Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

3/8 2012

Jail Ministry

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My time at the Allegheny County jail chaplain’s office has taught me many aspects of ministry. As a jail chaplain one has to work with the inmates and their families on the outside. This context of jail ministry involves bridging the gap between society and those who are on the fringes. The setting of the jail is made up of 2,600 inmates at one given time. There are 8 floors for men and three pod units for women. There are three levels of incarceration from maximum, medium, to minimum security for the inmates. The inmates consist of all walks of social life. They come from upper class, middle class, and working class families.

The ministry context about which I am writing in my situation is applying Christian education to family ministry. Christian education in jail ministry settings is essential for bringing forgiveness and change. Sharing the gospel through scripture is a powerful experience for not only the inmates, but for me as well. Often, I bring Christian devotional resources to encourage the inmates to continue to study. I have learned that ministry is not a pew-to-pulpit relationship and I feel that God has called me to serve in the Jail. My education at PTS through classes like Pastoral Care has helped me to share the love of Christ with those who desperately need a message of hope. Every time I walk through the doors of the jail, I draw upon what I am learning here.

Tony, Senior, MDiv student


3/1 2012

Lenten Reflections

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How does one observe Lent? This question seems to be in conversations all around me. Many of my friends have gone off the grid so to speak – relinquishing all modes of social media communication. Others have given up meat, dessert, or shopping – the list goes on. Still others have decided to devote more time to cultivating the classic Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

What I love about each of the seasons in the Church Calendar is just how unifying they truly are. As the Church observes, remembers, and celebrates the events that each season points to, the Church is upholding the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We set aside the differences that often plague the Church and come together centered in and on Christ. It’s not about us. It is always about Jesus Christ. Lent is about examining ourselves and being reminded that we are utterly dependent upon God alone. So, whether one aims to deny the self or give of one self in this season of Lent, we can agree that the sole purpose of it all is to draw closer to God through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Apparently even the World Wide Web has been inculturated to prepare for Easter! Here is a wonderful resource that I came across online which engages all of in our Lenten disciplines. Lent 2012: Lenten Fast With Prayers, Poems, Reflections Prepares For Easter. I leave you with today’s prayer by the Archbishop Desmund Tutu.

Disturb us, O Lord

when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord

when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.

Stir us, O Lord

to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas
where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow.


Melanie, senior MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


2/23 2012

Ministerial Formation – Outside the Classroom

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As I write this, the PTS community is in the middle of finals week for Term II: the library is full, professors are giving and reading exams, and students are editing papers. All this work, we hope, will give us a clearer idea of what students have learned so far about the texts and traditions and practices of the Christian churches.

Yet, some of the most important learning in a seminary happens beyond any syllabus. Over the course of a master’s program, students also take on the task of discernment, learning to identify their particular gifts and where God might be preparing them to serve. They also take on the task of moving into new identities and roles, learning to relate to those they serve as “pastor” or “minister” rather than simply as “friend.” This is hard work. It can be lonely work. But it’s as necessary a part of preparation for ministry as anything that we’ll test on an exam this week. It prepares us to take the learning we do in classrooms into the work of ministry, as people capable of leading and learning.

I’m grateful for the Student Association’s work in creating ways for us to support each other in discernment and ministerial formation. They’ve invited the staff of Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute to offer three opportunities for student learning and discussion. The first, will be “Owning Your Call: Growing into Your Unique Pastoral Identity,” to help us reflect on our particular strengths for ministry. The second will be “Uncertainty and the Pastoral Role – What if I Don’t Have All the Answers?” to help us think about how we live out pastoral authority as human beings with a limit or two. The third session will be “A Sacred Trust: Boundaries in Pastoral Care,” to help us think through the issues of power and vulnerability involved when people open their lives to us.

These are just three examples of how PTS provides opportunities to gather with others in the community and supports ongoing discernment. And as we begin Lent, may God bless all of us with humility, hope, and fellowship to foster our growth in faith and service.

Deirdre King Hainsworth, Assistant Professor of Ethics and Director of the Center for Business, Religion and Public Life

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