Apply Now for the 2020 Contemplative Renewal Cohort

Are you looking for ways to be renewed in your pastoral work and sense of call? As you encounter the demands of ministry in a changing and challenging time, would you benefit from time away to deepen your spirit?

The Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal (ECCSR) hosts a two-year “Contemplative Renewal” for early and mid-career clergy. The cohort of 19 men and women will discover renewal through the rhythms of prayer, Benedictine spirituality and community at Holy Wisdom Monastery, an ecumenical monastery outside of Madison, WI.

Early and mid-career ordained pastors, currently serving half-time or more in a congregational setting, are invited to apply starting October 1, 2019 for the next cohort, to begin in July of 2020. Funded by a Thriving in Ministry Grant from the Lilly Endowment, this unique experience is available at no cost.

For more information:

Co-Director Rev. Jerry Buss (608) 836-1631 ext. 163 or Co-Director Rev. Nancy Enderle (608) 836-1631 ext. 114 or visit:

Clergy Leadership Group

The Samaritan Center of Southern Wisconsin, announces a Pastor Leadership Seminar for all area clergy. The Seminar’s goal is to improve leadership skills for today’s ministry. Clergy present case studies of challenging situations in their churches, which require their leadership. Participants then receive peer feedback for fresh perspectives. Some readings, specifically focused on pastoral leadership will be discussed.

A Family Systems Theory Model will also be utilized. The agenda for the group includes case leadership presentation and book discussion along with other topics determined by the participants.

The leadership seminar will be led by Dan Feaster, executive director, and pastoral counselor and ASSIST provider of the Samaritan Counseling Center. Sessions will be held on Tuesdays once a month, from 11 AM -2 PM (working lunch) for a total of eight sessions. Leadership group will start October 22. Fee for the leadership group is $300.

Some possible topics might include:

  • How do I deal with difficult members?
  • What are some effective ways of resolving conflict without being victimized?
  • How do I continue to pastor when I am running out of energy or becoming discouraged?
  • How can I better accept my limitations as a person?
  • How do I deal with my emotions when ministering in tragic situations?
  • How do I develop cooperative leadership strategies with my co-pastor?
  • What do I do when I am leading but few are following?
  • How do I survive in a system, which is consuming me?
  • How do I retire from a vocation?

For more information or to register contact:
Dan Feaster
Phone: 608-663-0763 ext. 200
Samaritan Counseling Center

Pastoral Letter on Retired Pastors

A message from Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld:

October 16, 2018

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Dear Siblings in Christ:

I remember the day when I was ordained, a day filled with joy and humbleness for the calling I had received. It was the day that started a new season in my life. As I entered this challenging and rewarding way to live out my baptismal calling, the axiom was “30 years and out,” but I couldn’t imagine that I would ever want to retire. As I start this new call as your bishop, though beyond 30 years of service, I’m not looking to be out of this wonderous life of serving the people of God.

I imagine that pastors who are retiring, or retired, feel much the same. The challenge is how to graciously move into the new calling God has placed before you – a calling to live as a retired pastor. It is time to engage in ministry in a new way. It is a new season in your life of serving God. I’m certain you loved being a parish pastor engaging in a wide variety of ministries, from visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved, welcoming the stranger, teaching, preaching, administering, strategizing, and loving the people whom God had called you to love. Yet, you have now been called to a new season and a different way of serving, leaving the people that you have grown to love. I know this must be hard. I experienced that difficulty in leaving the congregation that I loved to take this new call as bishop. But leave we must – to every thing there is a season.

Our ELCA governing documents are clear: “A retired pastor should not remain a member of the congregation served at the time of retirement. Transferring one’s membership to another congregation allows the successor pastor to assume pastoral leadership more readily. It also provides an opportunity for the retired pastor to enter fully into the life of a different congregation with clarity about the pastor’s retired role.” (ELCA Roster Manual, p. 37) Our constitution clarifies that pastors are not to exercise any ministerial functions in congregations which they do not serve unless they are invited by the pastor or interim pastor. (SCSW Constitution, S14.19)

In my short time of service as the bishop of this synod, I have become aware that, while these provisions are widely understood, they are not widely embraced, and in too many cases, they are not being followed. Although I recognize that these
guidelines may be viewed as harsh and against the stated desire of many pastors and congregations, I am finding that whenever they are not followed, congregational life and vitality are hindered. My call is to be the synod’s pastor having primary responsibility for the ministries of Word and Sacrament and Word and Service in this synod and its congregations.

As my staff and I accompany congregations in transition, we will be including in our work the clear and firm expectation that retired pastors not retain their membership nor be involved in the congregations from which they retire. I know this is difficult. I know that it involves a painful separation from people we have come to know and love deeply, but I also know that this is a necessary step if our congregations are going to enter the next chapter of their life and ministry on healthy terms.

We will provide resources to assist our leaders (lay and clergy) with the transitions you face. My door is always open to you. I welcome your comments, questions and prayers as we seek to enter into a new commitment to assist congregations to enter into the next season of vitality and healthy ministry.

Blessings and Peace,

Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld
South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA

pdf of pastoral letter