Shiloh Institute: A Taste of Ministry

Gregory E. Reynolds

Years ago, while we were together in Maine, Darryl Hart, John Muether, and I wondered aloud how we might promote ministry in the OPC among college students and seminarians. At the time, as I remember, there were more churches in need of a pastor than there were candidates. With the then newly inaugurated Timothy Conference seeking to attract high school young men, we thought that a conference for men during their preparation for ministry would perhaps be helpful.

That was 2007. After the Committee on Christian Education approved our proposal, the first OP Summer Institute was held at the Driftwood Inn on Bailey Island, Maine, in 2010. Since then, we have had between six and nine students each year—college seniors or seminary juniors or middlers—from as many as a dozen different seminaries and several colleges. A number have been accepted into OP internship programs. For example, in 2014 half of the yearlong internship applicants were alumni of the institute (eight of sixteen).

In 2011, the institute changed its venue to a less expensive, more accessible location, Camp Shiloh in Jefferson, New Hampshire, overlooking the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Proprietor Greg Gordon, a member of the PCA, has been a delightful host, radiating his love of the Lord and the Reformed church. He is a fabulous cook, and his mealtime tales of life in northern New England have lent an amusing dimension to our stay. Since the institute actually meets at the end of spring (not summer), and because Camp Shiloh has become a permanent home, we changed the name of the institute to OP Shiloh Institute (still OPSI).

Shiloh Institute is part of a broader strategy to reconnect the church with the ministerial training of its ministers. The Subcommittee on Ministerial Training of the Committee on Christian Education seeks to acculturate ministerial candidates in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church through a variety of initiatives, such as the Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC and denominationally subsidized internships. Similar to the successful Timothy Conference (though with an older age-group in view), the Shiloh Institute offers a taste of ministry in the OPC through an intensive time of reflection and conversation.

Because the institute is a ministry, the CCE has generously provided stipends to students to cover room and board, as well as subsidizing their travel expenses.

Young men in their senior year of college and in the first two years of seminary are eligible to attend. Applications must be submitted by April 15 of each year. Besides general student information, the application requires an essay describing the applicant’s understanding of the nature of Presbyterianism and his personal commitment to be an Orthodox Presbyterian minister. The quality of these essays over the years has been very high and thus encouraging to the instructors. Also, a reference from the pastor or an elder of the applicant’s church is required in order to explain why the applicant is being recommended to attend the Shiloh Institute, including details that might bear on his candidacy.

In preparation for the intensive, three-day stay, a list of readings is distributed in order to assist participants in preparation for the seminar. Lectures, discussion, and informal conversation give students time for reflection on the material presented. The institute offers discussion on such topics as:

  • The OPC: continuity with Reformed tradition and distinguishing characteristics
  • The centrality, nature, and benefits of being a confessional church
  • The importance of the means of grace in the church’s mission
  • The meaning of a culturally aware pilgrim church
  • The work of a minister of the Word in an organized church and in a mission work

Two pastors and two ruling elders bring to the institute a deep commitment to the Lord and his church, along with decades of experience in ministry. Typically, each three-day program begins with a presentation by Darryl Hart, who is an elder at Hillsdale OPC in Hillsdale, Michigan, and a history professor at Hillsdale College. His message locates the OPC among the many churches and traditions that comprise international Calvinism. Then John Muether, an elder at Reformation OPC in Oviedo, Florida, and the OPC’s denominational historian, outlines episodes and individuals in the church’s founding and early years that have given shape to OPC identity. Greg Reynolds, pastor of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Manchester, New Hampshire, and editor of Ordained Servant, reviews distinguishing characteristics of ministry in the OPC. And finally, Stephen Tracey, pastor of Lakeview OPC in Rockport, Maine, describes his experience as an “OPC immigrant” from Northern Ireland. A stimulating time of Q-and-A follows each talk, all of which is geared to young men who sense a call to pastoral ministry, but may be fairly unfamiliar with the OPC.

Each year students are surveyed in order to help the instructors continue to improve the program. In the responses to our survey, all of the instructors have been rated highly, and all the respondents have thought the reading was very appropriate. Although the facilities are modest, food, accommodations, and meeting space have continued to score well in student evaluations. Students especially appreciate the fellowship with new friends who may become lifelong colleagues in ministry. (Carefully scheduled free time enables games of horseshoes, bocce ball, and even cricket one year, thanks to a valiant effort by Pastor Tracey.) The institute was “definitely a very helpful supplement” to seminary, according to one student. Wrote another, “I wish I could go again.” Still others:

  • “A clear and concise introduction to what OPC ministry is.”
  • “I will be pushing it next year on all my friends, so they might learn about benefits of the OPC.”
  • “The sessions were well planned and the topics were relevant. The experience was a fantastic time of focus and fellowship.”

As we enter our seventh year, our prayer is that Shiloh Institute will continue to be used by the Lord of the church to gives prospective ministerial candidates a taste of ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

For more information, go online to www.opc.org/cce/Shiloh_Institute.html.


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