Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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Yesterday I preached at the Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, celebrating Theological Education Sunday. This celebration will take place in other churches this coming Sunday, but because of a mix-up in dates for my visit (resolved late on Saturday afternoon) PRPC got to arrive a little bit early!
Pleasant Ridge is a strong supporter of the Theological Education Fund, which distributes money among ten Presbyterian seminaries to support their preparation of men and women for various types of ministry. In my sermon, I thanked the congregation and then asked them what they are actually building when they donate money for this cause.
I told them about Amanda, a former youth intern at Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, IL, where I served before coming to Louisville for my current call. She is in her second year at Princeton Theological Seminary, where her passion is to help seminarians remember that serving others in their communities is what Presbyterians do—even if they are seminarians!
Last year Amanda served at the Huchet House, which gives homeless unwed mothers a place to live during their pregnancy and then for a year after they give birth. Amanda’s dream in serving there was to lead a prenatal yoga class, and in that way to invest in the residents. It turns out that it is difficult for women in their trimester to do yoga (some of you understand that much better than I do!), so she switched the focus of her service to a support group which encouraged residents to do journaling and other activities in order to build self-esteem.
Although Amanda’s time there was not explicitly Christian, the residents knew that she was a seminarian and is exploring the call to become a pastor. They told Amanda that they could never go to church—they would absolutely be shunned, they thought, if they went to church somewhere.
What they didn’t realize is that they didn’t have to go to church—church had come to them. Amanda didn’t shun them; she invested in them and learned from them and grew to love them. She helped them to experience a God who came to live with them, on the best and worst days…A God, as the Message paraphrase of the Bible puts it, who moved into the neighborhood.
Thinking back to that original question: what is Pleasant Ridge building when they give money to the Theological Education Fund? They are building a church which reaches out to and learns from the least of these, in faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!