Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/mccormick.edu/httpdocs/wordpress/wp-includes/ms-load.php on line 113
Urban Ministry | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Urban Ministry


I did not plan on being a church planter. And, I don’t mean that in a God-was-calling-me-there-but-I-refused-to-listen-to-God’s-voice kind of way. It was literally not even a blip on my radar. So, when the opportunity came up to be a planting pastor with Urban Village Church, an initiative with the UMC, I really had to think on it.

I began talking with Trey Hall and Christian Coon, the lead pastors of UVC about a year ago. At the same time, they were having conversations with Benjamin Reynolds, a PhD student at Chicago Theological Seminary who had pastored a large African American Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs. I was caught by how they really listened, were responsive, and sought to follow the Spirit’s lead in their own discernment about us as their partners in ministry. I realized that, in a risky endeavor like church planting, it was important for me to know I had passionate, dynamic, and intelligent partners who would not only recognize and value the gifts and experiences that I brought to the table, but also take me seriously as a partner. I didn’t plan on church planting, but once I accepted the call, I became excited. It was the best intersection of my gifts and passions: creative communications, graphic design, organization, seeing the gospel change lives, and having fun.

So, why plant churches in time of mainline decline? The simple answer is that there are people who want to engage questions of spirituality and faith, but they are not finding what they need. Rather than paint with a broad brushstroke, I will speak to the particular context where Benjamin and I are doing our work. In my conversations with folks (most, but not all, of whom were young adults) in the Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighborhoods, I have come across 4 types – People who have:

1)  given up trying to find something in the neighborhood and go somewhere else.

2)  given up trying to find a church and don’t go to church.

3)  settled on a place, but aren’t all that satisfied

4)  been burned or rejected by the church at some point.

Many people are looking for a sense of connection and community; where someone notices when they’ve been away or knows to ask about what’s happening in their lives. They are also looking for a place where their questions are not ignored but taken seriously and engaged; where doubt is not equated with unbelief. Additionally, families are looking for a place where their children can be equipped to think about faith and faithful living that is rooted in the gospel with intelligence and meaning. There is also a unique need that UVC on the south side can address: being a faith community that welcomes and affirms people of color (and their families) across the spectrum of sexual orientation. Finally, our vision for Urban Village as a whole (and particularly on the south side) is to be a multi-racial faith community that does not minimize difference but engage it for the sake of being a fuller expression of God’s kindom.

McCormick was important in equipping me with certain tools in this work:

  • Developing a posture of life-long learning
  • Opportunities for engaging in conversations with people who come from a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences
  • A network of creative colleagues who both support and challenge me
  • Knowledge of ministry in an urban context (particularly Chicago)
  • Public speaking and preaching
  • Supportive faculty and staff
  • Tools for shaping creative liturgy and worship

There are other key tools that McCormick did not (and in some cases, could not) equip me with, so I had to learn or obtain elsewhere:

  • Perseverance
  • Humor
  • Graphic design and marketing
  • Organization/Administration
  • External networks and connections
  • Creative ways to do evangelism/outreach
  • The nuts and bolts of church planting
  • The practice of trying to do church differently
  • Community organizing

Being a church planter is hard work! You have to put yourself out there again and again, initiating conversations with people, risking rejection and judgement on a daily basis. But, I do not regret my decision. There is something very powerful and humbling about the work of planting churches. You get a front row seat in bearing witness to the kind of work that God can do through a broken vessel (moi) to help make the neighborhood just a little bit better and the gospel just a little more present in the world.

This is a brief overview of some aspects of my work as a church planter. If you have questions or are interested in church planting and would like to join Benjamin and myself in this work, feel free to contact me at emcginley@mccormick.edu

In a recent daily meditation for the Center for Action and Contemplation, Father Richard Rohr wrote that “you never think yourself into a new way of living. You invariably live yourself into a new way of thinking.”

That reality has always been relatively clear to me – especially when it comes to faith and the gospels; but it became even more clear several weeks ago when I participated the 2012 Western National Leadership Training in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.   Futurist M. Rex Miller, author of The Millenium Matrix, was the keynote speaker for this annual conference and his topic was “Developing Leadership in Changing Times.”

Miller’s starting premise for both his book and presentation was as follows:  In the beginning was the Word….[and] what happens when you change the container of the Word.   In other words, the new ways (aka containers) in which and through which we communicate, are encouraging (even compelling) us to live into new ways of thinking about words and the Word, about institutions and about leadership.

He took us on a brief tour of the cultural containers in which both religion and society have operated (terms and dates coined by Miller):

In the Oral culture  – aka ancient (? BC- 1500), the credibility of the word was that of the person who spoke it.

In the Print culture  – aka Modern (1500-1950),  we began to see the word as idea, more than as relational.

In the Broadcast culture – aka Post Modern (1950-2010), the word became experiential;

and

In the Digital culture – aka Convergent (2010 –), the word both becomes and facilitates conversations.

The implications for society and certainly for faith and religion are downright mind boggling, at least for someone like me, who didn’t become conversant with digital until I was already into adulthood .  The digital age has changed our understanding of what it means to be relational, accessible, and communal.  We are indeed living into new ways of thinking that are happening so quickly that we barely have time to adjust to one adaptation before another has taken its place.

When Miller showed us a brief video from YouTube, I was struck by how much I still have to learn.  I encourage you to open the link and let this speak for itself.  Ask yourself if you could have imagined (if you are not a late Gen-Xer or a Millenial) such a scenario.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meyh9BFe-9Q

The digital age is changing the way we lead, the way we think, and the way in which we see the world.   Miller points out that “the changing technology of communication has also fundamentally altered the character of the church” (p. 140), despite the slowness (and even reluctance) of many to live into this new way of being.  As we become familiar with and integrated into what it means to live in an interactive culture, we will embrace these opportunities for teaching and learning, for worship, leadership  and communication.

The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins, lest the wineskins break, the wine be spilled and both wine and wineskins be ruined (9:17).   The digital era – and the emerging convergent church — are the new wine, searching for appropriate spiritual and institutional structures that will flex and expand to embrace “the connected intimacy and simultaneity of the [new] digital culture” (Miller, p. 143).

Are you ready?

McCormick has been preparing women and men for ministry for well over 150 years, and today on the CURE you’ll get an insiders look at what life is like when you leave the classroom and get into the ministry God has called you to! I’ve asked two recent McCormick grads to share  about their lives after seminary and how McCormick helped shape them to live into their calls. Sharing is 2012 M.Div graduate TC Anderson who works as the director of Youth Ministry at at the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights and 2012 MTS Graduate Ryan Wallace, an organizer for the Civic Action network.

Up first is TC Anderson-

Did McCormick prepare me for my ministry? Yee…. Nnnn…. nes! It’s a complicated answer, so allow me to try and flush it out. First, I’m working in youth ministry because that’s where I’m called. I knew that going into seminary and it hasn’t changed. McCormick is very much focused on ministry from the pulpit. This does not mean that there aren’t classes or even professors geared towards other areas of ministry, just that the majority of what I was learning was for ministry from the pulpit. That being said, I think that McCormick did exactly what I needed McCormick to do to prepare me for my ministry going forward. I needed something to deepen my own faith, I needed something to expand my understanding of my religion, I needed something to connect me with other Theologians who both agree and disagree with me so that I could stay in contact with them when I needed to talk about this ministry. McCormick did all these things. Having worked in ministry for 7 years before going to McCormick I didn’t need a class to tell me what to expect in that ministry field. I have found that books and lessons can only take you so far in that respect anyway. Hardly ever does a problem happen exactly like one of your case studies. The only real way to prepare us for the ministry is to strengthen our faith, give us a support net, and increase the amount of knowledge we have about our beliefs, the rest is experiential. So I guess my answer, now that I’ve flushed it out more, is yes. McCormick did exactly what I needed to be done to prepare me for this crazy, unexpected, difficult, fulfilling thing called ministry. Thank you McCormick!

TC's ministry in Action!

And finally, Ryan Wallace –

I began in the MDiv program at McCormick in the fall of 2010, just a couple of months after formally initiating my ordination process in the Chicago Presbytery. I had sensed a call to congregational ministry from a very young age, but I entered McCormick with a genuine uncertainty about my future. I never felt reason to question my call to ministry, per se. It’s just that, as I grew older, the world got bigger and so did my notion of what “ministry” might mean.

And then, McCormick pried open my world more yet. Fellow students, professors, and classes challenged me to think about myself, my ministry, and the Church in new ways. I learned the difference between charity and justice. I reckoned with my identity as a straight white American male from a well-to-do suburb. And I came to the somewhat difficult realization that I don’t need to be Rev. Ryan Wallace to do God’s work in my community.

In February, I reclassified my degree from MDiv to Master of Theological Studies. And though I’m still in prayerful conversation about my ordination, I’m still not sure what, if any, formal leadership position I may one day hold in the Presbyterian Church. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that I am called to the ministry I’m now doing.

Today, I am a congregational organizer with the Civic Action Network at the Community Renewal Society, a 130 year-old Chicago organization that addresses racism and poverty through community organizing. Our network is comprised of some eighty-odd churches across the Chicago metropolitan area. I am the organizer for our member churches in Lake County and suburban Cook County. Ultimately, my goal is to develop leaders in those congregations who can mobilize its members to act as a force for change. Each year, we listen to the people in our churches to understand the issues they face in their communities, and together we build campaigns to create positive change. We fight for jobs for ex-offenders, housing for those without it, adequate funding for all our children’s schools, and gun control in our communities among other issues.

In our modern culture, I believe the Church is becoming irrelevant because we too often deliver a message about eternal salvation to a people who need and long for a message about salvation in the here and now. We, the Church, often declare our vision—full of love—for God’s kingdom on earth. But seldom do we acknowledge our latent power and set out to use it for the fulfillment of that vision. Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Power without love is tyranny, and love without power is sentimentality.” With his words in mind, let’s refuse to be the sentimental Church who dreams only of what could be or might be, and instead become the Church that plays a powerful role in the building of our communities that will be.

Thanks so much to TC and Ryan. I hope you’ve seen a little about the paths McCormick students might take after leaving seminary – but their stories are only two of the many many voices to be heard, so I encourage you to come and visit McCormick, talk to our students and faculty, speak with Alumni and see for yourself what McCormick can do for you and the ministry that God has called you to.

Our Fall Inquiry into Ministry is right around the corner – so take advantage! Register here: Fall IIM Registration

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?

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.

As the number and size of many churches in the mainline denominations decline, student enrollment at seminaries has been flat or in decline and many seminarians are considering alternate forms of ministry as they do their vocational discernment and post-seminary planning.    A number of our students choose to do their field education placement in an agency or faith-based ministry rather than in a congregation,   because they are thinking more intentionally about non-traditional forms of ministry.   Those who are in dual-degree programs, such as the M. Div./M.S. W., often do two field placements – one in a church setting and the other in an agency setting (thus satisfying the requirements of both the seminary and the educational institution where they are pursuing the social work degree)

Faith In Place is one such ministry.  Begun in 1999, it was initially a project of the Center for Neighborhood Technology and its goal was “to gather religious leaders in the Chicago region in dialogue, prayer and action on issues of environmental sustainability.”   The Reverend Clare Butterfield, an ordained pastor and trained attorney is the founder and Executive Director of Faith In Place.

She offered some good suggestions at a panel discussion held on campus last semester.  From her perspective as the director of a non-profit, faith based entity, Rev. Butterfield spoke about what it takes to start and sustain such a ministry.   The following summarizes the points she made; they provide some “go with your gut” guidelines if you’re considering any form of entrepreneurial or evangelistic ministry (which could, of course,  include a new church start — but more about that in another blog).

  1. Follow your passion; if you don’t love what you’re doing you probably won’t succeed.  Starting a new ministry is not for the faint of heart or easily discouraged.  So think long and hard before you take the plunge.
  2. If you can’t start your own ministry; hook into an existing organization, if one already exists, and find ways to add your gifts and skills to the mix.
  3. Define your ministry and mission carefully, and then stick to it.  If it’s not your mission, don’t do it.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness of your ministry regularly.  Part of an ongoing evaluation may include letting  go of programs that aren’t really working.
  5. Learn to “play well” with others.
  6. When you volunteer your time, be realistic about who may be getting paid for what you have offered to do for nothing.
  7. Stay positive about your ministry in public (you can grumble all you want in the privacy of your own office).   Donors and potential donors will tend to walk away from you if they sense your negativity.
  8. Have a group of friends with whom you can honestly talk with about the downsides and stumbling blocks you are experiencing in your ministry.
  9. Find security (and pleasure) in things other than your job.
  10. Recognize your blessings every day.

Good evening friends!

Today has been an incredible day at McCormick – we had the inauguration of Frank Yamada as president. All those in attendance can attest to the fact that it was an incredibly powerful service. We’ll be bringing you news on that Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.

But first!

Ryan Wallace recently went with a group of clergy, seminarians and other religious leaders to the Illinois capitol to lobby for raising the minimum wage. I asked to write this blog, and it stands as a testament to the McCormick community’s continued presence in promoting justice for all of God’s children. Written below is his account of the day and why it is an important issue to fight for:

It’s safe to say that 4:45am is earlier than I want to wake up most days. But this past Tuesday, that is precisely what time I (willfully) rolled out of bed. I had a good reason though. I was on my way to meet up with about 70 others to catch an early train down to the Capitol in Springfield to lobby for SB1565: a bill to raise Illinois’ minimum wage. After all, minimum wage workers all over the state wake up even earlier than 4:45 every morning to start preparing the breakfast and coffee we grab on our way into the office a few hours later, so maybe I owe ‘em one.

At 7am sharp, our train pulled out of Union Station. After some bagels and coffee, we got down to business. We had but a few short hours to teach crash courses in minimum wage reform and lobbying. Our train car was filled with a veritable potpourri of folks—clergy, minimum wage workers, nuns, lawyers, community organizers, lobbyists, and even an economist—but we all shared in the common goal of raising the minimum wage in our state. However, in order to pass the bill, we’d need more of an argument than, “$8.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on” (though there’s no doubt that statement is woefully true). We’d need the facts to back up our moral and democratic argument that no one who works full time should qualify for food stamps. We knew we’d need to have answers to pointed questions like: How will businesses be affected by the wage raise? Won’t raising the minimum wage cost our state jobs? How can we pass a raise in the minimum wage during an economic recession?

Fortunately, we did our reading ahead of time…

First, a recent national study comparing job growth in bordering counties with differing minimum wages has effectively proven that increases in minimum wage do not negatively affect job growth. Additionally, several other studies have demonstrated that raising the minimum wage actually saves businesses money (by reducing employee turnover and thus the cost of training new employees), generates new revenue for businesses (by increasing worker productivity), and creates a better work environment (by significantly elevating employee morale).

From an economic standpoint, there is also strong evidence that suggests we should raise the minimum wage. It’s been estimated that raising the minimum wage would generate over $2 billion in new consumer spending in Illinois over the next four years. Raising the minimum wage means putting more money in the pockets of low-income families who will turn around and spend that money every month (because they still won’t make enough to put it into savings), primarily on goods and services in their own local communities. In fact, some economists project that this new consumer spending could create as many as 20,000 new jobs in Illinois over the next four years.

If that’s not convincing, I imagine most of us would agree that minimum wage should, at the very least, grow at the same rate as our economy. However, as our economy has expanded, minimum wage has lagged behind. If minimum wage had simply kept pace with inflation over the past forty years, it would be over $10 an hour today.

While in Springfield, we collectively visited the offices of all 59 Senators and every last one of the 118 Representatives, delivering to each a scroll with the signatures of more than 200 faith leaders from around the state supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Many of us were even lucky enough to catch some of the legislators and sit down to chat about the reason for our visit to our state’s capital. We then gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol for a press conference featuring clergy, sponsoring legislators, workers, and experts, all attesting to the fact that the time is now to stand up for the lowest paid workers in our communities.

Many of us were also able to track down the legislators from our own home districts. Whether our Senators are co-sponsors or opponents of SB1565, we wanted to let them know where we as constituents stood on the issue. We hope you can join us for our next Springfield excursion, but until then…

Find your Senator, ask where she/he stands on SB1565, and let her/him know that you support SB1565 to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to $10.65/hour over the next four years.

Thanks for sharing this story with us and for standing up for minimum wage workers!

See you next week!

Powered by WordPress | Theme: Motion by 85ideas.