One of the biggest complaints I have heard among seminary students throughout the country is that there aren’t enough practical applications between what they learn in class and what they will be doing in their careers. We spend a lot of time talking about our call as though it will take place months or even years from now. Yet, could there be a call and a claim on the daily life we lead now?
When I first arrived at PTS, I was happy to lather a fresh coat of rosy paint on my glasses and immerse myself into the seminary experience. This was my home, my community, and my family. Whether it was because I had spent enough time outside of school or because God had placed some irksome itch into my life, I found I could not be content simply sitting in class. I wanted to be engaged in ministry right now. I wanted a place to practice the things my brain was being filled with all day long.
One of the really great things about Pittsburgh is that there are literally hundreds of church within a 20-30 minute driving distance from the Seminary that represent a wide variety of beliefs, cultures, and missions; yet, all of these churches are a part of the kaleidoscope that is God’s vision for the church. When you’re exposed to such a wide variety of church experiences, you tend to believe that God can work in any situation. A friend of mine and I decided to begin a Bible study that takes place in a bar. The Bible study started out with a few old friends from high school who happened to be living close by and getting together over a brew to discuss Scripture. Over time, word of the Bible study began to reach folks in our own community of East Liberty and especially the community on the South Side of Pittsburgh who had yet to find a church community.
As time went on, I was blessed to come into contact with Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community – a new church development that opens its doors to everyone, from the bar-dwellers to the homeless. It was through this church that Shots of Salvation, as our Bible Study is called, came into contact with the owner of a small tavern on the South Side of Pittsburgh. This man was looking for a way to offer up space in his bar for the church’s use; we were looking for a location for our Bible study that would be open and available to the myriad of twenty-something single people who live in Pittsburgh and gather naturally in the area of town where every other store-front is a bar. Shots of Salvation and the Birmingham Bridge Tavern have begun to serve as a safe space for a wide variety of people to feel at home, to find commonality in spite of differences, and to praise God openly, honestly, and with humility. I thank God for this opportunity to bridge what I learn in the classroom with the reality of people’s daily lives. Every Tuesday night, I get the opportunity to see a piece of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and that is what is going to stick with me after I graduate.