Here is my theologically-inflected life update complete with some angstiness. Hey, when you need to write, you need to write. Things make more sense to me after I write them down.
Masters of Divinity students at Drew have supervised ministry in their second year. I have not yet started working at my supervised ministry placement yet, but I am still questioning it. You see, my ministry placement is not a traditional one; instead of working out of a church, I will be working part time out of Protestant Community Centers, Inc. (PCCI), a non-profit that has worked with children and youth in Newark since 1964, and part time out of the United Methodist District office for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference's Gateway North District on their Urban Initiative Project. The purpose of this placement is to do creative urban ministry, which I am excited for. However, I am still nervous about this choice not to be in a church.
I see the churches as a space of radical potential for living as free people, particularly smaller churches in urban or rural communities. Churches could be a way to make community into family, to live out what it means to be children of God. In this image of church as community (not church-as-entertainment or church-as-assuaging-guilt or church-as-waiting-for-the-rapture which are far more common), the church is a space of action and of accountability. I am relying on liberation theology here, on visioning the church as an Exodus community. So wouldn't I want to take this year of supervised ministry to play around in the church? Why am I not connected to a particular congregation?
Perhaps one reason I was excited about this urban ministry project is fear that working in a church (particularly a suburban one) would kill this utopian understanding of church within me (and Christianity is a pretty utopian religion, when one actually looks at what Jesus taught, so I won't apologize or admit naivete on that one). Churches today are so isolated from one another and the world that it is difficult to live into that vision of freedom, which is why it is important to think of creative ways to link them together. So, though I have my doubts about the effectiveness of non-profits and the United Methodist bureaucracy to do radical work, I think we can use such organizations to help with our healing work. The idea of a connectional system is a good one if we could actually get it to work. And, though I feel as though I'm treading water, unsure of what this year is even remotely going to look like, I know this is a great opportunity to try ministry in a bit of an unusual way.
After all, Jesus' example of ministry was not one in a house of worship, but one that created a house of worship in dissonant situations in the streets, on fishing boats, eating with sinners, and on a cross with other dying criminals.