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Life Together: The Diomass Intern Program

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A case of revival in Boston

 Hello, my name is Luke Dodge and I am an intern at Northeastern University Chaplaincy with Reverend Judith Stewart. This year I have worked closely with 5 Northeastern students on a leadership team to develop a partnership with an afterschool program that seeks to support Boston Public School students in their growth and learning. This year has been a great year, and I am excited to finish out the last two months solidifying this partnership, and celebrating the work done this year. Today I would like to share something that I care about, but is not exactly about my work at Northeastern as an intern for the Episcopal Church.

      Is there a revival coming to Boston? Revival is a word that is packed with excitement and eagerness for some, and for others it brings about feelings of misguided theology and maybe even oppressive manipulation. I don’t know how to define revival right now, and wish there was another word I could use because there are probably people that are already have sweaty palms by now hearing the word revival, so let’s just hold the term loosely and think positive thoughts.  Let’s think about a more pure expression of the Love that exists in Jesus Christ, and through the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s think about captives being set free, alcoholics depending on the Lord as their strength, and Bostonians smiling more. Let's imagine revival could mean a lot of things, some we probably don’t even know and God does. But let us not exclude that revival will mean more Jesus in Boston. It may be helpful to know just a bit about my faith before we dive in here so let me give you some background. 

I believe I became a Christian when I was seven years old, and my Christian walk since that day has been largely made up of worshiping/growing in the evangelical community. When I seek God in my personal time I like to read the Bible, mostly the New Testament, pray from my heart, and invite the Holy Spirit to comfort me and empower me though my faith in Christ to do what the Lord has prepared for that day. When I seek God in community, I like to worship with lots of people by singing songs of praise, and moving my body to express that I love God. I am in awe of God during a liturgical Eucharist service, and consider this a new addition to my essentials for seeking my Heavenly Father, and his Son, Jesus the Christ. I share the details of how I worship to paint the picture of my faith. I guess I could say I am an evangelical Christian, but I don’t think that in this eclectic Christian society we can use simple words like evangelical to describe our faith, at least not for me.  Oh yeah, a couple more things… I hate capitalism, I hate over-consumption, the prosperity gospel makes me want to puke, I think George Bush is an idiot, I don’t vote Republican right now, I am a member of Mass Environment, don’t use a dryer, and have not used a plastic water bottle in a while… and I think that it is ok, actually I think it is amazing, to tell people about who Jesus is. I say all this because for me it is good news that people can share the Gospel about Jesus, and care about something as relevant as the environment through their faith. Anyways, back to our question… Revival… Boston… 2010.

      "Hmm" One: During Lent young adults from around the country fasted and prayed for Boston. They prayed that our city would "know, love, embrace, rely on, and awaken to more of Jesus, and His promise of eternal life through faith in Him." The International House of Prayer University led this ministry and had 40 students come to Boston for Lent, and ended the 40 day fast with having over 300 students from the University come to Boston, pray for people in the streets, and hold five worship and prayer sessions, with a culminating service at a church on Tremont St. in the center of the city. This community continues to pray for Boston, and that God would come and show his Love for this city through the promise of Jesus.
       "Hmm" Two: Boston and New England are presently known to be some of the most secular areas of this nation, but this was not always the case. This region set the example for church planting and prioritizing Jesus. Harvard University was the first college in our nation and check out this quote  - 

"Let every student be plainly instructed . . . to consider well the main end of . . . life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life . . . and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning."  

-Harvard College Laws, 1642  

The protestants came to Boston to have freedom to practice Christianity and see Jesus move, unhindered by a religion led by a government,  and this was one of the most epic revolutions in the history of the world. This was what Boston started out as, and now we are identified with our secular ways. I think it would be cool to see God use this region to lead the way for our nation and how we might pursue the Christian faith.

      "Hmm" Three: Phyllis Tickle has a lot to say about emergent churches and new expressions of Christian denominations. She has written a book that argues that we are in the midst denominational shift that happens every 500 years, where the Christian church… the whole Christian church, rethinks how we are pursuing God, worshiping, meeting, our ideals, our values, where we get our authority etc. So, that may get you thinking “Well, who is emerging, who is leading the way in this, where is this being seen?” She says it is difficult to know where the whole thing is going and which community is holding all these new ideals/expressions, but if there was a church doing this, it would be the Vineyard denomination. Back to Boston here, one of the largest Vineyard communities in our nation is in Boston, and is thinking of changing their name so that they can lead the way in what God may want to do through their unique community. A few things about this the Cambridge Vineyard: They invite the Holy Spirit to come and heal people every Sunday, they are welcoming to the LGBT community and make space for them to come to the church, they worship with praise songs and sing at the top of their lungs, and they practice lent as a church body by making a commitment for 40 days to take on a new practice to grow in their faith… as you can see this is a unique community. Oh yeah, it's in Boston. Do you see what I am saying here?

      So, I do not have a clue whether there is going to be a “revival”  in Boston. I don’t even know what I mean by revival... people deciding to follow Jesus or a different expression of church services. I don’t know if International House of Prayer University is a sketchy community, or a group of holy followers of Jesus. I don’t know much about what people think about Boston, or how many churches are in Boston today. I am unclear on some of the theology of the Vineyard and unsure of how Phyllis tickle would think of a revival in Boston. I am sure that when I hear revival I get excited. I am sure that Jesus has changed my life, and I want more people in Boston to know about Jesus. I am sure that this day we live in is unique, and I know the way we do church is changing. I am sure that if something is happening here in Boston, I want to be a part of it.
  • Luke

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Discernment Days

This post was contributed by Kelsey Hanf, Micah Intern with Jubilee Ministries. 

One of the unique features of the Micah Project is its commitment to discernment. As the Episcopal Service Corps website proudly proclaims, in a time when most are being asked “what are you going to do next year?,” they ask the bigger question: “who do you want to BE?” Discernment is a core theme in our life together, constantly being highlighted in our Friday training time together. From spiritual practices that allow us to go deeper into our faith and identity and learning communities that nurture our growth through the year to specifically defined “discernment workshops” that let us more deeply explore specific discernment methods, our weekly time together offers many opportunities for growth through discernment.

This Friday the Life Together interns were graced with another such workshop, a self-designed panel featuring individuals from throughout the diocese who offered both their stories and their advice. Much in the spirit of our own diversity of experience, gifts, and desires, the panel included people from a wide variety of backgrounds: a young priest and former filmmaker, a pediatrician who specializes in global health, the diocese’s vocational discernment officer, a former Carter administrator and current diocesan treasurer, and a young mother working in financial industry e-learning. 

While the advice offered by the panelists- including one woman’s advice to “not think about what you want to be, but what you like to do”- was insightful, it was the stories they shared that shaped the character of the conversation. In a world where we are often told we must choose goals and pursue them, these stories reminded us that there is no straight path to our destinations. In many ways they invited us to explore the fact that having too strong a goal can in many cases prevent us from engaging in true discernment, from a real openness to what God truly wants for us in our lives.

I did not leave last Friday’s training with a better idea of what I want to do, or even of who I want to be. But I did leave with a greater respect for the journey and a greater peace regarding the winding paths that life will inevitably take. And if that is the one thing I take away from this year of Life Together, it will be enough.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Before April 10, 2010: "I would have said you are crazy."

This post was written by Janell Duberry, leadership team member at Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan.

Hope in Action day on April 10, 2009, for me, was a success. It was beautiful to see how many people came out from each site to show their support for the campaign. We had a great location outside, which made the event open for everyone to see and hear what was going on. The day's Agenda was organized well. I loved the public narratives, Marshall Ganz gave an amazing speech, and the closing prayer from Bishop Thomas (who confirmed me three years ago) really ended the event the right way. I felt that time-management was one of the key things that made the day so successful. Whether it was welcoming people to the event, or helping with registration, guiding the guests through Trinity Church, or helping setting up lunches, everyone from each site pitched in to help keep to the day's agenda. This movement and this day’s event symbolized what Hope in Action is about. We were a group of individuals from different backgrounds and places working collectively to help make a difference.

For my particular site at the church of the Holy Spirit, I was happily surprised to see the number of members who came out to support us. Like everyone there, we could have been anywhere on a Saturday afternoon; we chose that to be at Trinity Church to show our support for economic justice. What I loved most about the day was the collective decision-making process and how each leadership team member facilitated their own small group. I was nervous because I had never facilitated before, but excited at the same time. It was amazing to see how everyone was engaged in conversation and respected each other’s ideas and opinions. I found it quite informative because some of the things that were mentioned, I wasn’t aware of. An example of that is that a majority the families of the students who attend the after school program do not attend the Church of the Holy Spirit. We touched on issues that we knew were problems like the lack of tutors - only one tutor for every ten kids.

We recognized the need for more activities like science workshops, the arts, dance, photography, etc. to keep the children stimulated, and I think it was the first time that we were really were able to hear feedback from the members. What their likes and dislikes were, what some of their concerns were and how we can work together to make our 'Youth with a Choice' tutoring program even better. What also made the experience so great was being able to put a name to the faces of people from church: people you see and may had said hi to but never really knew their names or had a conversation with. Another positive was that, unlike previous community organizing events I've attended this year, the decision making process didn’t feel rushed. We had time to have a really great dialogue between one another and everyone in the room appreciated it.

When I was first approached to be part of Hope In Action and to join the leadership team, my reaction was NO. I do not have time for this and do not want to be bothered. Then I attended the MLK campaign kickoff event, and seeing how passionate people were was contagious. This campaign showed me that I too could be a leader; that we all can take on leadership roles; and that we shouldn’t sell ourselves short. Being part of this movement required me to step far out of my comfort zone. Public speaking is a fear of mine. If you said that I would be getting up in front of hundreds of people and giving a public narrative, I would have said you are crazy. The campaign at times was stressful and scary but I am part of something that is bigger than myself, which gave me a sense of empowerment, pride, and purpose.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hope and youth gather in April 10 rally for justice, equality

This post was contributed by Micah Intern Caroline Hunter.

On April 10, 2010, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts had no class. Or at least it didn’t see class.

Or race, gender or sexual orientation.

The Diocese hosted the culmination of Hope in Action, its campaign to engage youth in working for economic justice in Boston, on April 10. Several hundred people gathered in front of Trinity Cathedral in Copley Square for the event, which included a discussion of how to use the campaign’s resources; live music performed by a group of the Diomass Interns; and a speech given by community organizing veteran and lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Marshall Ganz.

Although hispanic, black, asian, white, straight, gay, poor, wealthy, young, old, religiously active, atheist, New-England-native and many-other-locale-hailing individuals were present, these distinctions paled next to the passion for economic justice exhibited by the group as a whole.

At the event, teams from seven churches and universities around Boston committed and decided how to apply 1% of their time and/or money this year to social justice projects of their choice.

Examples of 1% commitment projects to be launched are: renewing the library of the Blackstone Elementary School in Dorchester, advocating for education reform in the Boston Public Schools,  and mentoring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth in Waltham.

The Hope in Action campaign is part of a pilot youth and social action initiative in the Episcopal church called the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project.  One young adult Relational Evangelist from each of the seven project sites has recruited a leadership team in which they practice ongoing discernment about their values and goals as a group.  April 10 represented the intersection of the campaign’s different threads of justice work. For more about the event, see this article about Hope in Action on the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts website.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Phone-a-thoning to the Finish Line

This update was contributed by Kendyll Hillegas, Relational Evangelist at Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan.

This week at Church of the Holy Spirit, as the Leadership Team transitions from "Full-Flung Campaign" to "What on Earth Do We Do With All of the Volunteers We've Recruited?" mode, we're preparing for a phone-a-thon. Over the 11-weeks of the Lenten campaign, we recruited 46 1% -'timers' (our definition for folks who are giving 1% of their time for 1 year).

During our phone-a-thon on Sunday May 2, we plan to line up all Leadership Team members (and some other young adults from the congregation) with cell phones and chargers in hand, and hit (most importantly) that list of 46 "timers" to invite them to a Volunteer Orientation and Celebration day that we'll hold at CHS on Saturday May 15. Then, we'll also call our "financiers" (you can probably guess what that stands for - the folks who are giving 1% of their income) and give them the final info on where to send the checks. And that's the news from CHS!