Northeastern Seminary Blog

Help us, Lord

Posted on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 @ 06:27 PM

originally posted June 19, 2015

I am heartbroken.

This week tragedy happened again. Lives were taken, hatred won, and we were left to make sense of another example of the racial tear in the fabric of our community. As I read through the stories of each of the nine victims of the AME shooting, my heart broke. These were our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, colleagues, neighbors, pastors and fellow believers. They were members of our community.

Earlier this week I attended a one-day seminar sponsored by Northeastern Seminary entitled Power, Inequity and Reconciliation in the Church, led by Dr. Christena Cleveland, who challenged us to listen… to listen to what is being said by ALL our brothers and sisters. As I have prayed and mourned the recent acts I have also been attempting to listen. At the risk of not articulating perfectly, I ask you to hear my heart as I try to make sense of what I am hearing in this challenging time.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We live in a fallen world, a world where hate and racism exist. The recent act in Charleston, South Carolina reminds us once again of our painful history as a divided nation. It is true that many around us love as Christ called us to love and are examples of living in community. But there remains a deep weed in the garden of our lives, an ugly weed that appears far too often. It divides our country around surface topics of personal defense and justification, and we slide into the posture of defending our position instead of listening to each other. I am guilty of this pattern even while trying to make sense of the senseless. Log into any social media today and you will hear debates brewing around our interpretation of what just happened in Charleston.

Injustice happened. Lives were taken. A community was impacted. A church was targeted. A people of a specific race were attacked. Wrong happened and we are left reminded we have not yet learned to live out our calling of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Dr. Cleveland also pointed us to Philippians 2 as a model for how we are encouraged to live within community.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:1-5, NRSV).

Read full article at President Porterfield's blog site https://www.roberts.edu/life-at-roberts/.

Dr. Deana Porterfield is president of Northeastern Seminary and Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester. NY.

Tags: listening, community, church's response to violence, compassion

To Thrive In A Foreign Land: The Faithful Service of Northeastern Seminary Students and Alumni

Posted on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 10:37 AM

bare_feet_imageSadly, refugees are often a misunderstood people notes Rev. Bob Tice (D.Min., ‘12) senior pastor at River Rock Church. “At worst, many think of them as rejects and outcasts, poor, and a strain on America; and some a bit better think of them as just strange.” What is more alarming is that many people do not understand the unique needs of refugees.

“Imagine you fled your home country with your family, and now lived thousands of miles from anyone you know. You have very few possessions to speak of, little money, and you do not speak the country’s language.” Marie Moy (MATSJ ‘15), a home visitor at Jericho Community Health Center, prompts reflection. “Refugees need help navigating American systems of banking, schools, housing, and medical care.” They often find what seems normal to Americans to be peculiar and overwhelming.

In response to the unique needs, Tice and Moy, among other Northeastern students and alumni, are actively engaging in focused ministry in neighboring cities: Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo. Rooted in biblical principles, refugee-conscious ministries give refugees a solid foundation to build on and the opportunity to thrive in a foreign land.

Patricia Welch (M.Div. ‘09), while pastor of New Hope Free Methodist Church in Rochester, N.Y., oversaw the resettlement of 34 African refugees who were finishing their six-month government-sponsored resettlement program with the Catholic Family Center, also in Rochester. She helped renew benefits with the U.S. Department of Human Services noting that at the sixth-month mark many refugees are at risk of losing their services if the proper paperwork is incomplete. In this ministry, Welch helped refugees open bank accounts, obtain needed household items, liaise with landlords, get to medical appointments, and receive job coaching. Welch also helped develop an English-as-a-second-language program which trained consultants and provided individual tutoring at refugees’ homes for a full year. Her next venture includes setting up an immigration and legal aid clinic to provide additional needed services.

In some ways similar to Welch, Moy supports refugees’ basic needs in the area of healthcare at the Jericho Community Health Center who partners with churches like the Renovation Church in Buffalo, N.Y. where Moy attends. Volunteers serve as English tutors, mentors for pregnant women and single mothers, drivers to take people to medical appointments, homework tutors for middle schoolers, and/or childcare providers for parents attending educational classes. Moy serves as a home visitor through the Parent Child Home Program, providing educational toys and books and preparing pre-school age children for school twice a week. The church’s ministerial efforts of reaching out to those in need are making a noticeable difference. Moy explains, “Low-income children statistically have about a 55% high school graduation rate—with rates being lower in Buffalo. After participation in the program for one year the graduation rate increases to about 63%, and after two years the rate goes up to 84%, which is on par with middle-income families.”

But graduation rates are not the only concern for children. Refugee children require particular attention in the transition process. In Michael Brown’s (MATSJ, C32) field education experience through Northeastern he worked as a co-leader with Hopeprint Summer Kids Camp in Syracuse, N.Y. The camp addressed many basic needs for refugee and non-refugee children with opportunities to engage in English language programs, formal and informal mentoring, tutoring, teen programs, children’s programming, and more. “While we are engaged in many immediate needs,” Brown further clarified, “we are always aware of the broader needs of individuals, families, and communities to develop to their fullest. We are always thinking about two-way mentorships, about leadership development, and about issues of community development.”

By far, a supportive and loving community is one of the most important aspects when working with refugees. The needs of these children and adults transcend the necessity of food, clothing, shelter and work. Refugees need the unconditional support of volunteers, the community, and especially the church.

The Boaz Project at Dongwon Kim’s (MATSJ C32) church, the Korean Church of Syracuse, provides computer services to refugees, teaching people basic skills about operating systems and how to use office programs. “It is a tool for spreading the Gospel [and] we hope the skills help their life,” Dongwon explained. As people serve one another through the Boaz Project, invisible barriers between refugees and non-refugees are broken down and in its place noticeably stronger relationships are built.

At River Rock Church Tice aids in cultivating such a community by encouraging a culturally fruitful environment for people to commune and worship as a single body in Christ. He explains that at “River Rock Church itself we hope we are developing an authentic multicultural church where every culture and race and group has a voice and the opportunity to be empowered in ministry according to their gifts, including the leadership of the church across all its diversity.”

Likewise, Bishop William Turner (MAT ‘01) creates a welcoming multicultural experience at the churches where he serves. Bishop Turner founded the Living Word Temple Restoration Ministries and oversees three sister churches. Whereas some of the members, such as the Bhutanese population, were persecuted for their beliefs in their native country, at church they are able to worship God freely and cultivate a love for Christ.

Showing the love of Christ by spreading the Gospel, reaching out to the refugees, and pouring into their lives is a ministry that is making a noticeable impact in communities across New York State. These ministries, the passion of Northeastern Seminary students and graduates alike, allow refugees to thrive and transition from the foreign to the familiar as God’s love is manifested through the hands and feet of His willing servants.

The content of this article was prepared by Ashley Henry, a Roberts Wesleyan College student and a communication intern at Northeastern Seminary for spring 2015.

About Northeastern

Since opening its doors in 1998, Northeastern Seminary on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College has continued to grow in prominence as a significant resource for the church community in upstate New York. Northeastern Seminary is a multi-denominational graduate school of theology offering five academically and professionally accredited degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice, Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership, and Doctor of Ministry. The student body is comprised of more than 30 different Christian faith traditions represented among 170 students and over 350 graduates ministering around the nation and world.  For more information visit www.nes.edu or call 585.594.6800.

Tags: community, ministry, compassion

All the Resources You Need To Take Action Against Modern-day Slavery—You and Your Sphere Of Influence

Posted on Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 03:48 PM

NES_conf2_1Unless you are the type of person who is naturally drawn to politics, the world of policy advocacy can seem like an alternate universe. I think this is the case, at least in part, because we view the political world through a television or computer screen. We see this work as something that someone else does, people with more power, skills, or money than we have. We live in a representative democracy. We have folk knowledge about what it means to live in a democracy, but may feel incapable of exacting change because we feel removed and helpless. We are told to vote, that our voice matters. I have wondered if this was true on more than one occasion! We elect representatives that go from a robocall to a ballot box to a screen and from there, where? It is easy to think our voice no longer matters once the person we voted for appears (or does not appear) on my screen. The next layer of frustration can occur when we see our representatives failing to act on social evils and issues important to us, like modern-day human slavery.

Pundits, commentators, and comedians can make their living on our fear, frustration, and disconnection to the political arena. Worse yet, our fear can lead us to acts of dehumanizing each other as well as our elected officials over this disconnection. We treat these women and men as if they were not also made in the image of God and in need of our love and prayers. After all, they become unreal, occupying a screen and not a real place in our everyday world. The discussion of identity and responsibility in 1 Peter 2 would be a good place to start for further reading and contemplation.

The greatest reason to overcome these internal and external barriers is for the sake of the suffering and to be a part of the work of the Christ who suffered. In a representative democracy and in the kingdom of God, our work is not done once we “vote” for Jesus or the right candidate. The Holy Spirit is at work and the kingdom of God is both now and not yet! The prayer of Jesus in John 17 makes it clear that his disciples were not going to be removed from this world and that this was not ever his intention. In Jesus Christ, we have the greatest intercessor and abolitionist for our freedom! It is our privilege and function to model our lives after the life of Christ.

Organizations like International Justice Mission and Shared Hope International will help you and your sphere of influence intercede and advocate for those who are enslaved. Take the time to explore their resources and allow them to help you and your sphere act for those who need your voice.

Prepared by Amy Smith (MATSJ ’15) and Marie Moy (MATSJ ’15) presenters at the 2015 B.T. Roberts Symposium on the Church, Justice, and the Community.

Find out more about the Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice at Northeastern Seminary.

Tags: reflection, community, Modern-day Slavery

Multi-cultural Ministry: Unity in Diversity

Posted on Mon, Jun 09, 2014 @ 04:57 PM

The Native American sits next to the Congolese man to discuss the Pan-African/Swahili group. The Nigerian man greets the Anglo woman while the Myanmar-Burmese man speaks with the  African American woman. The Rwandan and Eritean men take their seats and prepare to meet. This is not the opening of a United Nations session. This is the leadership team at my church in Buffalo N.Y. sitting down together to ask the questions that will guide and shape their ministries.

Some have fodescribe the imageund it curious and even disorienting to sit in a service punctuated by shouts of “Amen” and excited warbles (or ululations) of African women in worship. What illuminates understanding is that many have lived their entire lives with racial disadvantage and/or in poverty or have come to America and Inner-city Buffalo as refugees—having survived extended and bloody civil wars, imprisonment, ethnic, tribal and interreligious conflicts, genocide, or other atrocities. To say their praise is heartfelt is an understatement.

Prayer time at RiverRock Church includes a chorus of languages spoken by congregants who pray in their native language for the person sitting next to them, while the Lord’s Supper affords the diverse body the opportunity to review its common redemption through and in Christ—and in many ways models and announces the future.

As lead pastor at RiverRock, I have found that the climate engenders such diversity. Today we are facing epoch-like changes in terms of worldwide and multidirectional globalization. Culture and their peoples are interfacing and becoming interconnected geographically and relationally at a level never experienced before. At RiverRock 17 different people groups are represented among the 200 who attend. But unity in diversity demands more than a mere aggregate experience since this does not automatically produce authentic community. Diversity must be openly acknowledged and addressed and it must be celebrated as an intrinsic and explicit part of the very Gospel if authentic biblical community is hoped for.

So how does a church build true community and meaningful communication across racial, cultural, linguistic, socio-cultural and gender lines? How do they approach worship, spirituality and outreach? What concrete ways can it address conflict and reconciliation? 

It’s an ongoing process that permeates all aspects of the church:

  • Develop meaningful relationships across leadership and members in ways that “flesh out authentically the DNA of Ephesians and the rest of the New Testament”

  • Lead others in the ministry of inclusion at the church wide level—modeling genuine multicultural relationships

  • Intentionally work at cross-cultural musicality: combining instruments indigenous to different cultures, and assembling teams from across the spectrum of stylistic orientation (tempo, beat, rhythm)

  • Make the effort to find a distinctive music style above and beyond the individual components of the cultures in a sort of synergy through combination

  • Experiment with singing songs whose melodies may be familiar, yet sung in various native languages

  • Pair an English-speaking believer with someone who is learning English and read, reflect, and share about a Bible passage; then read the passage in the language of the person learning English

  • Record and circulate interviews that capture the astounding stories of the refugees and other church members

  • Offer both corporate worship experiences alongside services for specific language groups

  • Coordinate youth events (including sports teams) that bring together diverse races and peoples, including those who have been in historic conflict with each other

  • Sponsor a summer concert that includes a unique “fusion” sound as well as the cultural styles and languages of African nations who have experienced inter-tribal conflicts and violence

  • Partner with a medical practice engaged in the ministry of social compassion, advocacy and justice and extend that medical practice back into the communities of origin in native countries

 By taking a “gift-driven” approach that esteems every believer as highly valued in their calling to share in the mission of God, RiverRock is positioned to embrace the challenges of pursuing unity in diversity.

Join Northeastern Seminary and Christian community leaders Tuesday, June 17, 2014 as we continue the discussion of cultural intelligence in the changing American religious landscape.  Conference information or to register

  Robert Tice (D. Min. ‘13) is the founding and senior pastor of RiverRock, a multicultural church in the west side of Buffalo, N.Y. As an assembly of the nations in the city, RiverRock ministers among and with many international refugees and is in a close partnership with Jericho Road Family Practice, a holistic and faith-based medical practice that serves the under-served and thousands of international refugees. Dr. Tice is also serves as an adjunct instructor at Houghton College and Northeastern Seminary. 

Tags: D.Min., cultural literacy, community, church, church growth, biblical worldview, church development, Conference on Ministry, Cultural Intelligence

The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls

Posted on Wed, Jun 04, 2014 @ 09:13 AM

describe the image The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global   Violence Against Women and Girls

Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt’s new book addresses the historical, cultural, religious, and political context of global violence against women. Through the lens of theology she proposes how the Church can work together in raising awareness and aid in ending crimes  towards women and girls. This passage from her book was taken from Chapter 1, “A Point of Departure: The Cross and Global Violence Against Women and Girls.”

Linda walked tentatively into my small basement office. She was a young woman with short cropped hair and a fresh, newly stitched wound that stretched from her temple, ran across her cheek and ended at her chin. Linda related her terrifying story with little    affect and trembling hand gestures. “My husband chased me   around the house with a butcher knife and caught up to me, slashing me in my arm and face.” She rolled up her sleeve to show me more stitches. “I ran out of the house screaming, and my neighbor called the police.” Linda’s face finally began to mirror the pain in her voice, and she began to sob. “The policeman walked across the lawn, looked down on me and asked me what I had done to deserve my husband’s abuse.” She pointed to her cheek, “I feel like I’ve been victimized twice, first by my husband and second by the police!” Linda was my first client and my first introduction to the shadow world of violence against women and girls. Over the years I heard hundreds of stories from battered women and girls. Through each story I learned more of the cultural, religious, historical and political supports for violence and the global scope of these heinous crimes.

Violence against women and girls is a human rights problem that impacts the lives of millions of families and communities. In the United States one out of every four women has experienced domestic violence and one out of six has experienced attempted or completed rape. Almost one and a half million women have been abused during the past year, and the health costs are an astounding 5.8 billion dollars. Violence against women has been identified as the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine and is one of the country’s most expensive health problems. Globally, it is a significant and complex human rights problem that exacerbates the problems of poverty, child abandonment, communicable diseases and homelessness. The perception of violence as a private, family problem has obscured efforts to increase the visibility of this dilemma as a public human rights issue that affects all members of society. Violence against women and girls crosses all borders, cultures and classes.

Statistics that provide a snapshot of the extent of this global problem are overwhelming. Although prohibited in most countries, violence continues and is permitted by political, social, and religious institutions and systems and remains the major cause of the most violent attacks on women and girls. Global violence against women and girls takes on many forms: widespread rape as a tool of war, gender-selective abortions, female genital mutilation, sexual trafficking, disfigurement and economic exploitation of women, among other horrific violent crimes. Maymuna, a fifteen-year-old Nigerian girl, was forced into marrying a sixty-five-year-old local man. She conceived three months later. Her labor lasted for days before she was taken to a hospital that was three hours away. By the time she arrived, her uterus had ruptured, and she struggled to survive. As a result of hemorrhaging, both she and her baby died. Maymuna’s tragic story is one among tens of thousands illustrating this one type of violence               and exploitation.

In recent years nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), governmental bodies and other agencies have been effective in bringing attention to this critical problem. Christian churches also contribute in several ways to the prevention and elimination of “gendercide.” Efforts include identifying and describing the problem, working to educate Christians as to the extent of the problem, encouraging support to victims, and philanthropic efforts to aid women and girls in need. And yet, there is often a halting acknowledgment by churches to identify violence against women and girls as a theological and confessional issue that requires a unified, holistic church response. The underlying causes of global violence against women and girls are rooted deep in our cultures, and the scandal of this violence is symptomatic of a pervasive and deep misogyny. Millions of girls have undergone the brutal practice of female genital mutilation. Millions of women been forced to undergo sex-selective abortions. Millions more have experienced the horror of sex trafficking and have been imprisoned as slaves with no hope of escape. The list of reprehensible acts is long, and the targets are primarily girls and women. The stubborn pervasiveness of this violence and its deep rootedness in misogyny is best defined as a theological issue, rather than merely an ethical or moral issue. Christian confession concerns an orientation that begins with our understanding of the being of God and, subsequently, God’s mission in the world. By using this theological approach, the church can offer a broad, imaginative and effective response.

Learn more about The Cross and Gendercide at InterVarsity Press.

Elizabeth Gerhardt (Th.D., Boston University) is professor of theology and social ethics at Northeastern Seminary, Rochester, New York, and adjunct professor in the department of religion and humanities at Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester.

Tags: community, Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt, church's response to violence, The Cross andd Gendercide

Growing Oaks from Seeds

Posted on Tue, Jun 05, 2012 @ 09:50 AM

 

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.

youth ministry group playing table tennisEnergy 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.

Tags: community, equipping model of ministry, missional, youth ministry, teenagers, adolescents, ministry