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Miscellaneous | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Miscellaneous


Meet a Professor: Dr. Reggie Williams

Happy Wednesday McReaders!

This week, I’d like to introduce you to  McCormick’s newest professor – Reggie Williams.

Reggie has been with us only a few short weeks, but he has quickly found his place in our community. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions:

Wes: Tell us your name and what you do.
Reggie: My name is Reggie Williams, and I am an assistant professor of Christian Ethics. My wife Stacy and I celebrated 17 years of marriage this summer, on August 26th, and we have two children, Darion (13) and Simone (11). They are both in the 7th grade.

W: How is it you came to McCormick?
R: I was appointed to the faculty of the Religion department at Baylor University in the Spring of 2010. I completed my dissertation that summer, and joined their faculty in the summer of that year. That meant moving my family from Pasadena, California, the place my children will never stop referring to as their real home. We lived in Pasadena for 6 years, which isn’t very long, but it was for them, a significant part of their childhood. Fuller Theological Seminary is there, and that’s were I completed my master’s and Ph.D. degrees. I did not expect to leave Baylor, at least not any time soon. But early in my first semester there, I came across the job description for this position. I had visited Chicago on a number of occasions for scholarly conferences, and already loved the place. I’d heard of McCormick Theological Seminary, and a number of dear friends told me that it would be a great fit. And although Baylor University is a very good school, with a fantastic athletics program (I played basketball in college, and professionally), I really wanted to teach in a seminary. McCormick is a perfect fit. I was thrilled to be offered this position. That’s the extremely abridged version of my journey to McCormick.

W: How has your family adjusted to the big move?
R: My children have had to move to two different towns, and schools to start all over again making friends, twice within one year. That has been very difficult on them. But for now, they seem to be adjusting well. They seem to enjoy their new school. They tell me that they wish they could pick this school up, and plant it in Pasadena, where they could feel at home in a school that they really like. But if they did that, they wouldn’t have the museums that they’ve come to love, or the SkyDeck at the Willis Tower
which my daughter loves, or Navy Pier which we all love, or the lake views with the city skyline, or our house which we’ve recently purchased. I could go on. Stacy and I love it here. She was ready to walk here from Waco, Texas, if we had to. There has been no need to adjustment for us, only a need to reorient ourselves to a different geography. We miss friends in Waco, but we like Chicago, and McCormick, very much.

W: What are your hopes for your first year as a faculty member at McCormick?
R: I hope to learn a lot from students and colleagues here. I am very excited about McCormick’s emphasis on justice and ecumenism. In this first year, I hope to learn how my voice can contribute to the conversation about church and society, going on here. From what I see so far, this institution is one of the most important Christian institutions of higher learning in the country. That can be deceiving because we are so small, but so was Gideon’s army. And in this small, and important institution, I plan to learn at least as much as I teach this year, so that by the end of the year, I have a greater understanding of the expectations of McCormick students, and how my research and teaching corresponds with the call of God on their lives that brings them into my classroom.

W: I had the pleasure in sitting in on a lecture you gave while you were in the interview process and really enjoyed hearing from you. How is it that you became interested in Ethics?
R: I began my studies at a small Christian Liberal Arts school in Santa Barbara California – Westmont College. I was a French major at first. But after my first semester there, I changed my major to theology and church history. I wanted to “see the gospel at work” in society. I led a ministry to the local juvenile hall, in the summers, I lived in a group home for convicted teens who had drug addictions. When I graduated, I married my college sweetheart, and my first job was as a counselor at a juvenile hall. All of this was motivated by my pursuit of living the gospel. Years later, when I was near the end of my masters degree, the only African American professor of religion that I ever had strongly urged me to enter a Ph.D. program “if you don’t, it would be a mistake.” Those words from Pasor J. Alfred Smith of Allen Temple Baptist church in Oakland, Ca. were the push that I needed to go in the direction of a Ph.D., and the desire was still there to “see the gospel at work” rather than accumulating theological knowledge. I saw both endeavors as important, but without the ability to do theology, I didn’t see the value of learning about it.
Near the end of my first year in a Ph.D. program, something brought to mind an encounter that I’d had when I was in the 3rd grade. It’s funny to say, that when I was in the third grade, I was taking my faith very seriously. And that year, I faced violent racism from three classmates. In that encounter, I struggled to know what Jesus wanted me to do in the face of their unmerited anger at me. So, at the end of my first year as a Ph.D.
student, I saw that I’d been on the journey of “how does one live what we believe” for many years.

W: You’re teaching a course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. this semester. Why these two individuals? What do they have to offer seminary students?
R: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr. offer us some insight into what it took for them to be prophetic Christians in a social environment, and cultural/historical context that saw Christians taking sides against what they saw as true Christian witness. Hindsight is 20/20, and today we agree with them, that Christians should have agreed with how they described faithfulness to Jesus, in support of the oppressed and marginalized. But many Christians saw themselves as faithfully following Jesus, in opposition to them. Today we call their opponents wrong, and Bonhoeffer and King
are seen as prophetic Christians, even martyrs by some. What are we opposing today? What are we ignoring? What do we advocate? What does our faith give us to guide our advocacy? King and Bonhoeffer can help us faithfully follow Christ today.

W: What else do you hope to bring to McCormick in terms of classes or
anything else?
R: My academic project is to recalibrate what it means to be human, since modernity. That involves the critical analysis of race, and the mingling of race and religion in modernity. One particularly crucial moment when critical analysis of race and religion occurred is called the Harlem Renaissance. I study the Harlem Renaissance, and the critical analysis of race and religion occurring within it by folks like Du Bois, Zora Neil Hurston, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and a whole host of black intellectuals.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was not in Harlem at that time, but the time period corresponds with her social justice advocacy, and her work is a part of the womanist cannon of theological ethics that I pay attention to, as well. The project of “recalibration” has in its scope, ecological ethics, biological ethics, as well as social ethics, since the modern construction of humanity sees only some folks as human, and domination as the right relationship between the humans and the “others.” With that in mind, one of the
next classes I hope to teach is a study of the literature and theology of the Harlem Renaissance, or perhaps a detailed exploration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s experience in the Harlem Renaissance. Those two are the first courses that come to mind for my immediate new course offerings.

W: We’ve heard about some of your academic background. What about Reggie the person? What is it you like to spend your time doing when you’re not at McCormick?
R: I am still somewhat of a jock. I played college and professional basketball, and being in the gym is somewhat like therapy for me. But I’m an old guy now. So I’m looking for a basketball league here in town to play on, that is ok for old has beens. I also really like fishing, camping, hiking, and gardening; but not in that order. In my family, we are outdoors folks, but we haven’t had the opportunity to get out and explore as much, recently. Hopefully now that we’re settling in to our new home town, we will!

W: Food is a big part of life at McCormick – What’s your favorite food, why?
R: I love seafood and Chinese food. I also love to eat breakfast, any time of the day. Those are my food weaknesses! And, after I eat any meal, I’ve gotta have a dessert. I’ve got a very active sweet tooth.

A big thank you to Reggie for taking the time to introduce himself to all the CURE readers! See you on Friday!

Christine’s Corner: 10 Practices for Daily Balance

Every week the Alban Institute, an organization dedicated to fostering healthy clergy and congregations, sends out an on-line newsletter filled with pithy bits about life, church, ministry and leadership.   This week’s focus on healthy practices features an excerpt from David Edman Gray’s book Practicing Balance:  How Congregations Can Support Harmony in Work and Life. Edman offers 10 practices to follow and they represent a reminder of what each of us – clergy and laity – needs to do if we are to make informed and discerning choices about how to balance the myriad competing demands in our lives.

Rather than trying to restate what Edman has already said so well, I have appended the 10 practices– along with his explanations.   He says that they have made a difference in his ability to  achieve balance in his life and work.

1.  Begin each day with a centering phrase. I have found that saying a centering phrase over and over first thing in the morning helps me begin the day with centeredness and balance. Some mornings I wake up feeling stressed and pressed. Maybe I went to bed the night before feeling anxious, or I was awakened by the children several times during the night, or I had a bad dream. But if I say my phrase over in my mind several times before I get out of bed in the morning, my head feels much clearer, and I feel more positive and less anxious.

2.  Pray daily. When you are frustrated with balance issues, pray. When you are upset at your work situation or boss, pray. When you are frustrated with your kids, pray. Prayer is a critical practice when it comes to work-life balance. It is the original, calming practice that Jesus taught and that connects us to God. Prayer calms, refocuses, and provides the spiritual strength we need to find balance in our days.

3.  Care for your body. God has given you one body for this life. Caring for it allows you to do your work and to care for others. Eating healthfully is important. Especially when we are traveling or working hard, we tend not to eat so well, but our diet contributes greatly to our health. Exercise has great rejuvenating effects. My daily exercise is critical to my well-being. When I am feeling stressed and out of balance, few things can rebalance me like exercise.

4.  Simplify your life. Jesus and his disciples lived simply. Read Mark 6:6-9:

“Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.”     Jesus had access to all the riches of heaven but chose to live simply and called on his disciples to do the same. Figure out what is most important to you in life and hold on to it dearly. Let the rest go.

5. Come to terms with your relationship with money. Our desire to accumulate and spend can spur us to work extreme hours in order to make more money. We must develop a habit of budgeting our money and living within our means. We can easily get caught up in the culture of consumption to the point where we feel we must work as much as possible in order to afford the lifestyle we think we want. If we can appreciate the need for and benefits of money while watching our expenses and not allowing the desire to make money to become our dominant value, then we can more easily make the choice to spend our time on activities other than work.

6.  Designate a quiet space in your home for rest. It is important to have a space in your home to which you can retreat when feeling pressed. This is particularly essential when your family includes young children and the house can become loud. The space doesn’t have to be large, but it does need to be a sanctuary for you.

7.  Invite the Holy Spirit into each activity. We are at our best when we invite God’s Spirit into each activity of our lives. I have a friend who has helped me think of my work and family lives as more integrated with my spiritual life. She has encouraged me to think of parenting as a spiritual time, not as a distraction. That way, each movement of my parenting can be a spiritual experience. Thinking of the routines of life as spiritual practices can make these moments sacred and can allow us to be more fully present with children and spouses, rather than viewing routines like child care as obligations one has to get through.

8.  Go on retreats and vacations. Rest is important enough that we should also set aside significant periods of time dedicated to it. Our bodies, minds, and spirits need to lie fallow, like farmland, in order to be refreshed. Taking a week or two of vacation can help do that. However, 43 percent of Americans do not even take all their vacation days. Those are important opportunities for rest, and we should make the most of them.

9.  Commit to spending regular time with family and friends. Having good times with family and friends can balance our work and caregiving responsibilities. Meals are important times to connect with family. Having dinner with family can be difficult for pastors and other congregational leaders who have evening meetings, so we need to find other times for fun with family and friends. Whenever possible, I try to come home for dinner before returning to church for meetings. I meet monthly with a group of men for fellowship. I participate in a monthly clergy support group. They make a great difference for me. The perspective and support we gain from relationships can make such a difference when we are stressed, overwhelmed, and trying to balance work and life.

10.  Take a break each evening before bed. There is an old saying, “Don’t go to bed angry.” I think we should add, “Don’t go to bed right after doing work.” For many years I worked late into the evening after my family was asleep, sometimes past midnight. However, I got to the point where I knew I needed more sleep. After my twin girls were born, I decided to put a limit on my evening work. My grandfather used to say, “This is enough for today. That’s what the good Lord made tomorrow for.” I have made those words my evening mantra.

I readily admit that I’m far from perfect in following all of these practices with absolute regularity, but I do my best to stick to several without fail.   Erdman quotes author Annie Dillard who said, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

How are you spending the days of your one precious life?

Well hello friends,

Norae Pitts-Whittington here! Wes has allowed me temporary use of the CURE blog for my very own special interviews.

This year I’ll bring you a monthly look at some of the really amazing four-legged folks at McCormick. I am usually due for my monthly spotlight on the second Friday of the month, but this interview is so great I just couldn’t wait! I got to sit down with one of the coolest dogs at McCormick – Albus Labuschagne-Rhodes!

Albus hanging out at home, being awesome

Tell us your name and breed.
My name is Albus, which means “white” in Latin.  It would be a fitting name, since I’m a Havanese breed of Bichon and have white hair, but, actually, I’m named after the fictional wizard Albus Dumbledore (yeah, my owners are those kind of Harry Potter fans).
Who are your humans?
Dirk Labuschagne (A 2nd year M.Div student at McCormick) and Amy Rhodes.
How did you come to get them?
Dirk and Amy adopted me from the shelter PAWS in north Chicago.  My previous owners were an older couple who had to give me up for medical reasons, and Dirk and Amy played with me for less than two minutes before they decided I was theirs.  What can I say, I’m charming!
How do you like your living arrangements?
I pretty much have the run of the place.  Except for the couch.  And Dirk and Amy’s bed.  My paws make an awesome “pitter-patter” sound as I run on the hardwood floors, so I run around a lot.  Love it!
What’s your favorite place in your apartment?
You can usually find me in one of three places:
1. curled up in the corner where the couch meets the wall. Sounds kinda crazy, I know, but my brain power isn’t really up to explaining why I like that corner so much.
2. My bed next to Dirk’s desk.  It’s base when we’re playing tag, it hides my raw hides when I’m feeling especially ‘dog-like,’ and I can push it around with my nose. Great place.
3.  My crate.  It’s my den, it’s my dog cave, it’s pretty much amazing.  You can find me there, listening to NPR, when Dirk and Amy aren’t home.
Where is your favorite place outside of your apartment?
Anywhere there are other dogs.  Or Parker’s, where I get a bath, because they give me treats constantly.  Constantly.
What are your favorite treats?
Peanut butter and raw hides.  The best is when there’s peanut butter on a raw hide!
How many toys do you have? Which ones are your favorite?
I chew through basically everything, and in an impressively short amount of time, if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, this means Dirk and Amy stopped trying to find toys that could withstand my powerful jaw and raw determination awhile ago.  Now they only trust me with two rope toys, and I can’t choose between them.
What is your favorite way to pass time?
I love to hang out with other dogs, I love to sit outside Starbucks with Amy while Dirk gets them coffee so I can listen to strangers talk about how cute I am, and I love to play hide and seek.  So far, I’m only good at seeking, but if the day comes when I figure out how to hide, watch out!  Otherwise, I sleep.  Sleep is so great.  Except when Dirk and Amy want to sleep late, then it’s not so great.
What is one thing you think everyone should know about you?
I love attention!  From dogs, from kids, from adults, from whatever – I love it.  I will be super sweet to you and shower you with kisses (whether you want them or not) when you show me attention!  If you don’t give me the attention I want, however, I will find your sock (or shoe) and carry it around it my mouth.  Just to let you know you’re not paying attention to me.  You’ve been warned.
Any words of wisdom you want to share with everyone?
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J/k, I didn’t really say that, my namesake did!  But it’s pretty true, right?  So I’ll go with that.

So that’s Albus. Pretty cool, huh? Check back in another month to meet another McCormick Furry Friend. Wes will be back on Friday with more neat stuff!

Exciting Beginnings to Another Year

Well Folks,

Another wonderful new year has begun and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Along with the new year, you’ll notice a fresh look to CURE. We’re not quite finished with its redesign, so pardon our dust, we should be finished within the next couple weeks. With the redesign we hope to be more user friendly, and make it easier to share your feedback with us. If you’d like to comment on new posts, you’re welcome to do so. You can also reach us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mccormick.recruit) and twitter (@MTSRecruit). Feel free to share any posts that you like with your friends on Facebook, your followers on twitter, or anyone else via email. Each new post also has buttons on the bottom of the page for easy social media sharing.

With the new year comes a new schedule of posts. We’ll have new and exciting content each week on Wednesday and Friday at noon, so check back often!

The CURE isn’t the only thing undergoing changes here at McCormick! McCormick has a new professor – Dr. Reggie Williams, professor of ethics, whom you’ll all meet in a few short weeks in a blog post. We also have a new class of wonderful students – 35 in all, from all walks of life. Our new class includes great people from Egypt and Korea, Chicago and Texas. From the Presbyterian church to the Catholic church, fresh out of college and those beginning a second or third career. Our new class of students is small, but full of really wonderful people excited to bring their diversity to McCormick.

Last week we oriented the new group of students to life at McCormick. Included this year was service together with Habitat for Humanity. Three groups of students worked at two construction sites and one ReStore in service to the Chicagoland community.

We’re so blessed to be graced by this new class and cannot wait for the future months and years in ministry with them. Check back Friday for a new Neighborhood Spotlight on our very own Hyde Park!

Peace.

Dr. Brad Braxton is preparing to leave McCormick after serving for the past two years as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar. He is a scholar, a preacher, a tireless advocate for issues of social justice and an engaging human being. He’s been a dynamic presence in our community and will certainly be missed by many of us. He is starting a new position at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in the Lois Craddock Perkins Endowed Chair of Homiletics, the first African American to hold this position. His responsibilities include a full teaching load, mentoring students and working with his faculty colleagues. He will do all this while living with his family in Baltimore, Maryland where he has begun serving as the founding Senior Pastor of The Open Church, a new congregation located in the same city where he served in his first pastorate nearly 20 years ago.
Founding a new church was not something that happened overnight. Brad first envisioned The Open Church more than a decade ago (see CURE Blog post from April 17, 2012). Over the years, he has employed a great deal of thought, collaboration with others, frequent consultations with his family and the “wisdom circle” of clergy and other partners who have served as touchstones for him throughout his ministry. That, plus the serendipity of being called to SMC made it possible for him to launch the dream at this point in his life.
I asked Brad what advice and counsel he would offer someone who wanted to start a new church. What did he believe was at stake in such an undertaking? How does one begin at the beginning, and at the same time, begin with the end in mind? Brad believes you should know the goal of your leadership in starting a new church endeavor; you should he asserts, know “where you are going beyond your efforts to be ‘professionally holy.’ “ He reduced his advice to five essentials:
First, starting a church requires a sense of purpose. Brad believes you must “find that thing for which you are willing to die.” In other words, you have to be willing to take a risk and leave your old life behind you. It’s important, he adds, to have some knowledge of your own personality type and be comfortable in your own skin, and it helps to have a “questioning personality” that isn’t satisfied by the status quo or easy answers.
Second, don’t ignore the fact that structures of authority are being flattened and democratized; it’s important to recognize that you will continually need to hold democratization and collaboration in tension, along with your own understanding of pastoral authority. For Brad, pastoral authority is ultimately the bottom line; so he’s encouraging his leadership team at The Open Church to create a governing structure where there won’t ever be a need for him to break a tie vote. If that happens, he notes, his deciding vote will make it clear who’s in charge.
Third, you need to make certain that your family support system (in whatever configuration that takes) is part of your thinking and conversation from the start. The process of starting a new church (or revitalizing an old one) is time consuming, laborious and can be energy draining. It’s critical that your family be on board with you. It’s one of the reasons why he is adamant about supporting models of family life and church life that “promote fullness.”
Fourth, you need to ask yourself if this is the right time in your life and ministry to take this step. Where are you in your professional development that would make this the time to launch such an endeavor?
Fifth, and critically important: Ask yourself if you have the resources (or commitment from others for the resources) necessary to make this work. Give substantive and careful thought to what a start up budget for your dream church would look like. And don’t forget to take into account issues of space, necessary equipment, legal incorporation, liability insurance and salaries (for others, if not for yourself).

No one ever said that ministry was easy.  Starting a new church is even less so.  But if that leadership endeavor calls out to you, find a way to begin.   As Brad said in a lecture he delivered last year atFourth Presbyterian Church:   “Leadership is neutral; it doesn’t make any difference until you shift it into forward or reverse.”    Could a new church start be the way your leadership is taking you forward?

Well, McReaders, this is the last blog you’ll get from me. Wes will be taking over soon, and I’ll be done with seminary after 3 glorious years.

Thinking about the past 3 years is a bit overwhelming. As I’m leaving seminary, I’m not one of those prefect Presbyterians who passed all her ordination exams in the first try; I’m not walking out of seminary with a job in hand, ready to become ordained; I’m not in the minority. I am, once again, in the majority. I’m walking out of seminary with debt, no job, very little idea of where I am going to live, and a car that requires prayer each time to drive it down the Dan Ryan (which, given the shape it’s in, I don’t go down the Dan Ryan with it if I can help it). It’s not that I don’t have skills, I have mad skills. It’s just, there really aren’t many jobs out there. Recently, several people have asked me, “So, if you had to do it over, would you do it all again the same?”

Yes. I’d do it all over again and I would not do it differently. Here are a few reasons why:

1. I met Megan, Alex, TC, Sylvia, Tracy, Jon, Joe, Holly, Kim, Jason, Bong, Lilit, Ching Boi, Tyler, Ken, Lora, Matt, Jenny, Hannah, Amber, Molly, Han Kook, Dave, Kristi, Meredith, Kristin, Robyn, Tina, Karl, Michele, Vimary, Abby, Nathy, Nancy, Jeanine, Sergio, Kristin, Deanna, Mo, Stephanie, Melva, Kathi, Wes, Liz, Albert, Mike, Monica, Daniel, Sarah, Sarah, Katie Jo, Kate, Kirk, Jamie, Matt, Allison, Casey, Phil, Jeff, JC, Honna, Jake, Kelly, Megan, Sarah, Melvina, Delores, Kay, Sheila, Chris, Brenda, Peter, Heather, Jamie… the list is endless. This only includes the people that I could think of in 5 minutes and doesn’t include staff, professors, students from other seminaries, people in the community… Need I say more?

2. The friendly folks at the Starbucks at 55th and Woodlawn know my name.

3. I now know that Joel is an actual book in the Bible.

4. Ted Hiebert taught me Hebrew and Sarah Tanzer taught me Greek.

5. Janaan Hashim and Bob Cathey answered all my ridiculous questions and never told me to shut up. Ever.

6. I got to be Lib Caldwell’s EA.

7. If you ask nice enough, Luis will put on his Dracula cape.

8. Christine Vogel lets me cry in her office and Frank Yamada lets me cry in the halls.

9. Dr. Daniels made singing “Welcome Table” my favorite communion tradition.

10. Deb Mullen helped me accept who I was on my first day of classes.

11. Joann Lindstrom has a puppy in her office.

12. Sam Evans talks in a French accent when he’s in the office.

13. David Crawford is my friend and I know how hard he works for the seminary and the people there.

14. My classmates are fabulous dog-sitters, bird watchers, fish sitters, and plant waterers.

15. Melody Knowles taught me how to write a better paper.

16. Ted Hiebert made me re-think how I read the Bible.

17. Jennifer Ayers made me appreciate food and be thankful that I have it.

18. Ken Sawyer.

19. Ken Sawyer’s Mustache.

20. David Esterline’s wife’s cookies.

21. Knowing that Priscilla Rodriguez is always laughing at my facebook posts and understands my existential angst and will always have a hug for me.

22. Christine Vogel has a constant and steady supply of chocolate in her office.

23. No one reads the Psalms quite like Nanette Banks.

24. Dr. Frank Thomas taught me how to preach like I was on fire and then he made us go play in the snow.

25. Joann Lindstrom has my back.

26. Deb Kapp is an awesome cook at Iron Chef.

27. Monica actually smiles, you just have to know how to make her do it.

28. Natasha thinks I’ve already graduated.

29. I sort of have teacher crushes on Bob Cathey, Ted Hiebert, Lib Caldwell, Melody Knowles, and Janaan Hashim.

30. Community meals are always better food than I have in my apartment.

31. David Crawford often confuses me and Abby Mohaupt.

32. Boundaries don’t actually exist at McCormick despite Joann Lindstrom’s attempts at educating us.

33. Kimchi and Chapchae are two of my new favorite foods.

34. After being her EA, Abby Mohaupt and I now know that Lib Caldwell drinks Diet Coke at break and her Starbucks order is a grande unsweetened passion fruit iced tea.

35. I learned more about YAV’s than I ever imagined was possible.

36. I learned that Frank Yamada used to be in a band.

37. Anna Case-Winters lets me call her A.C. Dub.

38. Ken Crews can eat ungodly amounts of fast food in one sitting.

39. Deacon retreats aren’t the same without Christine Vogel present.

And last but not least…

40. The University of Chicago has a library. Thank God, or none of my work would have ever gotten done.

Well, that’s it. There are other things I could have talked about on here, but this is all I had time for, I have to finish a project for Bob Cathey. Go figure. Graduation, here I come!

Peace – Shelley D.

Since Spring has sprung and the weather is warming, I thought it would be nice to introduce you to McCormick’s urban classroom: the city of Chicago. Chicago is a city of many incredible neighborhoods, each with its own flair. Once or twice a month I’ll highlight a new neighborhood, give a little history and introduce you to some of the fun things to do there. This week: Pilsen.

Pilsen is located near the heart of Chicago, bordering the Chicago River on the East and South sides, 16th Street to the North, and Western to the West. Originally named for a city in the Czech Republic, Pilsen is now home to Chicago’s Mexican community. Served by the Pink Line, Pilsen is easy to reach from just about anywhere in Chicago.

Me taking a really awkward picture in front of a garden, in Pilsen of course

My first visit here was last Friday, Good Friday, to participate in a Mexican tradition : Via Crucis Vivente (Link goes to a YouTube video of last year’s march), or “Living the Way of the Cross” which has been taking place in Pilsen for 37 years. The Via Crucis take place down 18th street, and provided a great opportunity to see much of the neighborhood. After that taste of Pilsen, I had to go back, so my wife, a friend and I went and spent the afternoon looking in the vintage shops and enjoying Mexican food and adult beverages.

My friend in front of a public art installation entitled, "Before I die"

Pilsen has an up and coming art scene, which is evident by its many art galleries and public art installations. Near the intersection of 18th and Halstead is a line of art galleries, open by appointment only, but really interesting to look at. If you come in by bus, don’t miss them. Another don’t miss gallery is the National Museum of Mexican Art. An added bonus, it’s free!

Coffee shop - and an example of some of the great architecture Pilsen has to offer!

One of the best things Pilsen is known for is food. Being a predominately Mexican neighborhood, you’ll be able to find some of the best authentic Mexican dishes Chicago has to offer. A favorite for many, or so I’ve been told, is Nuevo Leon, located on 18th near Ashland. Not only does Pilsen have good Mexican options, but Barbecue, Asian, and many more. Some of the best tortilla chips in Chicago are also made right here.

Lastly, Pilsen’s architecture is wonderful. There is a mix of old and new, everything is colorful and there is a lot of exciting history. For great examples, check out some of the churches in Pilsen, like St. Aldabert’s Catholic Church.

Check us out later this week for an update on visions for the Church, with a guest blogger, Stephanie Levan! Until then!

Over reading week I was able to spend some quality time with my record collection, listening to most of them and even buying a new one. One of my favorites, purchased at an antique store in Charlotte, North Carolina is a compilation by blue grass great Doc Watson. For those of you who aren’t acquainted with old blue grass and country, many songs have religious overtones, rarely with theology that matches up with my own. I really appreciate the music that blue grass and country acts such as the Louvin Brothers have put out, but I can’t get behind the theology they profess in such classics as “Broadminded” (this is not the Louvin Brothers, however there isn’t a good copy of it on you tube, so Brother Don will have to do, and he does a pretty good job!).

While listening to Doc Watson: Favorites one such gospel tune stood out, “Old Camp Meeting Time.” The chorus is likely to get stuck in your head for a while after hearing it, as it did mine this past week. Over and over again I would sing “I like that old time preachin’, prayin’, shoutin’, singin’, I like the old time reading of God’s word, I like to hear them glory hallelujah’s ringing, I like the old time worship of the lord.” I can’t imagine what that was like for my wife to have to hear, but it got me thinking – and I know ol’ Doc is singing about camp meetings, but go with me – all I could think of is the split between that real old “preachin’” that Jesus did and what I have heard in many pulpits today.

At McCormick we’ve been having dialogues about ways to re-imagine the church. Doc Watson spelled (or rather sang) it out for me – no, we don’t need camp meetings to revitalize the church, but we need to get back to the central part of Jesus’ message. Take for instance the beatitudes from the sermon on the mount:

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad. Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full. Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3-10 CEB)

Be humble. Show mercy. Make peace.

The Good News of Jesus doesn’t stop there. Some of the most impactful stories are of Jesus feeding and table fellowship, and of healing the sick and wounded, and comforting the sad.

These are all essential tenants of the life and death of Jesus that often go ignored by our churches. Right now on Facebook there is a blog that I keep seeing posted and re-posted, Rachel Held Evans, “15 reasons I left church.” Among them she mentions being ridiculed for asking questions, not being allowed to doubt, learning more from Oprah about justice than Jesus, the church seeming more like a cult or country club… the list goes on. This is a common experience for a lot of people, as I have experienced so much of this my self and have seen the many comments the posting of that blog to Facebook elicited.

Wednesday I saw a preacher’s Facebook status update and he gave a list of the ways he thought the economy could be revitalized. Among them was sending the National Guard to the border (he undoubtedly meant our southern one) and killing any “illegal” who tries to come in. This was a preacher. A man of God. Someone who claims to spread the “good news.” His version of the good news has nothing to do with the message of peace, mercy, healing or feeding that I’ve read about. His is the message that is creating a divide between our culture and our faith, causing so many to want to distance themselves from the church.

In a follow up blog, one that I have not seen being shared on Facebook, Rachel Evans answers what made her go back to the church. Number one on her list is Jesus. She also mentions communion, the support of a community that cares and grace. This is what many people, myself included want from church. I don’t want to preach or be preached at about hate and divisions. I need to hear the message of hope and unity. I need to hear about divisions being broken down. I need to hear about it not being important who you are, what you do or where you’re from – what matters is that you care about your neighbor, you feed them when they are hungry, clothe them when they are naked. Even when the scriptural message is difficult to hear and understand, I need a community that supports the struggle for understanding instead of using it as a weapon against those they disagree with. That’s what I like about Jesus’ old time preachin’, prayin’, shoutin’, singin’. That’s what I want from a revitalized church.

What do you want?

Greetings McReaders! We’re back after a well deserved reading week here on the Southside of Chicago. Back to homework, reading, researching, going to weekly chapel, going to our respective meetings, and going back to class.In the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at some of the classes that McCormick offers students. Sure, we have the typical Greek and Hebrew and we have our theology classes, but our professors go out of the way to create specialty classes and environments where students can learn, explore, and challenge themselves based on their own areas of study and expertise.

Today I want to introduce you to one of those classes (and the professor that go with it). You won’t find a class like this one at any other seminary (well, you might find one similar, but not this one!).

Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Sarah Tanzer

Welcome to Bible 440, Life Cycles of Judaism! Sarah is one of our New Testament professors here at McCormick; she also teaches classes such as Greek Exegesis and Gospels (a must take if you love some NT). The class itself is designed to look at the Jewish calendar, Jewish practices, and, you guessed it, the life cycles of Judaism. Since being in this class, we’ve learned about everything from holidays and Jewish festivals, to learning how to blow a Shofar, a ram’s horn.

First year student, Tyler Orem, practices blowing the Shofar, the ram's horn which is blown on Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah

Now, it’s not about the super cool instruments and prayer shawls that we get to see in class, it’s really a class about learning where we, as Christians, come from. It’s a chance to learn more about our Jewish brothers and sisters and to gain more respect for the Jewish culture. It’s about appreciating the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Sarah even invites us into her home for a traditional Shabbat service. We are also sent out into Chicago, to visit a Synagogue of our choice (I’ll be visiting Congregation Or Chadash).

As our professor, Sarah brings a lot to the table. A practicing Jew herself, Sarah explores the class with the students (as she does in all her classes). This isn’t some class where you get a talking head for 3 hours. Nope, it’s a dialogue in which the students and professor interact in a mutual desire to learn and share information. Sarah has a love for teaching and she even makes two semesters of Greek Exegesis pretty bearable; you almost like it when you leave it! One thing that I can say, on a personal level, is that Sarah is invested in her students, and she is always around to help.

This is one of many classes that you can expect to see at McCormick. Next week, we’ll be talking about one of our Christian Education/Bible classes with Lib Caldwell and Ted Hiebert.

Have questions about more of our classes?! Contact one of our student reps in the Office of Recruitment and Admissions and we’ll be happy to tell you more!

Stay tuned to see what Wes will be bringing to the table on Thursday. Until then, happy reading!

~Shelley D.

Happy almost Friday McReaders! Today we have a report on the mission trip several McCormick Students took to New Orleans this past January, written by 1st year MDiv student Stephanie Levan – you may remember her reflections in this blog post.

__________________________________________________________

Is it safe?

I think it is.  It’s finally safe to come out of the woodwork on this one.

(we needed some recovery time, ya know??)

Well, Mcbloggers — I’m here to announce that McCormick went on a mission trip, and we’re ready to broadcast it to the world. [hang with me ... I know it's a long post...]


For all of you who aren’t aware — a group of 10 students and staff members from McCormick went on a week-long mission trip to New Orleans, LA on from January 21 – January 28, in partnership with RHINO.  RHINO [that is Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans] is a ministry that is supported by St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in NOLA. [they are obviously Presbyterian, given how much they seem to like acronyms] RHINO partners with Habitat for Humanity in the New Orleans area and has helped to rebuild homes since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

On a snowy January Saturday in Chicago, our crew loaded into two mini-vans, and the 10 of us made the fast-paced and windy-road journey to The Pelican State.  Stopping over in Memphis on Saturday night in order to catch a quick church league basketball game and our fill of Memphis BBQ — we welcomed the gorgeously sunny weather in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon.

With our self-proclaimed tour guide, Maureen, [or was that group-appointed??] we had the opportunity to explore our new surroundings.  We discovered the French Market, free romantic ferry rides, and red beans and rice to our hearts’ desire.  With only an instance [or 2??] of slight food poisoning and [mis]communicated directions — we were able to enjoy areas of this eclectic city that has been physically and spiritually resurrecting from the storm that hit almost 7 years ago.  The spirit and pride that radiated from the people of New Orleans was contagious … and after our orientation from our [rockstar!] RHINO coordinator Avery, we could not wait to get started on helping the rebuilding process of this fantastically spirited place.

Tuesday morning [bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ... and operating on true Presbyterian time] we met our supervising crew for the houses that we would be working on for the rest of the week.  We were divided into several groups with other small groups of volunteers, and got to work quickly!

Our groups were involved in several projects between two different houses [nicknames are my own, based solely on the responsibilities and personalities of the people involved]:

The BangerSisters: Melva, Bong, and Kristin were in charge of nailing and screwing in woodblocks in order for the drywall to be put-up by subsequent groups of people.  When their inside job was completed, they then assisted in climbing ladders and nailing on siding to the outside of the house.

The Social Climbers: Stephanie (myself!) and two other ladies who were from New York, Katie and Krista, were trained on the scaffolding in order to apply trim for the subsequent siding, and then later we put trim up around the corners of the house and nailed, cut and measured siding as well.


The Backsiders: HyungJae, Tyler, Miseon, and JungJae working on the house around the corner putting up trim and siding.  This group was probably the hardest working group of all — and you could definitely tell at the end of the week that all of their hard work paid off!

The Porch Swingers: Maureen and Jamie worked to complete a front porch on the house around the corner.  They nailed, sanded, and built a beautiful porch with railing that we’re sure will be enjoyed by the owners!

[insert pregnant lull in the background music now ... time for a more serious note...]

After one rainy morning that involved lots of coloring for the Literacy program, however, Thursday brought with it a chance to get personal tours of New Orleans, both the good and the not-so-good that has come about in the past 7 years.  After a short presentation of the history of Hurricane Katrina, we were accompanied by St. Charles Pres church members and led around the city to explore what New Orleans looked like today.  This is when reality hit for many of us.  In the 9th ward, which was one of the most deeply affected places in New Orleans, there were still piles of rubble and remnants from 7 years ago.  There were bare fields where houses once crammed together, and there were house foundations still remaining, intertwined with the grass and weeds of the field.  Of course, there was sign of new life as well — many different groups are still working to rebuild and redesign this area.  There was an obvious attempt to redefine what it means to live in New Orleans, but the scars still remain.  Just as any other wound — this one will continue to take a long time to heal.  Through our tearful tours, we could feel both the hope and the heartache of the NOLA people — all rolled up together.

This hope is what sustained our group through the last work day…

On the last day of work, we worked alongside Avery and Mike to help clear rubble from an empty lot before returning to work on our assigned houses for the week.  Of course, rubble is best cleared to the tune of an 80′s Pandora station — and we were so excited when we finished that we quickly formed an [air] rock band!  We might have gotten a bit carried away….

At the end of the week we were exhausted, sun-burned, and full of emotion.  I suppose that’s what mission trips do to people.  We have returned to McCormick with a tweaked outlook on our own lives, and with the hope that relationships and partnerships were built and will remain strong.

After all, our mission work didn’t end when we returned back to a snowy Chicago —- it began.

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