The President’s August Newsletter

In emergencies, churches develop skills they will use to design innovative ministries. In the pandemic, ministers have reacted to crises. The pressures of the last 18 months have forced them to leave behind old habits and move bravely into a renewed dependence on the Spirit’s work. The Israelites discovered something similar on their way out of Egypt. Their reliance on God during the “plagues” prepared them for a life with God’s presence in the wilderness.[i]

We are and will be in the wilderness as a church for the foreseeable future. This stage is a place of hope, not despair. What we learned and developed during quarantine is now shaping the church’s ministries today. On Scot McKnight’s blog and reposted on our seminary blog, Northern students and alumni show us how to lead the church and engage their world with God’s presence in seven ways.[ii]



Wednesday, August 18, 2021
11:00 a.m. to 4:30pm

Presented live via Zoom

The Faith Leaders Symposium will be a cutting edge presentation on three topics that impact how we do ministry in urban and suburban contexts.

This symposium will ignite, inspire, and inform Faith Leaders to higher levels of ministry involvement and deeper depths of ministry effectiveness.

Public offering will be received to support  the Urban Leadership program at Northern Seminary.




Scholarship Puts Ministry in Action

Like many small-town and rural churches, First Baptist Church of Galesburg faces challenges with a declining population as manufacturing jobs have left the area. Yet this is where Eric Vogel has been called to begin his pastoral ministry. Eric has served as Pastor of Discipleship at First Baptist for two years. He’s been attending the church for nine years, however, since he came to Galesburg, Illinois, to study at Knox College. “It was one of the few churches that were within walking distance from campus!” he says.

Eric is also currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Northern Seminary. “While my home church had given me a solid base,” he says, “I knew I was lacking significant biblical and theological understanding that would help me to be an effective pastor.” He was encouraged by others to go on to seminary. “I had heard a lot of good things from some other pastors who had either attended Northern or were familiar with it,” says Eric. “When I saw the Partners in Ministry grant, I knew that I would have an option to attend seminary financially.”

Part of his experience at Northern that Eric appreciates is the live interaction with professors and other students. In other online learning programs he has done, interaction between class members was minimal. The communication in Northern classes, however, “makes the learning feel like an actual classroom.”



Doctor of ministry student perspectives on pastoring during the pandemic

Innovating in a Crisis

She always brought kids’ socks and stuffed animals to church. She crunched on ice cubes during the service like popcorn at the movies. She always sat in the third row of a 1,000-person auditorium, and every Sunday she piled those new packages of socks and toys around her, kindly giving them away to anyone interested.

When she wanted to greet the pastor, of course I could manage that. But only that, so long as we make it quick.


Transitioning in a Crisis

The book of Acts tells the story of an early church that was often in transition due to one crisis or another. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost led the first followers of Jesus to transition from a band of hurting people, unsure what on earth they would do now that Jesus had been taken up into heaven, to the kind of people who take the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. We might say that the Holy Spirit (being the most mischievous member of the Trinity) often led the church into crisis, forcing them to transition to new ways of ministry and to imagine new ways of being a community.


The Table in a Crisis

As images of the quarantined passengers and crew aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess filled our living room television in February 2020, I experienced a feeling of nebulous foreboding. I distinctly remember saying aloud to my family, “This is either going to be the most important story of the year or a minor piece of forgettable trivia.” Over the next several weeks we learned just how life altering COVID-19 really is. New vocabulary like Social distancing, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and live streaming infused themselves into our daily lives. The most vulnerable among us suffered exponentially more pain and chaos.





Your friend,
William D. Shiell
President and Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching, Northern Seminary


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