A guest post by John Mark McMonagle, D.Min. '11
There is a politic of health and healthcare. It is a politic of money and regulation. It is made up of concerns over cost and liability, business and professional competence, employment and yes, illness. It’s a growth industry, too. There is no shortage of sick people and the future bodes well for business.
We, in America, are on the verge of being taxed to health instead of to death. So, it is a personal, growing concern that poor health will be the new vice, or sin, or crime. Vice, because of negligence in keeping oneself from being healthy. Sin, because health may be discussed on moral grounds, perhaps as no other time. Crime, because tax dollars may be seen to be abused by the chronically ill.
As Christians, who are in the healthcare field, I believe it is relevant to remember that illness is not sin, it is not a crime and it is not a vice. It is a manifestation of corruption natural to this world. Certainly we are called to address it and alleviate it as much as possible; but, it is needful to assert that healthcare is a ministry driven by grace and compassion. Otherwise, it is no more than a job or business.
Maybe it would be helpful to know that healthcare in the Church is founded on some worthy examples.
The first Christian physicians, after Luke, were the two sisters, Zenaida and Philonella, who flourished around 100 A.D. Their claim to novelty was their practice of accepting little to no pay … intentionally. This opened up care for the poor and indigent or any who were normally neglected. Others, like Zenaida and Philonella, were Saints Cosmas and Damian, who also challenged the prevailing practice of medicine. However, they took a strict vow that disallowed any payment for their services. Along with them were St. Panteleimon, St. Sampson the Hospitable, and many others, who are in the class of saints called anargaroi, the penniless, making them Unmercenary Physicians.
Perhaps these saints can inspire us moderns in new ways to help those in need of medical care. Grace can surely guide us here.
A guest post by Dr. Michael Traylor, M.A Theology and Social Justice '12
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
"But dehumanizing the victim makes things simpler
It's like breathing with a respirator
It eases the conscience of even the most conscious
and calculating violator
Words can reduce a person to an object,
something more easy to hate
An inanimate entity, completely disposable,
no problem to obliterate"
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy in "Language of Violence"
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy are a 90's conscientious rap group led by Michael Franti. They are one of my favorite groups of all time because of their creative ways of challenging injustice. In their song, Language of Violence, they tell the story of how physical violence is often preceded by dehumanizing words. They spoke in the formative years of the hip hop culture but their lyrics show a prophetic view that speaks to us today.
At one point in the song, they wisely challenge their listeners to:
"The power of words, don't take it for granted
when you hear a man ranting
Don't just read the lips, be more sublime than this
Put everything in context"
I have been actively listening to the words that are used in popular and social media. Our words are used to convey messages, shape cultures, and promote agendas. This is not a criticism, as we all participate in this process. We use words, images, and metaphors to try to shape a preferred precept or concept when we communicate. Our words are loaded with meaning, not just literally, but culturally and symbolically.
Every week, I talk to young men and women who are shaped and guided by the language used in the hip-hop culture. Interestingly, these are not young adults of one ethnicity or socioeconomic background, but young adults from across the spectrum of ethnicity, nationality, and economic status.
The "cut to the chase" concept:
When you regularly use the language of violence and degradation, you soon become participants in its degradation and pain, whether as victim or perpetrator.
Using degrading words, such as b***ches, n**ga's, hoes, etc., is not only an act of violence but it paves the way for more extreme forms of violence. Here's the cycle:
1. Calling a group of people or an individual a derogatory name first creates psychological violence.
In Rwanda, before the tragic genocide of 1994, it was important for the initiators to refer to their enemies as cockroaches. This word, allowed them to see their enemies as less than human, without faces, families, names, and dignity. When men refer to women as b***ches, it is a psychological construct that takes away the dignity of women. It is never innocent or innocuous, but always indecent. It is the first step in justified violence.
2. Psychological violence leads to moral violence.
Cockroaches are not only nonhuman, but have moral quality. Cockroaches are not morally neutral, but decidedly negative in character. Therefore, violence against a cockroach is morally justifiable. Moral violence makes the victim of our violence deserving. A recent twit of a rapper said "Sometimes, I just want to smackdown a b***ch.” In his mind, it is morally justified to be violent against a woman, because she is simply "a b**ch.”
3. Moral violence leads to physical, emotional, and sexual violence.
Because cockroaches are morally disgusting, their eradication by any means necessary became culturally acceptable. Men and women in Rwanda were hacked with machetes, shot, raped, and tortured. Not by mad men with twisted and perverted psyches, but by ordinary men and women who adopted the language of violence. The violence in communities influenced by hip-hop is staggering. Many argue that the language used in hip-hop is simply a reflection of the language of violence that already exists and I will definitely acknowledge the possibility. However, my experience with youth in urban areas shows that the introduction of violent and degrading language is often from media/entertainment, and often precedes participation in violence.
It’s time to express outrage against violence. It’s time that we challenge the language of violence, hatred, and degradation. It’s time that we challenge artists and entertainers to a higher standard and a moral responsibility. Too many people are hurting, wounded, and suffering because of the language and culture of violence, particularly in the hip-hop culture.
My fear, in the words of the disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy is:
“We won't hear the screaming until it stops
Death is the silence in the language of violence”
Take a stand!
Dr. Michael Traylor is a pediatrician, child advocate and pastor of New Hope Free Methodist Church in Rochester, N.Y. He blogs at Virtual faith. Follow Dr. Traylor on Twitter @drtraylor.
This post was originally posted on Sojourners: http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/07/03/stop-language-violence#.T_O3OQHc5B8.twitter
A post by guest blogger, Glen Dornsife, M.Div. student at Northeastern Seminary:
Working in the hospitality industry as a server, the topic of “What am I doing with my life?” often comes up with those I wait on. I don’t know if it’s my age or their hope that I can get out of the restaurant business. But often, when I explain to others that I am at seminary working toward a Master of Divinity degree, their response is “What does that mean?” Generally, depending on the situation, I respond by saying that the degree prepares me to be a pastor.
There have been a few, who are on the other side of the cusp, who have shared with me how there is a big gap between education and assimilation. I have heard rumors of those who have graduated from Bible College or Seminary and entered ministry overqualified and under prepared. For those of you who are considering seminary in preparation for ministry, I apologize if that last statement makes your stomach turn. It is true though, success in knowing the material does not equate to success in living the material out.
Fortunately, the educational experience I am receiving at Northeastern Seminary has allotted me the opportunity to do four required field education experiences. When finishing my undergrad degree I was only required to do one field assignment. (At the time, I was an underachiever, so I was grateful for there being only one internship requirement.) Let’s just say that particular experience brought more confusion than clarity in my eager-to-conquer-the-world early twenties. I don’t know if this is a standard practice for other seminaries, but by Northeastern creating this requirement for me, I have the opportunity to experience a few different areas of ministry. As a result, I look at this requirement, purely as benefit in my education. Having to do four assignments affords me the latitude to learn from an “internship” experience that I don’t like, or that doesn’t go well. This intentionally brings more clarity and formation to the students here who are trying to discern God’s call on their life.
So am I prepared? Well, in my first experience as a “faculty advisor” of an undergraduate student-body project, I learned even more about the strengths and weaknesses I have as a leader, and also how to respond healthfully to conflict and the art of delegation. The other experiences planned for fulfilling the other field education assignments are to serve as a college chaplain assistant, to be a TA for a college professor, and to shadow a spiritual formation/discipleship pastor at a local church. I have been intentional with my four opportunities because I wanted to gain experience in distinct areas of “ministry” that I am equally interested in and feel led to do at this point in my life.
Glen Dornsife, M.Div. student
A guest post by Doug Milne, M.Div. ‘11, youth pastor, Grace Church of the Nazarene. Rochester, N.Y. and Mike Kuhlkin, D.Min. youth pastor, Pearce Church, Rochester, N.Y., about the value of youth ministry in a church context.
There has been some recent discussion in ministerial circles about the value of youth ministry in the church. In fact, there is a new film documenting youth ministry as a “failure” because of the results of specific, carried-out philosophies by churches and their youth pastors.
Despite this suggestion, there is tremendous value in incorporating youth ministry into the church context if done in a biblical and communal way. There are four basic values of youth ministry in the church context.
Energy and Excitement – There is no doubt that teenagers bring energy wherever they go. Churches can quickly become stagnant, but youth ministry seldom allows this to happen. Although we often hear of the stereotypical lazy and bored adolescent, it could not be further from the truth. Students are often the catalyst for mission trips, social action, and “outside the box” thinking. This generation is excited and passionate and they are looking to put that energy into something. Most of our teens are not satisfied with simply talking about today’s problems—they want to participate in opportunities for change. This excitement and energy is infectious and is needed to move a congregation from a state of observation to a state of motion.
Leadership – Youth ministry is training leaders for today and the future, but we have to keep in mind we are training them for the Kingdom not just for our congregations. Fostering leadership through youth ministry is two-fold. First, it builds young leaders. Our churches are filled with plenty of places for leadership development—worship leading, teaching, preaching, service, and so on. Second, youth ministry provides training for lay leaders. They have opportunities to serve, to work directly with a trained pastor, and it allows them to hone their ministry skills.
Builds Healthy Community – Mission and community are close kin. Without mission, community suffers and the reverse is just as true. The church is diverse, filled with all sorts of people from various backgrounds—that is the beauty of it. Multi-generational congregations with families worshipping together are part of a healthy church community. Students who learn the value of community at a young age become adults who value community. Knowing that teenagers are part of the current church and empowering them to participate as such, helps defend against the old adage that they are the church of tomorrow.
Seeds Become Trees – Churches have “Sunday School” classes and discipleship groups for younger generations because there is the strong belief that we must train children in the way they should go. It is most beneficial to start early with biblical and theological training. Children’s ministry and youth ministry supplement parental guidance and teaching. These ministries work at getting the attention of younger parishioners to help raise them in the Christian life. The process of individuation, often seen during the college years, can cause students to stray from “Christian principals.” Although seen as unfortunate or negative, this period can be navigated successfully if the seeds that have been planted in youth ministry are nurtured. The “oaks” of the faith often grow from the seeds planted in youth ministry.
Read more Northeastern Seminary ministry leaders' thoughts around serving teens and young adults in the latest issue of ResOund, the Seminary's enewsletter.
A guest post by Nelson Grimm, director of field education and associate professor of applied theology
Field education provides a unique opportunity for students to develop their skills and abilities in ministry. Because of the potential for learning through doing, students need to be careful in the placement they choose. A good placement will:
Help Clarify Vocational Goals
A good placement provides opportunities for students to explore their sense of calling. Some may feel called to a particular type of ministry e.g. youth ministry, music, pastoral care provider, administration, etc. and look for very specific opportunities to ‘test the waters’ to find confirmation that this is the direction to pursue. Sometimes students complete a semester of field education and discover that the experience was not at all like what they had expected and can look in new directions without feeling guilty or that they had somehow failed. Others may want a more generalist approach and want a placement that allows them to have a wide variety of experiences. Often this approach enables them to discover new abilities and interests.
Provide Opportunities for Observation
Depending on a person’s background and experience, one of the gifts of field education is the ability to observe. Observing provides the student with some sense of what is involved in ministry without having to shoulder all the responsibility. I still shake my head in disbelief when I remember the first official board meeting I concluded in my first pastorate. I had never before even observed an official board meeting, let alone provide leadership for one! Another anxious moment was the first time I was asked to prepare for and conduct a funeral. At that point in my life I had only been to couple of funerals and never talked with anyone about what a pastor should do. A good field education placement will provide opportunities for the student to observe a wide variety of ministerial functions and to ask questions about the details of each.
Assist in Developing Leadership
While students should have the opportunity to observe, they also need the opportunity to develop leadership skills and abilities. Students are expected to function as a leader within some area of ministry. It may be a class you teach, or a small group you facilitate, or a choir you lead, or a mission trip you plan. Regardless of the area of ministry, a good placement will challenge you to grow in your abilities to plan, recruit, train, and support others around you. The challenge needs to be big enough to capture your imagination and to bring out the best within you. A good field education placement allows you to be creative and responsible while still having the safety net of capable supervision.
Part II of a series by guest blogger and Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders. Read part I here.
Friendship Evangelism (FE) is a form of Christian mission where a believer purposes to win people to Christ by relating to them in the everyday world of work, neighborliness, hobbies, and other activities that happen with regularity and become a platform for genuine friendship. The Christian is sincere in the expression of friendship, but carries within an additional desire to use the relationship as a bridge to eternal things. As the friendship grows, trust is formed, compassion and concern run deeper, and the opportunity for lasting influence upon one another becomes a reality. When this kind of friendship happens, all manner of God-themed conversations and encounters are possible! Few things in my life and ministry have been as satisfying as witnessing evidences of the Holy Spirit using a friendship of mine for his purposes, opening up their hearts, even moving upon them in dreams in the night or in a sudden moment of conviction and revelation.
When I became a pastor I was thrilled about the idea of equipping people to participate in FE, but soon realized that this method did not quickly translate into new attenders. Our amped-up Sunday programs were attracting new attenders regularly, but nearly all of them were already “churched” people, if even only slightly. Many of the people being reached through FE were not interested in attending church, or even worse, dead-set against it. After a while this missional thrust that I call FE began to take a back seat in my ministry. What a loss that was, and still is, in churches today. The pressure to make church “successful” is sky-high in our culture, and it can seem easier to just rely on church programs and services to attract people. But stark reality is that at least 50 percent of the U.S. population will not set foot in a church, no matter how attractive it is.  The other 50 percent of the population, an ocean of humanity of inestimable worth, can and should be reached by friends. Consider the following suggestions for equipping believers to become one of these invaluable agents of eternal grace:
1. Prayerfully select the top three non-believing individuals you are most closely connected to at work, in your neighborhood, or through any shared activity or group. Keep these names in your Bible and pray for them regularly, that they would come to Christ and be saved, and eventually be transformed into the fullness of life available in Christ.
2. Become a real friend. Take time out to connect in conversation. Show genuine interest and concern for their life situations. Find out what might be an appropriate leisure activity or shared interest that you can connect in. I recently befriended someone over a shared interest in extreme weather!
3. Bring your Christian spirituality into the friendship. With care and sensitivity, be watchful for prime (and sometimes fleeting) moments when you can offer to pray for your friend, or when they might be open to receiving a Scriptural encouragement. Prepare yourself to be ready to act. Watch for their openness to hearing more about your “life story” or some other way of sharing your testimony. Commit to being bold enough to bring up your faith when the time is right.
4. Have fun! Invite them to relaxed gatherings and parties you or another believing friend is hosting, and let them experience the joy and beauty of Christian community.
 Dave & Jon Ferguson, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 104. The Ferguson brothers started a highly successful church planting movement based upon networks, but still aimed at establishing corporate-style churches centered in worship facilities and located in more affluent neighborhoods. In their study they acknowledge that half of westerners will not come to any church, and need to be reached by active believers outside of the Church.
A guest post by Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders:
In recent years I have started to recognize that modern Protestantism has largely reduced "evangelism" to a narrow aim of winning converts to the faith. But even as those of us in Christian leadership go about the necessary task of re-evaluating the fuller aim of what it means to "evangelize" people, we run the risk of overcomplicating, and possibly even losing hold of, one of the clearest ministry callings from our Savior to bring people to him.  Most of us acknowledge that we are to be involved at some level in compelling people, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, to become followers for Christ.  How quickly we forget the alternative for those who do not believe!  We must endeavor to retain a burning passion to encourage people out from the kingdom of darkness. Most churches are looking to large-scale events (like festivals, concerts, "revivals," etc.) to accomplish this task. This can be a big mistake! The evangelistic mission of the church is best accomplished by believers who are not on the stage, through something often called "Friendship Evangelism" (FE). This method of fulfilling Christian mission is far less expensive, more holistic, and much more fun than traditional approaches to bringing people into the faith. In part II of "Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional" I will share insights on why FE is often forgotten in churches, as well as practical ways to implement it in everyday life.
Nathan Sanders has been involved in Christian leadership and ministry since 1993 and has served as a university campus evangelism leader, inner-city ministry coordinator, conference speaker, associate pastor, and nearly 8 years as a senior pastor. He is presently teaching New Testament Literature at Elim Bible Institute in Lima, NY. He earned a Ministry Diploma from Elim Bible Institute in 1996, a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Regent University in 2001, and is currently beginning work toward a Doctor of Ministry degree from Northeastern Seminary. Click here to find Nathan on Facebook.
Read part II here.
 Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
 Acts 16:30-32 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.
 John 5:28-29 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
Revelation 20:15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
A guest post by NES alumna, Marlena Graves
Over and over while at Northeastern Seminary I asked God, “What do you want me to do with this treasure trove of life-giving information?” In essence the question was, “How can I live and hand down the great tradition I’ve received?” Little did I know that two years after graduation I’d be writing for Christianity Today while living as a resident director on a Christian college campus with my family—embodying what I learned.
At NES, we were immersed in Scripture while learning church history and practical/pastoral theology. Added to the mix were biblical languages, philosophy, and the nuts and bolts of the best practices in the art of pastoring and pastoral care. We learned while reading primary resources, through our internships, and in the classroom—all while being spiritually formed.
In our spiritual formation groups, we shared our lives including our personal/church triumphs and struggles while trying to figure out just exactly how to individually and communally apply what we learned. Through it all, I saw how God moved within different cultural contexts during each historical time period (including our own by listening to my classmates’ stories). The Christians leaders that I learned about were culturally engaged and culturally literate—even if they were obscure. Although imperfect like all of us, they brought and incarnated the word of God for their time.
What is cultural literacy? Janice Campbell offers this definition: “To be culturally literate is to understand the history and concepts that underlie a culture, and to be able to converse fluently in the allusions and informal content of that culture.” NES taught me biblical and cultural literacy. They educated me well in the history and teaching of Christianity since its inception—since Jesus was born. And so NES taught me how to bring and incarnate the word of God for our time. Now, whether I am writing an article about racial diversity, school shootings, marital relationships, male/female roles in the church, or writing a sermon, or on campus or at home or church, I bring to bear what I learned at NES.
If I am culturally and biblically literate and full of the Holy Spirit and staying right at Jesus’s heels like the faithful throughout time, then I will be able to apply God’s truth to my immediate and broader culture. Like those in Scripture and throughout church history, it is crucial that I understand the language and events of our culture and then be able to translate God’s life into it. Otherwise, I’ll be less effective and productive in my knowledge of God.
Marlena is a 2007 graduate of NES. She is a regular writer for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her work has appeared in various other venues, such as the Clergy Journal. Currently, she is working on two manuscripts she hopes will see the light of day. In addition, she regularly speaks to college students and congregations about spiritual formation. She is married to the love of her life, Shawn Graves, a philosophy professor. Together, they have a four-year-old gregarious and precocious daughter, Iliana. You can find Marlena’s personal blog at: http://hispaththroughthewildnerness.blogspot.com.
A guest post from Dr. Paul Livermore, professor of biblical and systematic theology
One remarkable irony of history concerns the day Abraham Lincoln was shot: Good Friday, 1865. As word trickled throughout the country, people stayed close to telegraph machines to hear the latest. When the announcement of his death was finally made, the national grief was deep.
Carl Sandburg records some remarkable reactions to the tragedy. One took place in Boston on Saturday morning after the President was gone. Men began to march on the Common in a spontaneous parade-like form. The few became many, more than a thousand. They said nothing, they did nothing but marched.
Some people—but only a very few—are so noble, so good, so powerful in their influence that we cannot help but honor their greatness. Such a person was Abraham Lincoln.
Such a person in an even greater degree was Jesus of Nazareth.
When officials urged Jesus to silence the crowds that celebrated him with palm branches, he responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Luke 19:40, NRSV). What was it about Jesus of Nazareth that evokes such powerful emotion?
He arose from among the common people, hard-working peasants who lived unpretentious lives.
He lived a life of personal integrity. There were no dark sides to him, nothing to hide or make excuses for. He was exactly what he appeared to be.
He loved ordinary people. He was even a friend of “tax collectors and sinners.” A simple meal with the stingy Zacchaeus, turned him around into a generous person. He also had his own close friends he enjoyed eating with, like Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. His way with children was authentic, not contrived or staged, and they loved him for it.
He challenged the status quo and institutionalized system, when it brought injustice and shut innocent people out. He did this at great personal risk, ultimately paying for it with his own life by a cruel and humiliating death.
But Jesus rose above bitterness. He not only said we should turn the other cheek; he did that. He prayed for those who thought of him as an enemy, even when they were abusing him.
He had a profound relationship with God. He went out into the country early in the morning to pray. He taught that this relationship with God gave him the inner resources to be kind of person he was.
Christians rightly acknowledge him as the Son of God. Palm Sunday is the right time to celebrate him as the noblest person who ever lived. The historic church has taught that if we would be authentic Christians, we should “imitate Christ.”
Dr. Paul Livermore
Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology
This piece was also published in the Palm Sunday edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
A post by guest blogger, Glen Dornsife, M.Div. student at Northeastern Seminary.
Having the opportunity to be a student at Northeastern Seminary has offered me the chance to involve myself in something I would otherwise have not known about—the Lectionary. If you are not familiar with what this is, it is a formulated list assigning scripture to certain days or weeks throughout the year. It may be a mere coincidence, but when I actually follow the assigned scriptures I find myself immersed in a divine rhythm. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if my professors have intentionally assigned my readings and school work to coincide with the lectionary. I am not saying that if you start reading the lectionary tomorrow you will have the same “results,” but maybe if you register to be a student at NES while reading it simultaneously you will!
In Exodus we read about how God shows off His love by delivering the Israelites from Pharaoh. The Red Sea moment is God basically saying, “I am going to be your God from here on out.” “I want the whole world to know that you are mine, and I am yours.” God’s exodus moment with them is similar (I think) to when a couple drops 20K on their wedding just to share their vows with each other. After the Israelites take a big leap of faith into the water, they spend their honeymoon on the romantic eastern beaches of the Red Sea. They stayed there for awhile in the afterglow of knowing that their God was a miracle-working provider. Later, they would declare He was their YHWH-Nissi, “The Lord is my Banner!” Israel’s deliverance echoes throughout history God shouting the words, “I Do!”
Relational disharmony is often caused by lack of trust. Distrust brings us to the point where we no longer desire to move forward in our relationship. It is hard to imagine not wanting to move forward with God after such an amazing beginning, but this happens in our journey more often than most would like to admit. The moments of distrust usually arise from something little that causes us to question the other person. This is where we will pick up the Israelites Exodus story.
You see a few chapters later the people begin to grow weary and tired of their God-sized relationship. Their basic needs weren’t being met! They were thirsty. As a result, they began complaining to Moses that he and God were leading them right to their death. They had forgotten that a few days ago God spent 20K on their deliverance ceremony just to let them know He loved them.
This morning I noticed even in the very old Old Testament God has always been saying to His people, “I Do!” Our faith journey, much like the Israelites, is a difficult one that requires our hearts to be set on a pilgrimage. The circumstances of life often take us through fertile and dry lands and we must remember that even though our circumstantial feelings may contradict the faithful love of God, YHWH is for us! The Lord is your Banner! His love, provision, grace, and mercy were certain then, and will always be, under the victory banner we have in Christ.
To read a bit more about the Israelite’s story you can find it in Exodus 17 and Psalm 95, which is found in the Lectionary under the “Third Sunday in Lent.” To be immersed in the “I Do’s” of God’s love, seriously consider becoming a student at Northeastern Seminary.
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Glen Dornsife, M.Div. student