Saturday, October 8, 2016

Pastoral Excellence in the Adirondacks: An Interview with Pastor Sandra Spaulding

For her ministry in rural communities,
Pastor Sandra Spaulding (second from left)
received the Rosa O Hall Award in June 2015.
In my work around upstate New York, many churches are blessed by pastors who came into ministry through what are sometimes called "non-traditional" training.  Such language is becoming dated.  Certainly, one can seek their theological education and training through an accredited seminary.  I am one of those persons.  However, other pastors come through a variety of educational routes, and certainly, such pastors have been part of the story of Christianity since its beginning.  What some call a ministry training that is "non-traditional" has been traditional, except when we forget our history and refer to it as such.  Like many Protestants, American Baptists are blessed by persons who are called and seek learning in a variety of ways to serve Christ and the Church.  

I am pleased to introduce you to one of the finest pastors I work with.  Pastor Sandra Spaulding brings a great deal of wisdom, joy and compassion to her ministry work in the southern part of the Adirondacks in upstate New York. it was my pleasure to join the effort to nominate her for the Rosa O. Hall Award given by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies to recognize persons who make significant contributions to rural and small town ministry.  Pastor Spaulding was awarded this honor in June 2015 as part of the American Baptist Mission Summit and Biennial in Overland Park, Kansas.   

What follows is an interview about her ministry and how she came to hear the call to serve.  Pastor Sandra responded to my questions via email correspondence:

1)        You are a pastor of two rural churches in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.  How did you and the two congregations come to the decision to share a pastor?   What were early challenges in starting this up?  (Or, had the churches had any previous history of sharing clergy, and if so, how far back did this model start?)

I have been the pastor of Lakeville Baptist Church in Cossayuna since August of 1998.  This small church located in a hamlet of Greenwich, New York has employed part time, bi vocational, pastoral leadership for many years.  During the first ten years I served as pastor of this church I also held a full time position as an corporate manager for the Travelers and later as an Education Director of a local museum.  In 2006, the search committee of the Bottskill Baptist Church, located in the Village of Greenwich, approached me about serving as their ¾ time pastor in a shared relationship with Lakeville.  They had not previously shared pastoral leadership with another congregation but were ready to consider this idea.  After careful consideration and prayer I met with both churches to  explore this idea. The Lakeville congregation was very supportive of this idea after the initial worry about whether or not I would continue to serve as their pastor in the long term.     
The transition for these two churches went quite well from the start and after eight years together they are pretty much like family.  The challenges are as expected.  Scheduling special service times for both churches, deciding when and where to met together for some occasions and vacation coverage for my vacation times are the main challenges.  The churches are located 11.4 miles apart hold separate services each week.  Sometimes the churches hold separate special services and at other times they will meet together.   In the past two years, I have noticed many occasions where members of one church will attend service or bible study at the other church when it better fits their personal schedule.  This has been an exciting change for both churches.      

2) What does the average week in your ministry work look like?

 As the pastor of  the two churches my duties fall into three categories as detailed below.
  • Direct Ministry to the Churches 
  • Community Ministry and Outreach
  • American Baptist Ministry
Volunteers from both churches are also involved in various ministry projects.  At this time, all of the boards and committees of each church are separate and for most ministry projects within the scope of direct ministry they act independently.  Both churches are very active in Greenwich Interfaith projects and supportive of many other community ministry projects as well.  Representatives of both churches serve on the executive board of the Interfaith Fellowship.  (see projects below)   Both churches support ABC NYS projects as well.     
My 2016 Pastoral Focus:  
Direct Ministry to the Church
  • Planning and leading worship and special services at Bottskill and Lakeville Baptist Churches.  I also work with music leaders to prepare music selections.
  • Prayerful Research of scriptures and other sources to compose a weekly message and lead/plan study opportunities.
  • Leading, coordinating and/or participating in Bible Study at the churches to include regular studies, new member sessions, baptism classes, and special study opportunities.   
  • Participating in meetings as a non voting member of all boards and committees 
  • Serve as the Moderator of Lakeville Baptist Church 
  • Visitation to those unable to attend regular services to include hospital, nursing facility and home visits upon invitation.  
  • Serve as “on call” responder to congregational families and community members in crisis as requested. 
  • Plan and officiate Weddings, Funerals, Baby Dedications and Blessings, Home Blessings and other special services as invited.    
Community Ministry and Outreach   2016 Ministry Involvement   
  • Volunteer Coordinator ~ Greenwich/ Cosayuna, Comfort Food Community Pantry
  • Washington County Team Lead for the Suicide Postvention Team of the Coalition for the Prevention of Suicide to be launched in October 2016.  I will act as the point of contact for activation of the team. This team is designed to intervene and support families and communities in the event of a traumatic event such as suicide.  Training Completed:  Youth Mental Health First Aid, Adult Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Postvention Team training 
  • Member of the Executive Board of the Greenwich Interfaith Fellowship Inc. This group is the lead organization for Van Go, The Jim Patrick Ministry Fund ( to help those in emergency need) Food For Kids, School Supply  Giveaway, CROP WALK,  Eccumenical events and Special Services such as Baccalaureate, Thanksgiving and Good Friday Services, Jumpstart Jesus and much more.  I serve on the planning committees for Jesus Jumpstart and Food For Kids.    
  • Member of the of the core team in Washington County working on the Bridges Out of Poverty project.  We are working to establish ways to aid and education  families and individuals affected by generational poverty in our county. Attended Bridges Out of Poverty Training 
  • Member of volunteer clergy team at Washington Center in Argyle  I lead worship services at the center assisted by several volunteers from the Lakeville Baptist congregation six times each year.  
  • Volunteer for aftercare for Upstate Jail Ministries as needed.   Assist Women leaving Jail/prison with getting settled back into their community after incarceration.
  • Member of the Town of Greenwich Ethics Committee  
American Baptist Ministry 
  • Secretary of the Adirondack Association of American Baptist Churches NYS. 
  • Member of the Regional Enhancement Team of the Adirondack Association of ABC  NYS.  This team aids churches in our association with the pastoral search process during transition.
  • Member of ABC-NYS Board of Mission as a representative of the Adirondack Association of American Baptist Church NYS.  This is the governing body of the denominational region ABC NYS.
  • Member of the Biennial Planning Committee for the ABC NYS  November 2016 event to be held Liverpool, NY   
  • Member of  Nehemiah leadership Network This fellowship is committed to equipping pastors to be more effective change leaders.  Components to the 3-year NLN experience: Individualized learning plan, mentored colleague group's, annual conference learning event.  Each participant commits to a covenantal partnership between pastors, congregations, regions, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies and MMBB. NN graduates earn continuing education credits, and are certified by the Office of the General Secretary ABCUSA as having achieved a mark of pastoral excellence.  I will graduate in February 2017. 

3)        Who were the mentors who encouraged your call and helped you get into ministry?
Rev. Dr. Sheldon Hurst served as my pastor at Village Baptist Church in Fort Edward, New York.  He has been an incredible source of support and learning in my life and ministry.  He served as my mentor during my the entire certification process for the Lay Study program and as watch care during my first years in pastoral ministry at Lakeville Baptist. 
Rev. Kathleen Davie has been my friend, colleague and a mentor in ministry for me throughout the past 20 years.   We both took part in a collegue group funded by the Lilly foundation called “Women in Ministry Together” for many years.  Pastor Ila Smith, Rev. Regina Haag, Rev. Brooke Newell and Rev. Marcia Spain Bell were also part of this group and very important to my development in ministry. 

Rev. Dr, Hazel Roper was the driving factor in my leadership at Lakeville Baptist Church.  She is one great woman. 

Rev. Howard Washburn and his wife Amy have been incredible friends in ministry for me and Guy over these past 20 years.      

4)        What ministries are your churches engaged in and how has the community responded to your outreach and presence?

As you can see in the section above on Community Ministry, the churches are involved in a number of projects and lots of outreach programs.  Both churches are well know in the community as places where help can be found in need.  The Bottskill Church building also acts as a community center in many ways.  Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4 H, Dairy Bowl, a quilting club and some Greenwich School programs are among the groups that met in the building at no cost.  The Lakeville Baptist church has served as the only church in the hamlet since 1834 and is considered the community church.  

In 2017, the Bottskill Baptist Church will celebrate 250 years as a congregation as the church was established in 1767. We are going to open our church quarterly for unique activities and worship open to the public during a year of celebration.  We are in hope that these occasions will be a new way to get the community excited about our church as a worship center in new ways. 

5)        Any concluding thoughts to share?  

In the 21st century church I believe there is no one model of ministry and mission.  We are called to reflect love of Jesus to our unique community in ways that are needed in each specific situation. Working with two different churches IS DIFFERENT!  Each church and each community has unique people, problems, resources and skills.  I urge all of our ABC  NYS churches explore their unique gifts and ways to to find their God Blessed place in the larger community of faith.     

No comments:

Post a Comment