Janet Barrow and Steven Williams spent time serving ministries in New Orleans this summer as part of a Practicum in Urban Ministry course led by Dr. Ellen Blue. Blue says the practicum is a project of Christian Renewal New Orleans, a consortium of people from multiple denominations.
The practicum is designed to help students explore the changing nature of ministry in urban areas and learn principles of community development. During the course, Williams and Barrow must attend a lecture and discussion session once a week on topics such as leading effective faith-based organizations, volunteer empowerment and team-based organization.
Barrow is working at First Grace United Methodist Church, and Williams is working at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice housed at First Unitarian Universalist.
Gina Woods is an MDiv graduate. Gina joins Phillips alum Sheri Curry and others at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa, Okla., in a special program designed to teach life skills that will help women (and now men) establish more positive patterns upon their release from jail.
Classes include such topics as:
- “How to Have Healthy Relationships”
- “How to Avoid Sexually Transmitted Diseases”
- “The Relationship Between Religion and Domestic Violence”
- “How to Change Criminal Thinking”
Gina helps with the classes, but her main investment is in building relationships with the women and men who may just need to know someone who cares and who may want to learn about grace-filled theological alternatives to some harmful religious claims they may have experienced and internalized.
Lyn Poplin is an MDiv student, currently serving Wiggins Memorial United Methodist Church in south Fayetteville, Arkansas. In Lyn’s words, “we have a large population of brothers and sisters living without shelter.” Lyn joins with other local clergy and members of eight neighborhood churches, one campus ministry, and two Christian motorcycle groups to reach out through a 7-day-a-week lunch program, which comes to his church on Saturdays. They serve an average of 100 lunches every Saturday with a special birthday celebration once a month, complete with cake. The church also hosts a food pantry twice a month. Lyn emphasizes the importance of spending time with the people who come, eating together and engaging in meaningful conversation.
It’s not just about the food. It’s about being good neighbors.
Jennifer Harmon is an MDiv student who lives in a part of Tulsa that struggles with crime and gun violence. As President of her neighborhood association and “a Benedictine answering God’s call to the larger community,” Jennifer leads occasional prayer vigils in memory of murder victims to help the city “Take Back the Site” for peace. She credits PTS in general, and Dr. Richard Ward in particular, for teaching her the value of liturgy and worship in community and for inspiring her to recognize and accept the call to public ministry.
This photo is from the first vigil, in memory of Peggy Gaytan who was a manager/clerk at a local convenience store & whose life was taken on December 22, 2011.