About Our Programs
The Institute's specific initiatives vary somewhat from year to year, and they are intended to meet the needs of a variety of different kinds of people. Some are targeted for lay leaders (elders, deacons, teachers, etc.); others are for particular sub-cultures within the life of the church (teens professing their faith, young adults, women, etc.), and still others are for all those, regardless of age, gender, etc. who are interested in taking advantage of the opportunities these offerings present.
At present the program of the Institute includes the following components:
-- Convocation & "Occasional Events"
Each year the Institute sponsors a convocation, bringing in one or more well recognized speakers, to explore a topic demonstrating the relevance of the Reformed tradition to contemporary life. Past convocations addresses can be found in our Resources section.
From time to time the Institute also sponsors "occasional events," inviting speakers to address specialized topics having to do with the history of Reformed Christianity and the challenges currently facing the PCUSA. The Institute has also sponsored occasional events and retreats providing young adults with an opportunity to explore various theological topics.
-- Leadership Development
Each year the Institute sponsors one or more leadership development events designed to acquaint elders, deacons, and other church officers with aspects of the Reformed tradition that are relevant to the tasks lay leaders are expected to perform in the Presbyterian Church. These events are meant to augment the leadership training done in individual congregations, and they are led, typically, by a seminary professor and the Institute's own "Company of Teachers."
-- Resources for Congregations
The "Company of Teachers" is a group that has been created by the Institute for the purpose of providing churches in the metropolitan Washington area with qualified teachers on subjects pertaining to Reformed Christianity. These individuals, most of whom have advanced degrees and are experienced teachers, have agreed to make themselves available for teaching in local churches as well as in the programs of the Institute itself. They have also agreed to work together as a team to develop appropriate strategies for communicating effectively with lay audiences on the relevant subjects.
In addition, the Institute also sponsors, from time to time, workshops for teachers and those responsible for planning educational programs in the local church that are designed to enable such people to make effective use of the resources available in the Reformed tradition in their educational work in the church.
-- Opportunities for Individuals
Each year the Institute offers courses taught by members of the Company of Teachers that are designed to provide for serious study of various aspects of the Reformed tradition. These courses cover a variety of subjects, ranging from theology to politics and aesthetics. They are taught in local churches and are scheduled in such a way as to meet the needs of people with diverse schedules.
The Institute also offers an annual lay theological colloquy. The colloquy provides an opportunity for a group of lay people to explore together a topic in Reformed theology and ethics that has particular relevance to contemporary life, and to do so under the leadership of a Reformed theologian who is known for his or her expertise on the subject. The colloquy meets Friday afternoon and Saturday, four times per year in a period that runs from October through April.
-- Other Projects
From time to time the Institute also undertakes study projects designed to examine critically some aspect of congregational life in PCUSA churches in the DC area in order to identify ways in which current practice can be improved. In 2003 the Institute undertook its first such project, creating a task force composed of representatives (both lay people and church professionals) of Presbyterian churches in the area to examine critically the current practice of our congregations concerning the process-sometimes called "confirmation"-by which baptized Christians become full (voting) members of the church. In the spring of 2004 that body produced a report (PDF, 192kb) that proposed significant changes in both the conceptualization and the implementation of that process as well as recommending that the Institute itself take a series of actions designed to assist churches in making more effective use of the resources of the Reformed tradition. The Institute is now in the process of carrying out the recommendations of the task force.