Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

1/8 2015

The Church’s Responsibility to the World

Whether we live in urban environments like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, small towns like Latrobe, Pa., or in rural villages, most people’s natural tendency is to use whatever power and influence we have for self-serving purposes. We often abuse our God-given privileges by prominently doing good to those who can reciprocate our generosity. Privilege comes wearing many different hats: wealth, prestige, caste, gender, education, race, etc. I think as Christians we have the greatest privilege of all, a relationship with Christ. However, as Christians, we often stay too comfortable, too self-centered, too stymied by fear that we cover up our own light. This light was divinely designed to shine brightly. This light was never meant to be just ours and those like us. This light was always meant to humbly undergird our sisters and brothers everywhere toward shalom and freedom.

I will never forget worshiping with a homeless church under a bridge in the urban-center of Surabaya, Indonesia. Even with the rumbling of semi-trucks overhead, tremendous insect infestation, and perpetual sickness from extreme proximity to a high bacteria yielding garbage dump, these Christians exuded more joy in the privilege of knowing Christ than I had ever seen. This church under the bridge’s fervor for Christ so transcended their circumstances that they took up a collection of what little they had to give to their non-Christian peers and to serve refugee orphans. They accounted their privilege as followers of Jesus over all other circumstances and joyously operated out of that framework toward the betterment of others.

It is both our duty and privilege to spread God’s love throughout the earth in transformative ways. This call will often take us into unpopular places and undesirable circumstances aligning ourselves with those whose cries go unnoticed and whose conditions seem permanent. However, our “Christ privilege” calls us to minister to all people and places, and we end up being transformed in the process. With great privilege comes great responsibility. Let us take the greatest privilege this world has ever known, and be light to all.

Kimberly Merrell, an MDiv program alumna of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is the director of the Metro-Urban Institute at PTS.

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8/15 2014

New Doctor of Ministry Degrees: Meeting Today’s Needs

Urban scene from Pittsburgh to Paris

By the end of the century, 75 percent of the world’s population will be in urban areas. The Church must be spiritually and socially transformative in urban ministry.

As the world changes, those in ministry must meet new needs. To help prepare pastors, Pittsburgh Seminary is offering two new Doctor of Ministry focuses. The Missional Leadership and Urban Change DMins begin January 2015.

The Urban Change Focus is designed to assist church leaders in framing and pursuing spiritually and socially transformative ministry responses to rapidly changing complex urban circumstances. Opportunity for study in urban settings, including an international immersion for one week in London and a second week in Pretoria, South Africa, will provide global contextual education. Other sessions meet in Pittsburgh.

The Missional Leadership DMin seeks to form pastors to lead congregations in recognizing what it means to participate in God’s mission within their specific context. Defining mission while sitting in the pews blocks the wide open vision of community. The goal is to plunge into the neighborhood and develop new relationships while practicing a keen understanding that God is active in the world. From these new practices and habits, a new vision for ministry and faith emerges. Classes meet in January and June in Pittsburgh.

Both Urban Change and Missional Leadership include the following goals:

  • To develop a biblically rooted and theologically informed understanding of missional congregations and leadership. Achieving this goal will include the development of a theology of missional congregations, leadership theory, ethics, ecclesiology, proclamation, and conflict theory.
  • To form leaders who are theologically reflective from within their own contexts and able to lead their congregation to become a missional community. Achieving this goal includes the integration of research methodology with formative postures, habits, and practices of adaptive change leadership, the challenge of re-thinking church, cultivating communal discernment, plunging into the neighborhood, preaching, worship, and pastoral care.

Interested in either program? We welcome your applications online through Oct. 31, 2014. Or contact the Doctor of Ministry Office with questions at 412-924-1421 or DoctorOfMinistry@pts.edu. An MDiv or equivalent is required for the Doctor of Ministry degree.

Written by the Rev. Dr. Susan Kendall, director of the Doctor of Ministry Program.

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1/30 2014

Outside the Seminary Gates

I was pretty excited when I got asked to write this week’s post for the PTS  blog. I was excited because I was asked to write about something that is very important to me and that is something that I believe needs to be talked about a lot more. I am going to write about what I do outside of this seminary.

We always talk about what is going on in classes and in the daily happenings at the Seminary but rarely do I hear what people are doing outside of these gates. I just graduated from Eastern University this past spring and every day I see more how what I learned there and what I did there have impacted me.

Eastern is very social justice oriented and it has become a part of my ministry whether I wanted it to or not. While it will take time, commitment, and more resources than I currently have to figure out how to do both clerical ministry and social justice outreach together, I figure for the time being I can start small.

Through Bellefield Presbyterian Church I have gotten connected with a homeless ministry called L.I.V.I.N.G Ministry with which I  volunteer. Unfortunately I am only able to volunteer with them once a week and with other occasional events because of time constraints and other obligations.

This ministry is a unique ministry in that they really emphasize the relational aspect of what they do. While it is important to meet the physical needs of the homeless in Pittsburgh, they want to love them and serve them through building relationships with these people and getting to know them on a very real level.

The staff members for L.I.V.I.N.G Ministry visit the homeless in shelters each and every week so that they can create authentic reciprocal relationships with the people who stay in these shelters. As well as building relationships at these shelters, they also commit to doing Bible study together and sharing meals with each other.

On Monday nights I go to Womanspace East Shelter, a shelter for women and their children. The first three Mondays of the month, while one of the volunteers watches their kids, we have a Bible study with the women who are interested. The last Monday of the month is reserved just for cooking dinner and eating together. I normally end up watching the kids so that the moms can be a part of the Bible study. At first I was kind of bummed by this because being a “seminarian” and all of course I wanted to be involved in the Bible study (I know for me it has taken awhile to realize that often times it is outside the “typical” setting of where we see God working that I see Him the most), but then I really began to see the value in the importance of something as little as watching kids. Without someone watching these kids, their mothers would not be able to partake in the Bible study. It’s just that practical. It also gives me a chance to show these kids some attention and allow them to tell me about who they are.

I will be honest and say sometimes I leave wondering if I actually portrayed God’s love at all or if my presence there made any difference. That, I found, is one of the hard things about working in ministry and in situations where change is a slow, barely visible process. This is where I come to realize that it is not anything that I am doing or saying but rather what Christ is doing through me and through this ministry that is important regardless of if I can evidently see that or not.

Written by Maggie Smith, first year M.Div. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Interested in getting involved with L.I.V.I.N.G Ministry? Contact Maggie (mtsmith@pts.edu) or visit http://livingministry.org.

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