On April 30, 2022, a decadelong goal came to fruition as graduates from 2021 and 2022 celebrated the completion of their Course of Study (COS) Program from the Indiana Course of Study Extension School. 

These graduates are Local Pastors. They have sensed God’s call on their lives and followed the Spirit into ministry to the local churchbut not necessarily to ordination. They are ministers appointed to preach, provide spiritual leadership, and administer the sacraments within a particular congregation. Local pastors are often called to pastoral ministry from other careers, bringing a wealth of skills and experience from other professions that bless their communities.

Graduates from 2021 included Erich Blevins, Charlotte Barden, Curtis Bond, Larry Chrisman, Kalvin Morrison, Mike Settles, and Maureen Walby. 2022 graduates were Catherine Allison, Carolyn DeWitt, and Randy Owens.

When local pastors complete the License to Preach School, they are enrolled in COS, a program of 20 courses that covers theology, church history, worship and preaching, mission and evangelism, and administration. It takes between 8-12 years to complete.

For graduate Carolyn DeWitt, senior pastor of Russiaville UMC, the courses were particularly generative because of the community of learning. She said, “Being with other people who were studying, being able to share with them and learn from them, as well as the material and professors, was particularly helpful.”

In agreement, Mike Settles, senior pastor of Granger Good Shepherd UMC and Mishawaka Willow Creek UMC, said, “Far from being mere busy-work so as to justify continuing license requirements, these classes provide a grounding in knowledge of Bible, theology, and ministry to help give the pastor a sense of confidence in their congregations and ministries.”

A highlight of COS for Randy Owens, senior pastor of Johnson Memorial UMC, was COS 422, “Theological Heritage of the Wesleyan Movement,” where he learned about John Wesley’s argument against predestination and Wesley’s Holy Living Theology. He says, “Course of Study provided me with an abundance of useful information and taught me how to do exegesis, which I treasure.”

The Course of Study graduation spoke words of blessing and affirmation over the graduates from Rev. Britt Leslie, Director of Local Pastor Education, Rev. Shannon Stringer, Director of Leadership Development, and Rev. Jeff Smith, senior pastor of Leo UMC.

Graduates received this blessing at the close of the graduation service, “May you have the commitment and grace to go into the world being led by the Great Spirit of Hope and Imagination and Truth. May you share your gifts and achievements so that all may know the transforming love of Christ.”

For their faithfulness over the many years both to their studies and their communities of faith, the Indiana Conference gives thanks! Congratulations, COS Graduates!