You recently started pastoring St. James Presbyterian while also staying on at Grace Commons, which now meets at St. How did this come about? I began to explore serving at St. As I got to know the people and the spirit of St. James, I began to envision a synergistic relationship. Both communities are relationally warm, theologically open and committed to hospitality and justice.
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The physical space is also conducive to supporting both ministries; the sanctuary is flexible and intimate. While each community will maintain its identity, they have already begun getting to know each other. Grace Commons brings a spirit of innovation alongside the rooted but open and generous community already gathering at St.
James offers stability and hospitality to a more transient, younger group gathering on Sunday nights.
1. Relying on an automatic return to church
How I preach at St. James is affected by how I lead at Grace Commons, and vice versa. Half-time at two jobs can easily become two full-time jobs. But I took her seriously. I felt charged with a duty in a way, and I think I stood up an inch taller.
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People need me to lead them, so I have to be brave. I have to take risks on their behalf, even if it draws criticism from others, even if I make mistakes and fail sometimes. Over time I realized that the people I was reaching out to also needed me to speak their truth, to reflect their experience back to them and to the church—and to make space for them in the Christian conversation. Nonhierarchical collaboration and consensus decision making were core values there.
As a facilitator and leader, it took me a while to learn that my voice was an equal and important one. This is always a balancing act, of course, trying to be neither too controlling nor too passive. Sometimes I can become too enamored with my own ideas and try to make them happen without letting them incubate in the community. So I need to step in as a more proactive facilitator—to share my ideas, spark conversation and strategize processes to help people achieve our shared goals.
On the basis of your ministry experience so far, how would you want to change—or what would you want to add to—your seminary curriculum? Still, I wonder if our field training could become more extensive—and more formative. I think it would have helped me to have more contact with pastors while I was a seminarian. Could we develop cohorts of pastors to gather at our seminaries for continuing education—but also bring students into those cohorts? My lectionary group recently became part of this Presbyterian network. We meet for one week every January.
We hire a scholar to teach us in the mornings, present our own biblical studies to each other in the afternoon and have social time in the evenings. It was started by a small group of friends just out of seminary. Every year a couple of new people are invited to join as others leave. The friendships that have developed through this group have been very important to me. Spiritual friendship calls for mutuality, deep authenticity and a good amount of transparency.
I know pastors disagree about whether you should be friends with your parishioners. For me, the concept of being a spiritual friend helps define a particular kind of friendship. But both kinds of friendship are real. A seminary president once asked me what my advice would be to people who want more young adults to attend their churches. My response surprised her. I asked, would those same parishioners invite those young adults to dinner in their homes?
Do they really want to be brothers and sisters in Christ, or do they just want more consumers of their church programs? My advice is to befriend people. Care about them, and let them care about you. One of the criticisms churches often receive is that the relationships in them are not real relationships. Not that we should share every messy detail of our lives—boundaries are good. But where exactly does the boundary fall?
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I understand this. SCPA used the third and fourth floors while Cutter continued to operate on the first and second floors. The auditorium, cafeteria, gym and playground were shared by both schools. There had been a school on the Sycamore site since , which was the first public school west of the Alleghany Mountains. The great abolitionists Levi and Katherine Coffin also lived on the property, causing there to be remnants of Underground Railroad tunnels underneath the building to this day.
In , SCPA finally occupied the entire building pictured at right and, in , graduated its first class of seniors. The school suffered a blow on April 18, , when an arson fire destroyed the theatre and almost burned down the building. School closed for a few days, but enough repairs were made to finish the school year, although it was eerie to have the theatre doors locked and the space marked off limits. The school community rallied under the banner of Fireworks!
Renovations were completed by September, and, SCPA, like the phoenix, rose from the ashes, better than ever. The building features specialized facilities for the arts, and three separate theaters, and is a key component to redevelopment plans for the neighborhood.
May you rush into our hearts and inebriate our souls. May we be empowered by your Spirit to live a life more faithful to God. When the world calls us orphaned Come, Holy Spirit, make us family. When the world leads us astray Come, Holy Spirit, call us home. Come, Holy Spirit, come! Come and fill this place!
Reader 1: Where we label family by our money status, and shirt colors define our brothers; Reader 2: Where we care for our own and make wars with other tribes; Reader 1: Where we create borders we call protection and shun those whom we say don't belong inside; Reader 2: Where we earn all we can, save all we can, and look at others confused when they ask us to give all we can while we sit in our own addictions high; Reader 1: Where we choose our houses so that we match our neighbors' skin; Reader 2: Where we even choose our churches so that our hues all blend; Reader 1: Where our differences create fear and matter more than the promise you made that we were all adopted into your glory when Christ defeated the grave.
Prayer of Confession We confess we have fired our tongues to wound others. We divide ourselves and forget to live in the peace you promise us in Christ.
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Forgive us, we pray.