Monday, October 17, 2011 1:03 PM
Urban areas are constantly redeveloping. Resulting demographic shifts often create challenges and conflict between different groups of people. At Wesley, being “called to the city” means developing ways the church can be a force for community building amidst these realities.
“Gaithersburg, Maryland may not be what people think of as an urban area, but the problems are the same,” says 2003 Wesley graduate and Montgomery County African American and Faith Community Liaison Rev. Tim Warner. “The reality is that it’s no longer a downtown ghetto. If you measure poverty by the number of free or reduced meals given to kids in schools, there is more poverty in Montgomery County than there is in DC.”
This is why Warner, retired United Methodist pastor Hal Garman and Wesley Theological Seminary Urban Fellow Jameson McLaughlin are working together to build a “beloved community” in Gaithersburg.
Wesley’s Urban Fellows program provides students the skills they will need for urban ministry. Beyond the normally required coursework of seminary, in the Urban Fellows seminar, students learn the theory and practice of “asset mapping.” Asset mapping assesses the skills and support available in the community from citizens groups, governments, social service agencies, churches and private organizations. As a part of seminar coursework, research is conducted by students in the Mount Vernon Square area where Wesley’s downtown campus is located.
Jameson is putting the skills learned in the seminar to use in the City of Gaithersburg. “I feel called to pastoral ministry in an urban setting. The asset mapping exercises that I am currently doing in Gaithersburg will definitely be a part of that ministry. Our communities are constantly changing and I believe that church can affect society and society does affect church. So we, as disciples of Christ, must be knowledgeable not only of our congregations, but also our community.”
Wesley's Urban Ministry Fellows are seeking faithful solutions to the challenges of homelessness and gentrification, addiction, failed schools, inaccessible health care systems, unemployment, and illiteracy. They enjoy exceptional opportunities to grow through internships with urban congregations, social service advocacy groups and not-for-profit organizations. Urban Ministry Fellows receive scholarship funding and engage opportunities to provide pastoral care and leadership in congregations and other settings, engage in community organizing & collaborative research projects, advocate and mobilize for justice issues and to build connectivity amongst ecumenical and interfaith communities. Find out more about the Urban Fellows Program and the Urban Ministry Program at Wesley.
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