About Teaching Elder Kathlyn R. Nealand
A MINISTRY OF REVITALIZATION
I am not sure when it happened. It probably has been a combination of experiences that has led me to believe that I am called to a Ministry of Revitalization.
Ever since I could remember, I have embraced change. As a young person growing up on Long Island, NY with a large family, I became an observer of people, community and society. Through my observations, I could see the brokenness all around me and I longed to be able to do something about it. I wanted to improve the lives of others, but how?
Attending the local Roman Catholic Church was a big part of discovering answers to my questions. Then one day I visited a young adult group meeting in the basement of the Community Presbytery Church in Deer Park. The smaller congregation and Presbyterian polity appealed to my sense of what church should be and so I stayed.
Throughout my work history I was always striving to learn something new and move into new areas of the organization. The more I learned, the more confident I became and the more responsibility I took on. Of course, the more I did, the more I noticed the flaws in the system and looked for opportunities to improve the situation.
A year out of High School, I enrolled at SUNY at Farmingdale following a weekend trip to the Poconos. There was a cool breeze blowing through the trees when I had a spiritual encounter that seemed to be calling me to be a teacher. After graduation, I moved onto St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, NY to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree. At this point, I was focused on becoming an Elementary/Special Education teacher.
During this time, I had married, given birth to two sons, divorced my husband and moved out on my own. When I thought that everything I had been working towards was falling apart, the Spirit of God filled me with hope. I met and married my second husband and life took an upward turn. In the process, I came to an understanding of the resurrection. I realized that there are many times in our lives when we must die in order to rise again; out of the ashes came new life.
It was about 16 years ago when I began to hear the call to move closer to God and the church. I became an elder and served the local church in Deer Park faithfully. Eventually, I came to the understanding that the Lord was moving me forward to become a Teaching Elder (Minister of Word and Sacrament). I went to New Brunswick Theological Seminary at their campus at St. John’s University in Queens, NY and received my Masters in Divinity five years later.
I have been a minister of Word of Sacrament since October 9, 2005. Since that time I have been involved in several churches at some degree of decline.
I continued to educate myself, going to seminars and workshops, reading books on how to encourage church growth and immerse myself in the Emerging Church movement. Through my observations, experiences and studies, I have come to understand that God is doing something new and wonderful through our Houses of Worship. I am, in particular, an advocate for the small congregations in our midst. I believe in the potential of the people who call these churches home. Where others may see them as insignificant and a waste of resources, I see them as integral and untapped resources in God’s ever expanding kingdom. Providing a place where people can be healed and encouraged to be more than they ever thought possible, growth can be achieved.
The most exciting aspect of participating in a Ministry of Revitalization is when the people begin to grow into Disciples of Jesus Christ, when energy levels increase and when the congregation gains a new sense of purpose. The best news is when I hear that years after I leave, the congregation is still moving forward into their new vision. Praise God!
As my ministry continues to expand, I maintain an open heart and mind with a keen awareness of the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. As God has transformed my life, I carry on this work with those I come in contact with. I have come to realize that God puts me where I need to be, when I need to be and with whom I need to be. Therefore, I walk by faith in all that I do and say for the glory of God. I do not simply maintain, but instead I challenge others as I do myself, to become the people who God needs us to be in the communities God has placed us in. There is no greater purpose then this, no greater reason to live full and grateful lives. Therefore, I join the ranks of many people who have a new vision for the Church of Jesus Christ and are helping that new vision take shape in our world. I pray that God will allow me to continue this work for many years to come.
To God be the glory forever and ever. And may the people of God say “AMEN!”