Many pastors remember struggling in their first ministerial position—isolated geographically or professionally, lacking ready access to mentors and peers. The first person to greet young Daniel Aleshire after he led his first worship service “told me my sermon was ‘the worst damn sermon’ he had ever heard.”
Aleshire was forewarned that the man was a troubled congregant. But the comments from the rest of the Baptist congregation months later “were so ambiguous that I was never sure how I was doing,” said Aleshire, now top executive at the Association of Theological Schools.
More than a decade ago, analysts of congregational ministry for the Lilly Endowment decided that seminarians’ customary year or nine months of internship at a church were not enough to prepare graduates for the pitfalls and anxieties facing a new pastor.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).