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Retired Pastor Joins CRM Team as “Pastor Liaison”

Emma R. Whiteford

When the leadership team of the Center for Rural Ministry envisioned a new role in the organization to enhance pastoral networking and help lead affinity groups, there was only one name on their list: Bill Sukolsky. As a friend and informal spiritual mentor since the beginning of the project, Sukolsky’s heart for God and ministers was exactly what they were searching to fill the role of pastor liaison.

A resident of the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, born and raised in Canonsburg, Bill Sukolsky was ordained in the Presbyterian tradition and has pastored the people of West Newton and Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Across decades of serving as a pastor, Sukolsky frequently attended “conferences and training events” and often “left frustrated because they were always about bigger churches.”  And so, when Sukolsky received an email in 2019 about a project that wanted to listen to and resource the small churches in forgotten places, he was immediately interested. Accepted into the Appalachian Cohort, Sukolsky shared “I thoroughly enjoyed the relationships I began to create and greatly appreciated the leadership team of the project, the conferences, and the regional gatherings and materials.”

Drawing on Decades of Pastoral Experience

Dedicating over 40 years of his life to serving the Church, Sukolsky is a seasoned veteran of the ministry field.  “Over those years,” Sukolsky remarked, “I have been involved in all expressions of pastoral ministry in the local church & in our presbytery.” He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 45 years and are the proud parents of three married daughters and grandparents of five grandchildren. In his recent retirement, Sukolsky set out to focus more on his family and to engage in prison ministry.  But the Lord had pressed a third calling onto his heart—to care for pastors.  The answer to this call came knocking with the PRM's transition into the Center for Rural Ministry.

When the CRM team asked Sukolsky to step into the pastor liaison role, he knew the hand of God was in it.  Sukolsky shared, “their asking confirmed an area of retirement ministry for me – meeting with and encouraging local pastors, something I have done throughout my life, and have continued since 2021.”

A Passion to Help Pastors Thrive

When asked what fuels his passion to care for pastors, Sukolsky expressed, “I look back over the years and recognize that I have been the beneficiary of the love and kindness of other, often older pastors, which has shaped my thinking about ministry and the church. I want to be in that role as well – not because I have great competence or expertise, but as a witness to the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives to empower us to pastor in these settings.”

As pastor liaison, Sukolsky “will be building and strengthening relationships between the CRM and local pastors, ministerial associations, and denominational bodies, especially those south of Pittsburgh.” Furthermore, Sukolsky will be “getting to know pastors and looking for ways to encourage them as they do the significant ministry that unfolds in smaller congregations.”  When asked about his hopes and goals for his role on the CRM team, Sukolsky reflected, “I hope to be used of the Lord to convey a historically orthodox understanding of the role of the pastor for men and women struggling to live and lead faithfully in the 21st century.  I am praying that the Lord will empower me to build a network of relationships that will be strengthened through the CRM, and in turn, have an impact for God’s kingdom.”

In addition to embodying what it means to be a humble mentor and compassionate friend, Sukolsky also offers 40 years of experience and wisdom on how one healthfully lives a life of ministry. Facilitating the southern small-church affinity group, Sukolsky will be helping pastors explore the physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, intellectual dimensions of health and, thus, collaboratively develop a balanced, practical theology of self-stewardship. “Healthy pastors lead to healthy churches,” Sukolsky remarked, “when we’re hurting, the congregation hurts.” In fact, Sukolsky shared, “most pastors think they need better leadership skills but what they really need is to be healthier spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.”

As the CRM pastor liaison, Sukolsky steps into the role of mentor, friend, connector, and facilitator. With a heart for comforting the lonely and weary shepherds of God’s flock, Sukolsky is dedicating his time in retirement to being a voice of encouragement, hope, and wisdom. A bridge to the invaluable resources found in the fellowship between college, church, and community, Sukolsky is positioned on the team as one of the CRM’S avenues to deepening and nurturing relationships with local pastors for the bright goal of rejuvenating and partnering with churches in our region.

Pastor Sukolsky can be reached via email at bill@ruralministry.org.

Emma Ruby, raised in central PA, is a writing intern for the PRM and a senior studying English, Christian Ministries, and Redemptive Entrepreneurship with the hope of spending a lifetime doing vocational ministry.