Vicarage is a joyous, challenging, risky venture for student, pastor and congregation. There’s rejoicing over the growth of a man for the office of the ministry and the difference he makes in the life of a congregation. Yet, the development of needed relationships – and then letting them go at the end of the year – is demanding of everyone involved. And who knows how the year will go? We pray for the best and trust God’s care and guidance. But we also know our weaknesses and faults, and vicarage makes vicar, supervisor and people vulnerable to those human frailties. Still, we give thanks and praise to our great God for this opportunity.
The following formal definition of vicarage was offered during the accreditation process at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1993:
- Non-resident field education, referred to as vicarage in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, is a twelve month internship, normally occurring in the parish setting. As stipulated in Synodical bylaw 2.09c, this in-service education is required by all seminary students before graduation, ordinarily in the second year before graduation. Vicarage is, therefore, a mandated part of the seminary curriculum.
- The purpose of vicarage is to continue the theological training of the student by providing him supervised practical experience and opportunity to reflect upon that experience with a practicing pastor as mentor. Similar to internships at hospitals for future physicians, congregations thus provide a formative context for future pastors. At the same time, service is provided to the congregation in which the student is assigned. However, the primary objective is that vicarage be a learning experience for the student.
The years since that definition was written have only underscored the essential nature of vicarage. The vicarage year is educational first and foremost. But it also involves the student in the ministry of the congregation and, therefore, provides service to the people and pastor of the parish.
Yet a formal definition seldom captures the dynamic possibilities of what goes on in vicarage. So consider these aspects as a brief depiction of this year long experience.
For the Student: excitement, a break in the rigor of classroom studies, finally putting knowledge into practice day in and day out, opportunity to serve, scary first time activities, making a difference in the life of a congregation, being significantly formed for ministry by a mentor, growing in faith and love for the Savior and God’s people.
For the Pastor: energizing, the privilege of forming a man for the ministry, an opportunity to share the joys and fears of the office, thinking through what is done and why, keeping eyes open for additional learning experiences, demanding of time and energy, the satisfaction of seeing a man mature in pastoral identity and practice, growing in the knowledge and peace of God.
For the Congregation: edifying, vision turned outward toward Seminary and Synod, developing mission eyes, opportunity to love a future pastor, helping to shape a future pastor’s life and ministry, a time to express faith by opening hearts and lives to the student, receiving assistance in many more areas of the congregation’s life, growing in Christ’s forgiveness and hope.
Vicarage is a dynamic interaction of student, supervisor, seminary, and church, all growing in the grace of God, to further the personal, spiritual, pastoral and theological formation of a man for the office of the ministry. Risky? Yes! Challenging? Indeed! Joyous? Most definitely!