Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

4/17 2015

The Power of Prayer

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power-of-prayer“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  John 14:13-14

The last day we were in the village of Bhirkot, we walked to the home of one of the villagers for a time of fellowship and worship. We met many new people and made our way to the upper level of the home. We took the customary places on mats, on the floor, in a large circle, and began to worship. Pastor Rajendra led the service and hymns were sung in Nepalese and English. The Word was provided by Rebecca. There were also witness stories given. At the conclusion of the service Don Dawson asked if we could pray for those who shared their stories with us. There were four individuals so Karen opened the prayer, and then Brian, Jane, Ben, and I prayed in turn for these people. I prayed for Krishna, his family, and especially for his granddaughter who is crippled. My turn came and with my hand on his shoulder, as I prayed, I could feel Krishna shaking. After Don wrapped up our time of prayer, Krishna lifted his face full of tears.

Almost all Nepalese Christians have received or know someone who received some type of healing through prayer. Because there were only a handful of Christians in Nepal 35 years ago, most Christians are converted Hindus. Most of the conversions are the result of these healings. Their profound belief in the power of prayer and especially Krishna’s deep emotional reaction to our prayer for his family and his granddaughter led me to evaluate my own conviction in the power of prayer. Martin Luther wrote that we should always pray expecting an answer to prayer. We shouldn’t presume to know what God’s answer will be, but to KNOW the prayer is heard and in time will be answered. I continue to pray that I will have the faith that the impossible will be made possible through prayer that our friends in Bhirkot showed us.

Marty Neal is a first year MDiv student at Pittsburgh Seminary. During spring break he travelled with the World Mission Initiative to Nepal.

Other Nepal Reflections:

Rebecca DePoe – We’re All One Body in Christ

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4/14 2015

We’re All One Body in Christ

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“For just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we are all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Nepal-Mission-TripI shared this scripture passage with my World Mission Initiative Nepal team during the morning it was my turn to lead our devotional time. That morning our team shook ourselves out of bed at 4:00 so we could watch the sunrise over Mt. Everest. Of course I forgot that it was my morning to lead devotions until we filled into the church van to drive to the mountains. And of course I was so tired that I slept almost the entire drive there. I stumbled out of the van more worried about how I was going to pull together an on-the-fly devotional, than excited about watching the sunrise.

After ascending a few stairs, our team arrived at a flat, raised, platform just as the sun started to peak through the mountaintops. It is hard to describe what it feels like to watch the sunrise over Mt. Everest for the first time. It’s almost like watching a stage manager begin a play by turning on one stage light on at a time. At first all you are able to see is one stage prop, but slowly you start to see more props, then actors, then what the actors are wearing, then how the actors fit into the set. By the time the set is fully illumined, you cannot help but marvel at how every part of the set works together to tell a story. When the sun finally crept above the mountaintops, I had to sit down for a minute because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s creation- particularly how each part of the mountain-from the snow peaked caps to the luscious green tree tops, worked together to create the breathtaking view in front of me.

All of the sudden I knew what I would share about for our morning devotional time: the idea of the church being one body with many members. One of the things I struggled with on our trip to Nepal was figuring out my place within our group. To use Paul’s metaphor for the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians, I was struggling to be a head in a context that called for hearts. I cannot be immediately comfortable in new situations the way some of my teammates can. I cannot put people at ease the way some of my other teammates can. And I certainly cannot work a church coffee hour the way our team leader can. But one thing I can do is observe a new situation and proclaim how Jesus is moving in that new situation.

So with Mt. Everest behind me and my team in front of me, I lead a devotional time on the body of Christ. I read Paul’s exhortation on the body of Christ, then lead my team through a time of recognizing the various gifts and talents of each team member. I ended our devotional time by praying for the people we met in Nepal, and for the people we left behind in the United States.

As I transition back into my life at Pittsburgh Seminary and reflect on my experience in Nepal, I realize that leading that devotional time was an important moment in my journey toward discerning my call to ministry. I learned that not only do I have gift and talents for proclaiming the Word of God, but doing so brings me great joy. For it is in the proclamation that I get to take all of my observations, and reflections about who God is and how God acts, and share them with others in a way that brings God glory. Because of my experience in Nepal I am newly energized to participate in God’s call in my life through my seminary education and ministry in the PC(USA).

Heavenly Father,

I praise you for the diversity of gifts and talents that exist within your church. Help us as a community of believers to recognize and appreciate this diversity. I pray that you would help your church discern its gifts and talents so that it might serve you more faithfully.

In your Son’s holy name we pray,

Amen.

Rebecca DePoe is a middler MDiv student who recently traveled with the World Mission Initiative to Nepal. She’s serving as the seminary intern at Bellevue United Presbyterian Church. You can follow her on Twitter at @RebeccaDePoe where she live tweets her #ch47pts readings.

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4/9 2015

Gentrification Conversation: Part One

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I didn’t expect to be married to one of the bad guys, but there it is.

My husband Kendall was recently asked to lead a workshop at a conference, “Lived Theology,” hosted by the Metro-Urban Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I came along to help him keep time. While we were waiting for everyone else to arrive, I read the program. We were Track #2.

Track #2: Neighborhoods and Development. Goal: To assist churches and communities in analyzing and responding to physical, cultural, and socio-political changes within neighborhoods as a result of urban development policies and approaches.

This was a mouthful, but I knew what it meant. My husband works for a local Community Development Corporation (CDC) that has succeeded, over the past decade or two, to bring significant changes to the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Changes like a dramatic reduction in the crime rate; changes like an upturn in the housing market. Changes like opening (at that time) the only Whole Foods in Western Pennsylvania.

Changes like white people walking the streets with yoga mats tucked under their arms.

3936450656_1d6e343e2a_oAnd the word, the g-word, began to buzz in conversation, public and private. By the time of the conference, I was used to concerned friends asking questions like, “But what will happen to all of the residents who were already there?” or “What if rents rise and push people out?”

Kendall had answers to these questions: His organization had secured a large number of affordable units a decade earlier. More than a third of the housing in the neighborhood is subsidized long-term. The improved market could create generational wealth for current residents. The increased tax revenue benefited public schools. Turn-of-the-century houses were expensive to renovate, and without investment, they would rot and be torn down.

And finally, if our friends weren’t convinced (they usually weren’t), he would remind them that his organization had merely enacted the results of two extensive community plans, done in 1999 and 2010. These plans called for the creation of a mixed-income community, and that is what East Liberty was becoming.

“But isn’t it just being gentrified?” was the shorthand response, or, as one brave participant in the seminary workshop finally voiced, “Aren’t you just trying to get rid of all the black people?”

I checked the time; Kendall was just halfway done.

*****

This month’s theme at You Are Here is “Together in Place,” and as I have reflected on the gentrification conversations that go along with being married to my husband, I realize that a “Mixed Income Community”, however attractive in theory, is messy and frightening in practice.

Consider the alternative. Isn’t there something in us, as human beings, that is drawn to living near people who look like us, act like us, and make just about as much money as we do? Why else would we create gated communities? Why else, sixty years ago, did people flee to the suburbs? And why else, as the wealthy (in Pittsburgh, read ‘white people’) return to the cities in this decade, would there be a sense of invasion and take-over?

Take-over. This was the phrase my friend used as we sat together in the car after Kendall’s presentation. “I know that he’s got a convincing argument,” he conceded, staring out the window, “but there’s just this sense that people have, this sense that their world is being taken over, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. It feels like a take-over, and that’s scary.”

For awhile, we sat in silence. Neither of us had any answers. There were good reasons to build a mixed-income community; there were compelling arguments for the change. The cost of doing nothing, of stagnation, of the status-quo, of ghettos and gated communities, was also high.

But living together is hard, and there’s this open question: how long will we able to keep it up? Rich, Poor, Middle-income, Black, White, Asian, Latino–all the census categories and a thousand variations–will we learn to live as neighbors? Will we attend each other’s birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and funerals? Will our children grow up together? Can our worship spaces go from being the most segregated places in America to become communities of reconciliation?

Can we live together? Or, is it inevitable that one group will take-over, one group will flee or be pushed out, and that a mixed-income community is just a stop on the way to gentrification?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But the friend in the car was the pastor of my church, our mixed-race and mixed-income church of a hundred-or-so people who love one another, and we were determined to continue the conversation.

*****

Early this morning I was walking up the hill to my house, and I saw someone approaching, coming down the hill. The sun had not yet risen–I am on my guard in the dark–but as the figure came into focus, I relaxed. It was a middle-aged woman, vaguely familiar, dressed in hospital scrubs with an umbrella tucked under her arm. “Good morning” I chirped, perhaps a little too cheerfully, my voice loud in all that quiet morning space.

And… nothing. For a long moment, she just stared. I took in her worn brown face, cigarette in hand; she glanced at my pink cheeks and the orange yoga mat tucked under my arm.

“Good morning” she finally acknowledged, her sharp tone cutting into the air between us, her meaning clearly the opposite of her words. And just like that we passed one another, quickly, and the silence re-settled into the city streets.

What will fill this silence? This remains to be seen.

*****

Later this month, I will fill some of the silence with another post, Gentrification Conversation: Part Two on the blog You Are Here. In the meantime, those of you with opinions, questions or your own experiences… please comment. I’d like to hear what you have to say.

Jen Pelling ’10 is on the winding path of life-after-seminary. She earned her MDiv degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and is an elder at Valley View Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa. She writes and edits for the ‘You Are Here’ blog, freelances in her “free” time, works with other people’s children in various settings, and mothers her own two daughters with joy and frequent prayers for patience.

Yoga Mat photo by Grace Commons

 

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