A Shared Ministry experience like no other

A one-of-a-kind internship in the rural area of Brokenhead, Manitoba is opening up the opportunity for nine congregations to participate jointly in a creative relationship.
Supervising the internship is Rev. Richard Engel who oversees services and pastoral duties at six different congregations within the Brokenhead area, consisting of congregations from Lac Du Bonnet, Ostenfeld, Pinawa, Whitemouth, Lydiatt and River Hills. Three other congregations from Green Bay, Thalberg and Beausejour complete the nine that jointly sponsored the internship.

This shared ministry program has been operating since May of 2017. Three months after its humble beginnings, Intern Pastor Jeremy Langner was welcomed to the Brokenhead area and has since been serving alongside Rev. Engel.

“A typical internship usually only has one supervisor and one congregation,” Engel says. “What we have here is anything but typical.”

As complicated as it may sound, this Manitoban pastor/intern duo has been rather successful in the early stages within this recently developed shared ministry.

“The overall goal of this internship is to have an intern who is fully functioning as a pastor by the end of the training period,” Engel says. “In the beginning, Intern Pastor Jeremy was my shadow, and we did everything together. We then began a period of transition… now he goes to one two-point parish to preach while I go to another on Sundays as the congregations really begin to experience the ‘shared ministry concept.’”

“The ‘shared’ word in shared ministry is something that I have discerned and taken very seriously,” Engel continues. “How do we share together while doing ministry? The pastor isn’t in charge of everything, rather we are in charge of this all together, and we are going to work at this together.”

For Intern Pastor Jeremy Langner, the chance to be able to serve and learn in this very unique shared ministry partnership has been fundamental in his growth as an emerging leader within the ELCIC.

“In Manitoba, pastoral internships don’t really come up all that often,” the 34-year-old says. “I am originally from Winnipeg, so having the chance to learn about the challenges and dynamics from rural congregations in my home province has been an incredible opportunity for me. I am not just in one particular place/congregation, but I am learning from each of these sites – something I really appreciate.”

Not only is the internship a unique partnership, but so is the funding that is supporting this new initiative. Financial support is coming from all expressions for the ELCIC. The ELCIC’s National Office Church Extension and Capital Fund (CECF), synodical funds from Acts of the MNO and local funds from the participating congregations help make this initiative possible.

“Having that assistance in supporting me as an intern has been critical,” Langner adds. “It has provided the internship site and in-part, has made my seminary education possible. If I wouldn’t have found this opportunity in my home province, and had been forced to relocate the family, it certainly would have been a very different outcome. So national funding for this is really critical for training leaders in theological education; I am really thankful for it.”

Rev. Richard Engel also echoed his intern’s thoughts on CECF funding.

“Funding from such things as the CECF has been integral to this internship,” he reflects. “Without the CECF, we would not have been able to do this internship.”

While every relationship experiences a few bumps in the road, Engel says the experience has been very exciting. “When I look back from where we were in May to where we are now, there has been significant progress. Much like our liturgical readings from a few weeks ago, in which Jesus was out in the wilderness, that is certainly how we all felt in May. We had been cast out into the wilderness, but it is no longer a wilderness anymore.”