Archive for April, 2010

posted by Amy on Apr 29

Note: Two classmates and I designed this church as part of a group paper for Systematic Theology class. I ended up wishing there were such a church. I would love to be its pastor. It wouldn’t actually have to be non-denominational. It could be a “reconciling” congregation within the United Methodist Church.

“The Pilgrimage”

The Pilgrimage is a Christ-centered, holistic, Spirit-led community that seeks to learn what it means to love God and love neighbor together as members of God’s family. We welcome all saints and sinners into a dynamic, living community that practices fellowship, care for both humanity and creation, and insistence upon instituting just and life-giving social and political structures. Our formal worship services are liturgical and mystical. We promote sanctification of individuals and the church through means of grace (sacraments, study of scripture, prayer, fasting, covenant living, and works of mercy.)

The Pilgrimage is a non-denominational Protestant body in the Wesleyan tradition. At The Pilgrimage we maintain that the marks of the church are that the Word is truly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. We also affirm with John Wesley that “there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness” and that “evangelical faith should manifest itself in evangelical living.” We aspire to assemble the whole kingdom  of God in our congregation: we are multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-generational. We welcome everyone regardless of sexual orientation or marital status. We do not ask if people have “proper documentation.”

Sunday worship is liturgical, using orders of worship patterned after the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and the United Methodist Book of Worship. The senior pastor is an ordained United Methodist elder. Many lay people participate in worship according to their gifts. We have artists, professional people, singers, dancers, storytellers, and crafts people in our congregation, and we integrate visual arts, dance, and instrumental music into our worship services. In our preaching and Scripture reading we follow the Revised Common Lectionary.

Every Sunday evening we gather for a time of prayer, Bible study, sharing of joys and concerns, and a common meal. We conclude this time together by sharing Holy Communion. Once every quarter Communion is also offered in the Sunday morning worship service. All are welcome at the Lord’s table, regardless of age or church membership.

Most of our members meet mid-week in small covenant groups patterned after John Wesley’s “classes.” Many members had their first contact with The Pilgrimage through these small group meetings. The classes engage in spiritual disciplines and hold each other in prayer. When a class gets larger than twelve it is split into two smaller groups. Class leaders meet quarterly with the senior pastor, and have received special servant leadership training. Some class leaders have obtained formal theological training.

At The Pilgrimage we practice “believers’ family baptism.” Any person seeking to join the church who has not been previously baptized in a Christian church, plus all members of his or her family who have not been baptized, are baptized together, usually by total immersion. Anyone joining the church who has been previously baptized renews his or her baptismal covenant. Although we baptize infants and young children, we also stress the need for conscious acceptance of Christ by each individual when he or she is old enough. We practice the ancient tradition of the Easter Vigil, where catechumens are baptized at midnight on Easter morning, entering Christ’s tomb to be reborn as partakers of the Resurrection.

To us the essential marks of church are Word and Sacrament. We see the other “marks” (one, holy, apostolic, universal) differently than tradition sees them. There is unity in love, but that does not mean exclusivity, or insistence on only one way of doing things. Church should be holy-different from the dominant culture, set apart-but that does not require us to isolate ourselves from society. We follow the example of the apostles in their obedience to the Lord, but do not believe a monarchial episcopacy is necessary. And we think that when God sees the Church in all her forms, God perceives her inherent universality and unity. The mandates of liturgy, worship, ordinances, kerygma (proclamation), koinonia (fellowship/community), diakonia (service), and didache (teaching) are built into the design for our Sunday and mid-week gatherings. They are “means of grace,” and they promote sanctification of those who have been justified by faith.

The Pilgrimage sees evangelism and engagement with the larger World as necessary to a truly biblical, holistic ministry. Anything short of total engagement would be an inadequate response to God’s call. Rather than freeze doctrine, polity, and practice, at the Pilgrimage we think “the church is and always should be emerging.” Practical theology constantly responds to the experiences of the people, to the events of history, and to cultural context. The emerging church movement is, in a very real sense, a new Reformation, and we at The Pilgrimage believe that the Spirit has called and led us to live, love and work together in this congregation of the Christian church.

posted by Amy on Apr 28

Unbelievably, my last semester at Palmer ends May 14 (plus a take-home final due May 20). When school is over I’ll have 2 more weeks to catch up on some paperwork, pack my stuff, do some sight seeing, and then move to Northern Virginia, where I’ll be staying with friends for the summer and commuting to Washington, D.C. for an internship at the Children’s Defense Fund. Then I’m moving to Boston to attend the Boston University School of Theology. I’ll finish my M.Div. there, and then enroll in a PhD program–somewhere–studying something. I tell people this whole going-to-seminary bit was not my idea in the first place, so I will await further instructions.

I will miss my Philly church, Arch Street UMC. It deserves a whole blog entry of its own, and I plan to do that, but it is an amazing, diverse, quirky, wonderful community. I did my internship there this year, and that was a great blessing. My church in Denver is wonderful too, and it does a lot of great things, but it is awash in physical and human resources. Because that was my frame of reference, I assumed that a church needs lots of people and money in order to do effective ministry. Thankfully, Arch Street has proven me wrong. The main thing a church needs is love. If it loves God and loves its neighbors, then, in mysterious ways, God provides.

One of my projects this week was a group paper on ecclesiology (the theology of church). Three of us were supposed to design a church, describe it, and then explain the theology behind the decisions we made regarding sacraments, ordination, worship, preaching, teaching and interaction with the world. Although I was the only Methodist in our group, we ended up deciding to propose an “emerging church” with Wesleyan roots. I wish the church we designed actually existed. I’m going to post the description on this blog (minus most of the theology) and see what you think.

I will miss my students. I’m down to four now. The one who was last to start working with me this semester arrived five minutes before her lesson time this week to announce that she no longer needs a tutor. I agree that she doesn’t need me, because she and I never formed an effective working alliance, and we both found it frustrating and disappointing. Even though I was able to help her make substantial improvements on two of her papers, she didn’t take away any lasting skills from those exercises. She just did what I told her to do in each specific instance, without generalizing the advice to other contexts. With the exception of correcting her footnote and bibliography forms, which she did finally do, she kept making the same mistakes over and over again.

I can usually connect with a student, inspiring enough trust and confidence so we can work together as a team, but she and I never did connect. I realize that happens, but the reason she gave for firing me is that she knows everything she needs to know about writing. She claimed she had gotten an “A” on a total train wreck of a paper, and that is just not credible. She had already handed it in by the time I got a chance to see it, but she said she planned to rewrite it, and wanted “feedback.” In what proved to be our last lesson, after a lot of thrashing about, I finally got her to look at one paragraph, find the topic sentence, and then tell me how each other sentence in the paragraph advanced the argument of the topic sentence. The topic sentence was weak, but she did have one, and she was able to identify it. The next sentence did relate to that one, and it did advance the argument. The remaining sentences in the paragraph had nothing to do with the topic sentence, so of course she couldn’t tell me what they were doing in that paragraph. Every paragraph in the paper was like that. She said, “Oh, now I see what you mean.” A week later she fired me. I will reflect on how I handled my end of it and see what there is to be learned from it.

By contrast, my other students are doing very well. The student who comes on Wednesdays was telling me last week that she kept thinking of things to add to a paper she was working on, and she could just hear me saying, “Now what does this have to do with your subject matter?” so she didn’t. She will have my voice in her head from now on, every time she goes to write something. (One of my Greek students from last summer told me recently that he made a mistake in a translation for his Greek Exegesis class, then recalled a rule I had taught him that would have prevented him from making that mistake. Teachers need to be aware of the programming that they download into their students’ brains.) Oh-the Wednesday student got 100% on her paper.

After one of my classes this week three classmates and I went out to lunch at an Irish pub. We all find that particular class frustrating, and after complaining about it for awhile we started talking about what makes a good teacher, and a good theology discussion. There are several teachers at Palmer who we all agree are excellent, so we used them to construct a model. Since I want to be a teacher, I paid particularly close attention. Maybe I’ll blog about it separately.

I’ve been doing some experimenting with homemade meat substitutes. After trying store bought seitan, which is a fake meat made with wheat gluten, I decided to see if I could make it myself. I found a video on the internet demonstrating how to make spicy Italian sausage. I tried it, and it was amazingly good, easy, and inexpensive, and much better than anything I’ve found at the store. Next I tried to make barbecued “brisket.” It came out OK, and I ate it all, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I’m going to keep refining the technique.

At church we’ve been having potluck dinner gatherings once a month. We alternate between Mondays and Wednesdays, to try to accommodate people’s schedules, but I can’t come on Mondays because I have class. Potlucks at Arch Street are a little different. We don’t turn anyone away, and some of our folks don’t have cooking facilities (or homes, for that matter), so I’ve been providing food every time, whether I can be there or not. I love feeding people, so it’s not an imposition. I have a policy of cooking for almost everyone for potlucks, regardless of dietary restrictions, and of making something delicious. This week I made a black bean casserole with a cornmeal crust. It was based on a recipe from Diet for a Small Planet. I didn’t bring my old, tattered copy of the book with me to Philadelphia, so I did an internet search and found something close enough to give me a jumping-off point. I was told it was a “big hit.” (Later I remembered a trick I recently learned. Amazon.com allows you to search inside books, so I looked at the actual recipe in the original book, and further refreshed my recollection.)

This week I pulled an all-nighter writing a paper. I can hardly believe I did that. I sat at my computer from 9 Monday night until 8 Tuesday morning. Then I slept for an hour, got up, showered, dressed, and went to class. I really have no idea if the paper is any good. I did my best, under the circumstances, but that was unwise. It’s a good thing I live at school, and didn’t have to drive to class. It would not have been safe for me to be driving in that condition.

You see, it’s like this: My life is run by a “committee” in my head. There are adults on the committee, but there’s at least one small child, and one teenager. The teenager took control of the paper project, and she just didn’t want to write it at all. The problem was that the criteria for the paper were impossible to meet. The instructions for what to do were inconsistent: Answer several questions about what you think, but don’t say “I.” Cite at least 15 sources other than the Bible, but do a thorough, personal review of the New Testament to find examples of the theme you’ve chosen, and base half the paper on that work. Don’t use long quotes, but talk about the scholarship on your theme, and interact with other scholars. Explain how what you learned fits with your faith tradition’s teaching, and say whether your preconceptions about it have changed. And keep it between 12 and 13 pages.

It is what it is. Time to move on to the next project.

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