of seminary.
“Leadership begins with listening; until we listen, we can’t minister,” said Dr. Cormode. Fuller has been listening to its MDiv graduates through an extensive survey process recently, he explained, as part of a major research project into vocational pathways funded by the Lilly Foundation. “This conference is intended to address a number of the issues we heard about when people responded,” he said.
The conference began with Cameron Lee, professor of family studies, speaking on “Stress in Pastors’ Families,” a talk that was offered as part of a broader President’s Pastors’ Breakfast. Cormode followed with introductory comments on “Why this Conference?”—discussing Fuller’s research findings on the experiences of recent MDiv graduates, and future resources the seminary hopes to develop for its alumni/ae.
The second plenary session of the conference, on “The Minister and Sexuality,” was given by Richard Blackmon, a psychologist and leading expert on the mental health of pastors and their families. With the area of sexuality having surfaced as a particular challenge for those in ministry, Dr. Blackmon pointed out ways pastors can think carefully about this issue and navigate it successfully.
Ken Fong, senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, led the third plenary session, entitled “Unlikely, Unknown, Unsung Heroes.” How does one effect needed change in a church as a newer pastoral staff member? Rev. Dr. Fong, speaking from nearly three decades of pastoral experience, offered reflections on ways new pastors can thrive in difficult settings.
In addition to the plenary sessions, seminar options were offered both days of the conference: with Cecil M. Robeck Jr., professor of church history and ecumenics, on “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect”; Allison Ash, director of vocational discernment and career services, on “Vocational Discernment”; Wil Hernandez, spiritual formation adjunct professor at Fuller, on “Spiritual Life and Busyness”; and Erin Dufault-Hunter, assistant professor of Christian ethics, on “Conflict.”