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.
You can follow Chip on twitter (@chiphardwick) or find him on Facebook (Chip Hardwick).
This past weekend I was in Southern California for two events. The first was to spend a day getting to know Fuller Theological Seminary and its ministries to Presbyterian Students. (Although Fuller itself is not Presbyterian, many, many candidates for ordination in the PC(USA) graduate from its programs.) In my next post, I will talk about the second reason for my visit, the Southern California gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians.
At Fuller I spent time with a number of members of the community thanks to the scheduling magic of Chris Murphy, Fuller’s director of Presbyterian Ministries. I got to meet three professors, the director of the Doctor of Ministry program, and the coordinator of the Chapel worship services. They each gave me a unique perspective on the joys and challenges that Fuller faces, like all seminaries.
Most interesting, however, was a lunch I had with Presbyterian students and recent grads. About a dozen of us gathered so that I could get to know them and answer any questions they might have. I was expecting for them to ask me about the hot-button questions coming to General Assembly this summer, such as the potential for a redefinition of marriage or divestment from some American companies because of their dealings with Israel.
That’s not what they were most interested in hearing, however. Their questions went again and again to how the Presbyterian Mission Agency (of which I am a part) can help support them as they do ministry in their churches. They were interested in connecting baby boomers with millennials. They were wanted to know what efforts we have to support spiritual formation efforts within congregations. They wanted to know not just what worship materials are available, but how they can lead the appropriate change management process so that their congregations will move toward new worship styles. We also talked about the Small Church Residency Program (formerly called For Such a Time As This) and the denominational efforts to inspire 1,001 New Worshiping Communities in ten years.
I finally brought up marriage, but if I hadn’t, my sense is that they would have kept asking questions about ministry…how to do it effectively and faithfully. They are keeping their eyes on the prize of the best way for their congregations, and, by extension, the whole denomination to thrive. Not by focusing on the things that divide us, but by keeping a laser focus on those things that will help equip their congregations to go out and serve their larger community.
It seems like a great lesson to think about as we approach General Assembly. In the midst of all of our disagreements, can we keep our eyes on the prize?