Dick Harter: Saying "Yes" to Sustaining Pastoral Excellence

6/7/2011

Dick Harter is a man who puts his money where his mouth is.

A lifelong member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), Harter said that when Rev. John Thomas (former General Minister and President of the UCC) and Rev. Jim Antal (current Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC) shared their belief in the importance of leadership development within the United Church of Christ, “I said yes.” Harter continued, “John and Jim are two of the people for whom I have the greatest respect. When they said ‘this is what needs to be done,’ I wanted to support that initiative.”

Harter has been a member of the First Church in Cambridge, MA, for fifty years. A man for whom faith is deeply important, Harter has been involved in his own church and with the Massachusetts Conference, and has seen the Pastoral Excellence Program (PEP) develop from its beginnings more than ten years ago. “I’m impressed with what has happened over the years,” Harter said. “Communities of Practice for clergy, support for new church ministers, are programs that I have had a chance to observe, and I believe that they work and make a difference.” 
The Pastoral Excellence Program has been funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and now, to ensure the continuation of the program, the Massachusetts Conference has launched the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign. Dick Harter observed, “I believe that this program is extremely important, and I want to encourage others to support it.” 
Acting on that commitment, Dick and Gay Harter made a $200,000 commitment toward the campaign. The grant is designed to encourage the generosity of others. $50,000 of the grant was made directly to the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program. Another $75,000 is designated for matching large contributions of $25,000 or more. Another $75,000 is reserved for matching contributions of at least $1,000 or more. Harter said, “I’m quite confident [all of the matching funds] will be used, because several other large gifts have already come in, and support for the program is growing.” Dick and Gay Harter also gave $75,000 to the national setting of the UCC, earmarked for leadership development.
Dick Harter observed, “Churches are changing. No one knows what the future holds, but what we do know is that the continuation of the denomination requires communities of people of faith, who support each other and respond positively and affirmatively to God’s call in their lives. That’s what I’m responding to. I also feel that well trained, sophisticated leaders are a key to our future for this church. Those leaders come from seminaries, sometimes without a lot of experience. And the Pastoral Excellence Program is the best kind of program I know of, to continue that relationship and to give clergy what they need. 
Harter, who is a Trustee of the Chicago Theological Seminary, said, “As time goes on, I believe that more and more lay people will become involved in the Pastoral Excellence Program.” Looking ahead, Harter said that he would expect to see “churches that are healthier in 2016 than in 2011,” which would result from those churches having participated in PEP over the years. What else can the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign bring? “There are a lot of young clergy in Massachusetts who are finding their footing, growing into strong ministers, who might not have been in ministry without this program. Many young clergy leave the ministry…and this program will help to retain people in their 30’s and 40’s, doing very effective things.” It’s a future worth supporting, Harter believes; a future worth investing in.
To join other Massachusetts Conference churches by making a pledge of support, payable over three to five years, or to help encourage your church to take a special offering for this Campaign over each of the next five years and find out more about the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign, visit SPEEC.
You can also contact MACUCC Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development Andrew Gustafson: (508) 875-5233, ext.231 (email: gustafsona@macucc.org), or Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development Sue Dickerman: (508) 875-5233, ext.233 (email: sdickerman@macucc.org).


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