The BTS Center Announces Plans for Lay Ministry Program Initiative

Mission Successor to Bangor Theological Seminary will collaborate with Countryside Community Church and Darkwood Brew to create new lay ministry program.

The BTS Center has entered into a new lay ministry development project in partnership with Omaha, Nebraska based Countryside Community Church, producers of the groundbreaking interactive web-TV program and virtual spiritual gathering place, Darkwood Brew. Through this collaboration and future programs, The BTS Center will offer innovative alternatives to traditional degree-based theological education.

“One of our goals is to re-imagine lay ministry and leadership training for 21st Century faith communities. This collaboration with Countryside Community Church will help us accomplish that goal,” said Grove-Markwood. “We are confident that the fruit of this collaboration will be a valuable resource for both clergy and laity. This fresh, new program will help laity gain awareness of their secular vocations as ministry. It will also be a sound resource for pastors looking for a program to enhance the spiritual lives of the people in their congregations and surrounding communities, and to nurture potential lay leadership for 21st Century ministry. As we work to realize these outcomes, we will honor the pioneering past of Bangor Theological Seminary, even as we chart our own future course for equipping and supporting the leaders of today’s faith communities.”

The Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes is the Senior Minister of Countryside Community Church, a United Church of Christ congregation. He is also the host of Darkwood Brew. According to Dr. Elnes, “This partnership will help our members – and those of any church – recognize that their sense of calling in life is just as sacred and important as any minister’s calling, and should be taken just as seriously by the church. Their souls are attached to their work, not just their heads and hands. The program we are developing in collaboration with The BTS Center will help people find their sense of call and serve the world through it, operating on the front lines of culture and commerce where Jesus and justice are most needed, yet often most absent.”

“Eric Elnes and the collaborative team at Countryside have created an engaging platform to help people explore practices of faith that make sense for today,” said Dr. Grove-Markwood. “Darkwood Brew is creatively combining human and electronic resources to offer solid, theologically grounded, spiritually enriching experiences. We are excited to be able to work with them, as we develop this small group, lay ministry program to help laypersons articulate their unique sense of calling to ministry in their secular vocations, and perhaps claim their gifts for a leadership role in a faith community.”

An initial two-year pilot project is expected to start in the Fall of 2014 in selected faith communities (yet to be determined) in northern New England, Omaha, and on the West coast. More details about the development of the pilot program will be coming in early 2014.