Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

7/18 2014

Bivocational Ministry: Barista, MDiv

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Chris Brown and Mike Gehrling, Church Planters for The Upper Room in Pittsburgh

I came to Pittsburgh from Colorado to get a Master of Divinity. I wanted to be a pastor. But three months after graduation, I was serving espresso in a local café. For the next five years, the 61C Café in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh would be my employer, my community, and my mission field. This wasn’t a mistake. It was exactly where God had called me to be.

Thus I was baptized into the world of bivocational ministry and church planting. Bivocational ministry is often called “tentmaking,” following the example of the Apostle Paul at times supported his ministry through the trade of making tents (Acts 18:3). Paul’s trade provided an income for him, but it also put him in touch with a diverse group of travelers and traders every day, giving him many opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When my friend and fellow alum Mike Gehrling and I answered God’s call to plant a new church in Squirrel Hill, we chose to follow Paul’s example and pursue bivocational ministry for the same reasons. We wanted not only to lighten the financial burden on a newly emerging congregation, but also to work in places that put us in relationship with the people to whom God was sending us.

So Mike took a part-time job with InterVarsity doing campus ministry at Carnegie Mellon University, building community with graduate students and faculty. And I took a job at a neighborhood café, where I became intimately acquainted with Squirrel Hill’s eclectic and eccentric population.

I didn’t need an MDiv to serve espresso or bake muffins, but I did need theological education to prepare me for the conversations that took place every day at the café. What was I to say when a regular customer told me about her struggles to care for her aging mother? Or when another customer asked for help fighting an addiction? Or when a college student plopped a book about Wicca on the counter while I make her drink? Or when coworker told me he couldn’t accept the idea that there is only one Truth?

These were real people, with real struggles, in need of real Gospel. And that’s precisely why I wanted to be there, rather than inside the walls of a church office. Over five years, our congregation, The Upper Room, has grown slowly from a small group to a house church to a chartered congregation, but I know without a doubt that some of the most important ministry I’ve done was in the café.

In February of 2014, I left the café to serve at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary as the coordinator of our Church Planting Initiative. Here I have the joy of supporting students in our Church Planting Emphasis MDiv. I’m still bivocational – serving part-time at PTS and part-time at The Upper Room – but now I have the joy of encouraging and supporting church planters as they embark on similar journeys.

In fact, two of our Church Planting Emphasis students now work at the same café where I served. There they encounter real people, with real struggles, in need of real Gospel. As students, they’re engaged in bivocational education, practicing ministry both in and outside the Church. In so doing, they’re both being formed for the future of the Church and following in ancient apostolic footsteps.

Written by the Rev. Christopher Brown (MDiv, 2008), Church Planting Initiative coordinator at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and co-pastor of The Upper Room Presbyterian Church.

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Ministry: God Qualifies the Called

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Joy Pedrow (second from right) felt called to ministry in her youth. She now interns with the Seminary’s Miller Summer Youth Institute.

What do you want to do when you grow up?”

This is most common asked question to a teenager or young adult, and the most hated. In high school, kids are 14-18 years old. At such a young age, it is challenging to completely know the answer to this question.

During my 10th grade year of high school in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, I started to get the call that God wanted me to go into ministry. What ministry has meant to me has changed over the years, but I knew two things: that I wanted to help people and that God was pretty cool. Combining those two things seemed perfect.

When I was asked that question, I felt embarrassed to share with others my heart’s desire for my career, so I would always reply, “Orthodontist.”

This was the safest way to go. If I would say, “I don’t know.” Then, I would get additional questions, “Well, what is your favorite subject? Did you like math? How about teaching? Etc.…”

These questions never helped me make any decision. Thus, I realized the safest thing to do was reply, “Orthodontist.” There were no follow up questions, just a nod of agreement and maybe an encouraging statement.

For a high schooler, it is extremely difficult to fully trust God with this subject. It is difficult to share with others when you are not 100 percent sure that this is what you will spend the rest of your life doing. Students also worry about what others will think of their choice. I worried people would not understand or they would try and talk me out of it.

The Miller Summer Youth Institute at Pittsburgh Seminary provided a safe place for students to discuss a call into ministry. There were many opportunities to ask questions, talk to peers, and begin to start trusting God with this decision.

When I was thinking about going into ministry, I believed the lie that one had to be perfect. I questioned, “How could I help people in their walks with God when I was not perfect?”

It is common to respond to God’s call for one’s life and say, “I’m not qualified.” My response now is, “Well, what is qualified? Name one person in the Bible who was qualified.”

Abraham lied about Sarah. Moses stuttered. Jonah ran away from God. Peter denied Jesus. The disciples fell asleep while praying. And there are more examples found all through scripture!

As you go through the process of figuring out your call, remember that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

Joy Pedrow was born in Monroeville, Pa., and is now pursuing her communications degree at University of South Florida. An alumna of the program and now an intern, Joy is exploring her call to ministry with the Seminary’s Miller Summer Youth Institute.

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7/8 2014

Women in Ministry

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MDiv student Rebecca DePoe offers the communion elements to Katie Campbell.

When I graduated from Grove City High School in Grove City, Pa., in 1997, I had never seen or heard of a female pastor. And certainly, I had never considered going to graduate school to earn an MDiv. In spite of my leading and planning worship since the age of 15, receiving a scholarship from my high school for Christian ministry, and then going to college to major in religion, the possibility of being called to pastoral ministry never occurred to me.

Upon graduating from college I discerned that the best way for me to serve others was through social work. I entered the MSW program at the University of Pittsburgh having no idea the adventure God had in store for me. Through my work I discovered that an MSW was not enough, I wanted to add theological education to my social work experience. To my delight, some of my friends and professors told me about the joint MSW/MDiv degree with the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Seminary. This changed the course of my life.

Through my education and field placements at PTS my world opened up to the possibilities of how God could use me to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ. And though I had been wandering around trying to figure out how to put my gifts together, the perfect structure, degrees, and future was already in place for me.

I wish my story was unique, surely in 2014 everyone has been exposed to a female pastor. But each summer I have a conversation with one of the high schoolers at the Miller Summer Youth Institute, and I am the first female pastor they have met. And I tell them my story and how God’s plan for our lives is greater than we can ever imagine.

Not all of the SYI students are called to pastoral ministry, but for both the men and women, just knowing it is possible grants them a freedom to dream, pray, and explore their own calling.

The Rev. Erin Davenport is a 2005 alumna of the MDiv program. Through the Seminary’s joint degree program, she also earned her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. A former chaplain, she now resides in Pittsburgh and serves as the Seminary’s Director of the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

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