Ministry: New Pastor Stone Stresses Caring
"We need to care for each other as Christ cared for us," says the Rev. Roderick D. (Rod) Stone, who began recently as the pastor at Community Presbyterian Church in Pinehurst.
About his call to Pinehurst, Stone says, "I believe God is calling me to a new ministry, a ministry where I can bring together my experiences of leadership, preaching and care."
In Community Presbyterian, Stone says that he sees a "church that has built many caring relations. It has a good format. I want to build on that and be part of a caring community."
The churches that he has served during his ministry span the range from 300 to 10,000 members.
With the move to Pinehurst, will his approach to ministry change?
One to One
"I'll still do ministry the same way -- we need to relate one-to-one," he says. "We need to have a sense of who everybody is. I'm looking forward to investing in relations with the members."
Perhaps his need to relate to each member is influenced by his childhood days and the small church that his parents attended.
"I grew up in a 50-member country church," he says.
Stone grew up in Illinois, where his parents who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and continue to run the family farm, discovered in high school that he wanted to be a minister.
"I affirm the lordship of Christ in my life and in the church and the world," he says.
After receiving his bachelor's degree, Stone attended Princeton Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1986.
"In the 20 years since my ordination, the pastorate has give me unique opportunities to extend, receive and share the love of Christ," he says.
He began his ministry in Atlanta, first as an associate pastor for three years at Peachtree Presbyterian, which has 10,000 members. Then he was a chaplain at a county hospital before serving as an interim pastor in the Greater Atlanta region.
Pain and Joys
In the hospital he shared "with people in all their pains and joys, witnessing always to God's never failing presence," Stone says.
Later in Atlanta he served as pastor of Oglethorpe Presbyterian, a church of 300 members, for seven years before departing for Pennsylvania when he was called six years ago as associate pastor of First Presbyterian in Bethlehem, which has 2,500 members.
"It's a large church, a good place to do ministry," he says. There he has seen "the impact laity can have when they are equipped and empowered for ministry."
As Pastor for Care Ministry, he led 14 different care ministries involving more than 300 volunteers.
"It's a very extensive program. I want to bring the experience of facilitating that program to the Pinehurst area," Stone says.
One of the big draws to come to Pinehurst, he says, is the opportunity to "connect and built relations with church members and the community."
In addition to having extensive experience in pastoral care, Stone has completed postgraduate work in pastoral counseling and is a certified trainer, consultant and leader in many areas, including counseling, conflict management, Stephen Ministry and healthy congregations.
For example, Stone studied under Peter Steinke, nationally known for his systems approach for developing healthy congregations, and is a certificated trainer and facilitator for Healthy Congregation Workshops, which help church leaders become effective stewards of their congregation.
"The major goal of this workshop is to make leaders in the congregations the experts on maintaining and improving the church's health," he says. "As a trainer of this program I work with leaders to help them grow and maintain health within their congregation. As a congregation grows in health, it then will find greater resources to fulfill its mission."
As part of Stone's service to his denomination, he has led seminars on how to handle change in a congregation and how to be healthy as a congregation.
"I coordinated and led training for healthy congregations, a national program," he says. "I helped leaders develop healthy ways of creating initiatives. Leaders set the tone for a church, and the church rises to that level as it continues to grow in its ministry. Leaders need to develop a vision and hold to it even during changes."
Not only is handling change important for a congregation, it's necessary for a family moving several hundred miles.
No Room in the Inn
When Stone, his wife, Marsae, and their daughter, Christina, were looking for a house here, they couldn't have picked a more difficult time.
"We couldn't get a hotel room anywhere," he says.
The Stones arrived during the last week of July when the 2006 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship was being held in the Pinehurst area. The three-day tournament, which attracted 960 golfers from 47 states and 33 countries, made finding a place to stay more difficult than finding a house to buy.
"It was quite amazing that so many kids were playing in a golf tournament," he says. "This is a new adventure for me. I'd never been to the Sandhills before. I don't even play golf."
Leaving Bethlehem, Pa., will be hard for Stone and his family.
"We were there seven years," he says. "It's a lovely location. We'll miss the connection of the area with our country's history."
Moving From Bethlehem
The Stones had been living in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, which is about an hour away from Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York.
"It's the fastest growing area of Pennsylvania," he says.
Where he lived before, he was 17 miles and a 30-minute drive from the church --the move to the Sandhills should permit a more relaxed drive as well as provide many opportunities for Stone and his family to enjoy two of their hobbies: traveling and spending time outdoors.
At a congregational meeting in July, Community Presbyterian approved unanimously the recommendation to call Stone. When Don Urello, chair of the pastor nominating committee, mentioned key points about Stone's ministry, he added: "And he's coming from Bethlehem."
Ray Linville, an elder at Community Presbyterian, teaches English at Sandhills Community College.
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