This will be a short post to wrap up the “My Cross-Cultural Experience” series. Yesterday was my last day of the “Ministry in the City” class, and since it was simply one meeting that lasted the morning, a debrief, it will be, well… brief.
Those of us in the class met in the morning with the two pastors who were leading us all weekend, Pastors Jim and Brian. When we arrived at the church, Pastor Jim was ready for us with coffee, tea, muffins and books! As you can see in the picture below, some books that were recommended for the course were laid out on the table so that we could peruse. I have already downloaded “Race Matters” on my Kindle.
After we said hello, got our caffeine, and discussed the books a bit, we moved into the Sanctuary where we discussed the weekend. We talked about the parts of the weekend that particularly touched us (there were many given), times when we felt uncomfortable, times when we felt challenged, and how much our host families really touched our lives. We spoke of the style of service, and whether it is accurate or appropriate to call it “black” preaching. The general feeling, at the end of the conversation, is that it is not “black.” There are many preachers (such as our own Pastor Jim) who naturally go to this style, even though the color of his skin is pale. What it IS is verbally expressive, with lots of movement. It is more of a dialogue versus the more typical “Lutheran” sermon that is a monologue. I commented that I felt it was less guarded, more emotional and vulnerable. Another student pointed out, though, that she has seen sermons that are very emotional and vulnerable, and yet still are not like this more expressive and free style that we have been experiencing over the weekend. I think she made a very good point. I have seen vulnerable and emotional sermons that were also more “stiff,” too. It is hard to find the right words to describe the distinction that we all had witnessed and understood.
This new (to us) style worked very well for some, and not so well for others. It works extremely well for me. I find myself opening up more, letting my own guards down, and feeling the community and the community’s love much more directly. I suppose I feel the Spirit more directly. I would very much like to experience more of this kind of preaching, and hopefully have my own preaching influenced by it. I think that, if my guards were completely down, I would be more expressive and emotional myself when preaching. I am going to look into whether it would be feasible to take one more class (beyond the currently full 5-class schedule) in preaching a style more similar to this. I think that if I would be forced outside of my own comfort zone a bit in this way, I may surprise myself.
We also spoke about the assignment that we all have due: a 3-5 page paper where we choose an urban ministry principle to try out in a parish/community setting, and then write about how it goes. We brainstormed principles together (seek out the good news, know the community, know the congregation, enable authenticity, remember history, break bread together, be vulnerable, etc.), and discussed some possible paper topics. It seems to me these principles aren’t really specific to “urban ministry,” but rather fit any ministry. I think I might choose “challenge each other and the congregation towards appropriate change” and see about introducing more inclusive language in the worship at PLTS. But I haven’t decided for certain… we’ll see.
When we finished our discussion, we gathered in a circle for the Eucharist. Pastor Brian led, and I very much appreciated how he said the words of the Eucharist without “citing” them. What I mean is that he said them more conversationally, as if he was just casually speaking with a group of friends, and explaining what the bread and wine are, and why they are given. The words spoken were the scripted words, but said in a more intimate way. It was touching. When the bread was distributed, it was not done by Brian to each person, but rather by Brian to the first person, who then took the bread and gave it to the next person, and so on. I very much like this approach to the Eucharist better than the more “top down” approach that is usual in the Lutheran church, where the pastor is the only distributor. By allowing each person to give the bread to the next person, we are reminded that we are truly a “priesthood of all believers,” and that one of us is not elevated above the others. The wine was distributed in the same way.
When the Eucharist was done, we shared the peace with hugs and good wishes, to end our session. I insisted that I wanted pictures, and so we then headed outside to take some group shots. Can you tell it was cold yet sunny?
Then, we split up. The younger generation headed out together to In n Out Burger at my request, as I wanted to get my California burger before heading back to Seattle. We had a good and filling lunch, and then decided to go check out the Venice canals. Although it took me a few tries, I found the canals, and showed them off a bit (this is next door to the neighborhood where I used to live in LA) before rushing back to my car and barely making my flight home.
This class has been a huge blessing for me. I am still reflecting upon all that I’ve learned and experienced, and I expect I will continue to reflect upon this for quite some time. In this short time, we have built ourselves a tight-knit community, and I really hope to keep that community going. I am hopeful that I will be able to keep in touch with at least some of these new friends, and enjoy the blessings of that community throughout my path of ministry.
To all of my fellow Ministry in the City classmates: Thank you, Peace, and Blessings.