Cinema Toast
Drawing on a shared affinity for films and a desire to maintain the collegial relationships that were formed during our seminary experience in Austin, seven Episcopal priests (now in ministry from Virginia to California) have collaborated since 2005 as Cinema Toast.  We gather monthly via conference call  to “check-in,” attend to one another, and converse about films we have viewed in our respective locales.

The scope of our conversations was varied—ranging from the occasional glancing review of a film’s value as entertainment to an in-depth probing of the filmmaker’s artistic intent, use of cinematographic methods for effect, and the theological tenets to be gleaned from this cultural medium. We constantly had before us three principle objectives: to support one another, to be aware of the hermeneutical lenses with which we view films, and to discover relevant connections between the world of modern film and the world of parish ministry. All of us have integrated elements of our “Cinema Toast” experience into our work as pastors, teachers and preachers. Our film “library” includes Maria Full of Grace, V for Vendetta, Chocolat, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Syriana, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Narnia, Crash, A Girl in a Café, Jarhead, Da Vinci Code, Munich, Brokeback Mountain, An Inconvenient Truth, and Taxi Driver. Two members of our cohort have chosen to publish film reviews, including Bonnie Malone, and Torey Lightcap.
Near the end of our two year project, the group convened a weeklong gathering in Manhattan in conjunction with the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. We immersed ourselves in the New York film scene while enjoying something of a wonderful reunion and R&R session. It was a fabulous experience!

We have now begun the next phase of our collegiality…no longer with regular conference calls for the “film-of-the-month” club, but our communication with each other continues with an email group and frequent phone calls to one another, and we are plotting another film pilgrimage for 2008.
Grupo de Colegas
Meets six times a year to build a confidential community of care and encouragement, learn computer skills and renew their visions of ministry.

Grupo de Colegas is comprised of seven ELCA and Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors who work with Spanish speaking congregations in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. They will visit one another’s congregations so they may think creatively about the strengths and weaknesses of those communities. This group will work with Teaching Fellow, Professor Ruben Armendariz, Consultant for Church Development of Mission Presbytery.

Developing ways to share what they are learning about unity within diversity in the context of a larger community.  The Jets is an ecumenical group of eleven pastors in the town of Bastrop, Texas. Denominations represented are: The Episcopal Church, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of Christ, Missouri Synod Lutheran, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Assembly of God and an interdenominational congregation. For over six years this diverse group has met weekly for breakfast tacos. Despite their theological diversity, they are bound by a deep commitment to ministry and the strong sense of the Imago Dei they see in one another. As members of the College of Pastoral Leaders, they will strengthen the friendships that have sustained them through conflicts in their congregations, health and family crises, and questions of vocation. The Jets is planning several retreats as well as a trip to Turkey and Greece where they will retrace the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.

Oklahoma Pastor Theologian
Examining Christian communities in the context of another culture (Indonesia in particular) in order to gain insight into the essence of Christian community and cross-cultural perspectives on the message of the Gospel.  The Oklahoma Pastor Theologian Cohort is comprised of five pastors from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) tradition who are all serving churches in Oklahoma. They hired Dr. Arun Jones, Assistant Professor of Mission and Evangelism at Austin Presbyterian Seminary, as their teaching fellow. Dr. Jones will accompany this group to the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali to meet with local Christian communities and indigenous theologians in order to better understand the unique aspects of the Gospel and culture in their settings. In addition to this trip they will meet four times annually.They hope to become catalysts for energizing local, regional and international mission in Indian Nations Presbytery of which they are clergy members.
Pilgrims in the Lands of Enchantment
Spiritual beings on human journeys.  The Pilgrims in the Lands of Enchantment Cohort is comprised of seven New Mexican Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) clergy. Their hope is to become more faithful, healthy and balanced pastors as they experience the sacred in the ordinary on their planned pilgrimages. Each month they will visit some place of religious, historical, anthropological, or aesthetic significance. They will learn from regional authors and experts in various disciplines. They plan a sojourn to Oaxaca, Mexico. They will create a DVD photo journal in order to teach what they will experience together.
Salt Bay Survivors
During their time with The College of Pastoral Leaders they will focus on exploring and experiencing Sabbath rest as a spiritual discipline; nurturing one another’s passion for ministry; and supporting one another in their roles as members of particular families.  The Salt Bay Survivors Cohort consists of five pastors in the United Church of Christ who serve congregations in Maine. Having been in pastoral ministry for many years, they understand themselves as “survivors” and recognize the importance of providing a safe, healthy haven for one another. They currently gather several Thursday mornings a month at the Salt Bay Café. They plan quarterly gatherings which may include spouses and partners; a yearly retreat; and the annual conference in Austin.
STM ponders creativity through song writing, poetry, narrative, metal sculpting, fly fishing and reflective thinking around a full table of good food and strumming guitars. It is through this that they focus on developing an intersection of fine arts, spiritual discipline and politics.

The STM group is a bunch of clergy that few people would want to let out of New Mexico or Texas, although a couple of them have made an escape of sorts  (their whereabouts are undisclosed, but they keep coming back).  This group gets together about once a year in what they call a safe setting, although many others would find it threatening as all get-out. They share tales of good times, lost loves, deep longings, and cherished hopes.  And they seek to wring out of these experiences some theological truths that help keep them true to a calling to serve God, taste the finest single malt scotch and find the perfect piece of pie.  To see them one might assume they are an unruly and irreverent lot (and you might well be right!), but to be in their presence is to discover a section of the banquet table that is filled with ribaldry, grace and good tunes.
When Pigs Fly

Combining knowledge, heart, experience and praxis in an effort to lead more effectively and help their congregations reach their ministry potential.  The When Pigs Fly Cohort is made up of nine ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) serving congregations in Grace Presbytery. All of these men serve large churches whose growth has reached its threshold in the past several years. They want to explore, through the pursuit of excellence in preaching, self-awareness, staff development and strategic leadership style, ways to move their congregations on to the next level of growth and service. They plan to meet four times annually and will work with experts in the aforementioned areas to strengthen their leadership abilities. They hope to present an article through Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a workshop within Grace Presbytery to share their discoveries.