“Priceless”: One Priest’s Account of How TiM Training Equipped Her for Her First Parish

[Note: All personal names, geographic locations, and names of churches or other organizations in this article have been changed to protect the anonymity of study participants.]


Many Transition into Ministry (TiM) alumni report that the post-seminary training was critical to their personal development as clergy. That’s certainly the case for one priest currently serving in the Caribbean.

“If I did not do that Transition into Ministry program, I’d be either in a madhouse, doing something else completely with my time, or one frustrated human being. I use pretty much everything that I did in the Transition into Ministry program.” The Rev. Monica Pereira

When we asked participants in the Clergy Into Action Study what the greatest influence in shaping them and their ministry was, 40% said it was their active participation in some form of focused self-development after seminary and ordination.

St James Parish Church Barbados croppedAs a recently ordained priest, Pereira was sent by her bishop to St. Stephen’s Anglican Church. She was surprised at how little support she received from her diocese to help her make the transition:

“I feel very lost if I don’t have a framework, and the [TiM] program provided me with the framework that I needed because this diocese had no framework. It was going to a parish…. there was no mentorship, guidance. I mean, nothing structured or formal or none of that. It was you figure it out how you figure it out.”

Pereira had attended the First Three Years program, a pilot project at Virginia Theological Seminary, where she received her Master in Divinity degree. For their first three years in ordained ministry, she and other graduates returned to the campus each summer for content training, structured reflection, mentoring, and peer support.

She said the program equipped her with tools for managing administrative issues and her own self-care, as well as doing theological reflection and liturgical work. “[It] gave me something to think about in terms of how I would order myself and how I would organize my ministry, and understand the things that I was doing…. and that was priceless, priceless,” she explained.

She described how she tries to respond to difficult interactions with parishioners. “Rather than taking the thing personally … let’s pretend we’re in [TiM] again and really break that down into its component parts and find out okay, what was it that got you upset? What was going on theologically? And to be able to process through that in a way that allowed me to take away some learning from it rather than get bogged down in the mess of it….”

Spending time in the United States gave Pereira new insights into the culture of her home country. She began to recognize elements that were contributing to conflict within the church—an unspoken fondness for interpersonal drama, for example, and a tendency to triangulate instead of addressing problems directly.

Besides practical skills and techniques, she gained self-knowledge that has changed how she approaches relationships and her ministry:

“I also learned how absolutely passive-aggressive I was—could not deal with the conflict directly. I was either passive-aggressive or bitterly sarcastic as my way of dealing with conflicts …. When it was extreme, I would just shut down, right down, have nothing to say, could not speak … but I think since then I’ve really moved away from those things … If I’m prepared to listen to what’s happening, listen to myself, listen to everybody else, be aware of what’s going on inside of me, and pay attention to all of the issues, I am generally able to help people calm down, help people see things from each other’s perspectives, and facilitate a resolution that works for the majority of the people involved.”

Church-goers on Santa Lucia croppedThanks to her increased self-knowledge and know-how, Pereira has found she is more able to envision future challenges and feel prepared for them.

She and a colleague were recently joking about how, in their diocese, when the bishop sends clergy off to rural parishes, it’s perceived as a punishment.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘That would be very exciting for me, actually,’” Pereira recalled. “… I would welcome it. I mean, I actually began to envision what it could be like … and how I would just map it out. … it’s very poor communities that we are talking about, and I got very excited mapping everything.

“ I’m like— in the first six months I could tell you what I was going to do. Very clear in my head what is possible and very excited about it as well, and all of the training that is possible and how we could get people in the community involved … some of the churches need rebuilding and so how we could rebuild the churches because they are a bunch of young people in those communities who have no work, who have trades and my hoping is we will all build a church, even just go from village to village, and rebuild the churches one at a time. There are some people who will provide the food. The church will provide the material.… We will have a good time.”


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