One of the gifts of the Synod of Lincoln trails is the new pastor program offered to newly ordained pastors! The cohort program led by mentors meets twice a year for three years.

At the conclusion of the program, many groups choose to go on meeting to continue to relationships and supportive structure they found in the program.  This is one such group!  After three years, they decided to keep gathering once a year to connect, share resources, and support one another. Though they started with about 20 participants, they now have a core group of 7 that stay in the loop. (A few were unable to gather this year, but intend to return next year.)

Says Katrina Pekich-Bundy, “I always hold this group so dear to my heart because it is saved me in ministry. In my first year of ministry the community had a natural disaster rip apart the community. Many times I felt overwhelmed and considered leaving ministry. This group listened, supported me, and reminded me I wasn’t alone.”

Adam Malak added, “Amen to Katrina’s testimony. At first it was a bit cumbersome to travel out there, but over the 3 years of the official program, deep bonds and supporting resources were formed that are vital to my health and ministry today. All except for the development of a borderline unhealthy taste for Takis. Deep thanks and gratitude for the Synod’s generous support this year!”

Here is a brief interview with this year’s participants.

How has the synod’s support of this program influenced your ministry or your wholeness?

 One of the things I especially appreciated about this program was that it modeled rest and abundance in a way that we don’t often see in the teaching of ministry. So much space was made for rest, and we enjoyed such laughter-filled and delicious meals together. All of that felt like a message from the synod saying, “Even from the start of your ministry, you are cherished and supported and celebrated.” Surviving in ministry is so much more tenable when you know you can come back to that.  – Hana Elliot

The importance of this program cannot be overstated for its influence on my ministry and wholeness. From very early on in my journey of ordained ministry, it has blessed me with a community of pastors and mentors, the former of which serve as companions sharing comradery through experiencing similar moments in their lives and the latter of which serve as companions sharing wisdom through their ministry journey and providing options for a healthy and fulfilling future.  – Adam Malak

The synod supported the New Pastor’s Group when I began ministry over 10 years ago and it was “strongly suggested” we attend. I’m grateful for their gentle nudge to remember to take Sabbath time and be with colleagues and friends. From the beginning, the synod has invested in early-career pastors, offering resources and support and helping to lay the foundation for us to continue these supports throughout ministry. It is helpful to know that the synod continues to support us, cares about our wholeness and wellbeing, and still wants to equip us in ministry.   – Katrina Pekich-Bundy

My first call was to a small rural community with only the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church. There was the presbytery (which there were only a handful of colleagues my age) as well as a ministerial association (of which I was the youngest pastor). The synod’s New Pastor program provided me with wonderful colleagues, resources, and the best support I could have for beginning ministry. I was able to meet some pastors my age, bounce ideas off of colleagues, and just feel love and support.  – Edwin Brinklow

What has been the most meaningful result of your participation in this program? 

The relationships that were built in this program are invaluable. I still reach out to members of my cohort 12 years later, asking how they are, supporting one another, and troubleshooting unique ministry situations. The world (and ministry) is changing quickly, and it is helpful to know we are all experiencing this changing world together. I also don’t think I overstate it to say this program and these people kept me in ministry. After walking with a faith community that experienced a tornado in my first year in ministry, I was ready to leave the church. This group supported me and guided me through that situation, for which I’m grateful.  – Katrina Pekich-Bundy

The sustained relationships over the past 12 years. It is remarkable to reflect on the way that we went there as strangers over a decade ago and have since cultivated lifelong friendships and faith and ministry, sharing successes, grieving losses, and pondering the mysteries of faith together. What could have been a lonely walk has instead been richly blessed with faithful fellowship — and takis.  – Adam Malak

I feel I can be vulnerable with the folks I have met in this group. Those of us who still continue to meet year after year know each other’s joys and struggles. We are there for one another and through thick and thin.  – Edwin Brinklow

What did you gain from this recent gathering? 

I had been absent since COVID-19. It seemed like my first retreat reunion picked up right where I left off. I now have a ton of books to read and television shows and movies to watch to become more enlightened thanks to my colleagues. We all needed some laughs, too — and there were many. – Edwin Brinklow

I always come away from each gathering with a new book list, a new watch list, and more laughter within myself. This time was no different! I was reminded I am not alone, and it was important to catch up with everyone after not seeing each other for a while. Some of us changed calls and families have changed and it was nice to just support one another. — Katrina Pekich-Bundy

It was really good to reconnect after the COVID gap. To hear stories of families, ministry, and life in general. As always, we took time to share resources such as things we’ve read or trainings we’ve attended, but perhaps most invaluable was the time spent lifting one another’s burdens in both ministry and personal life after 3 years of very challenging times. – Adam Malak

I love how we can pick up in conversation right where we left off. We can share the really hard stuff that we deal with in ministry, and there is no judgment from our colleagues — only empathy and support. We’ve really grown up together as pastors, and so have a bond that you really can’t come by in any other way. – Hana Elliott


Rev. Edwin Brinklow is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Canton in Illinois.

Rev. Hana Elliott is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Greene County in Bloomfield, Indiana.

Rev. Adam Malak is pastor of Faith United Presbyterian Church in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alma, Michigan, and associate protestant chaplain at Alma College.