The ability to communicate using different media and cultural symbols.
- The ability to appreciate the importance of symbols and images in human culture(s).
- The ability to analyze social, political, environmental, and economic dynamics, using the tools of the social and natural sciences.
- The ability to use respectfully and relationally a basic knowledge of specific human cultures.
- The ability to communicate clearly and effectively with appropriate media and technologies.
- The ability to adapt the practices of ministry to the unique social, cultural, environmental and ecclesiastical aspects of particular settings.
Early on in my childhood, roughly when I was in the fifth grade, I remember getting into a debate with my pastor at East Ruskin Pentecostal Church of God. The debate happened after the death of my grandmother. I was sitting in a bible study when my pastor said that unless you were Pentecostal then you would not go to heaven. This disturbed me deeply as my grandmother was Baptist. I could not, and still cannot accept this theology. I am firmly rooted in the belief that the God who loves me and accepts me, also loves and accepts everyone else the same. I firmly believe that there are many ways to reach God.
While I firmly believe that I am to find God through the risen Christ, others do not share this belief. I fully understand and believe that God accepts them no matter what road they choose to take to find God. The God of my understanding is far bigger than I can even imagine. While working as a chaplain I often remarked that it does not matter if one finds their way to God through Christ or not. What matters is that they find God and find God’s love for them. God’s love and acceptance is welcome to everyone. I first witnessed and deepened this understand while attending Decatur United Church of Christ, during a multi faith worship service. This service hosted religious leaders and members of different faith communities, which included Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. It was an amazing service of learning, acceptance, and love. This service was a rich symbol of what the United Church of Christ means when we say, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey. You are welcomed here.”
Media and the arts are reflected differently depending on the setting. Over the years, I have had many wonderful opportunities to worship in different cultural environments. Often the worship styles of each location were rather different and individual to each setting. From my childhood, the lively praise and worship style of the Pentecostal church I grew up in was much different than when I would attend the quieter Baptist church of my grandmother. Both were centered around traditional hymns. As I grew up and moved away from the church due their theology toward same sex loving individuals, the music is what I missed the most. Longing for a church home and one that would accept me for who God created me to be, I attended the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). The music ministry was not something I was accustomed to. I was used to the praise and worship band with the piano, electric guitars, bass guitars, drums, tambourines, and pretty much any other instrument that could be used to make music. Yet the MCC gave me a new way of looking at the music ministry. Before I moved to Georgia in 2008, I began to visit Georgia twice a month.
Still seeking a church home, I began to attend Saint Mark United Methodist Church. Here I was introduced to a whole new worshipping world: the pipe organ. Now I must confess; I am still not 100% on board with this type of organ. I have found at times for it to be a wonderful praise and worship experience yet I still long for the worship of my home town church. As a student at Point University, my heart was strangely warmed as John Wesley would say. The praise and worship was amazing. Yet while I attended chapel at Point every Wednesday and could worship like I once had, I began to appreciate my quieter Sunday Morning worship services as well. When I entered Emory University Candler School of Theology something amazing happened. Under the leadership of Barbra Day Miller, my worshipping world was completely opened too many different styles of music. Serving on a worship planning team my first year at Candler, I could work with Barbra and my team to create meaningful worship experiences for the student body. Barbra has a wonderful eclectic mix of styles from around the world. She introduced me to African, Korean, Latin American, and Black Soulful music. Yet that is not the only new and exciting way to worship that I was introduced to while at Candler.
As a first-year student I was placed at the Episcopal Church, Holy Comforter. Here again my eyes were opened to a whole new world. The Holy Comforter is a mission congregation of the Episcopal church. The mission of this congregation is to minister to a great group of people who live in care homes for individuals who are mentally disabled. Most of these amazing people are ones who live daily with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I must say, serving here as a student minister was one of the most amazing years of my life. One of the best parts of my day was right before Wednesday evening worship when, we the students, would lead a sing-a-long with the members as they would arrive via the buses that would pick them up from their homes. While often we would sing the same songs, it was amazing to see individuals who often did not talk, hear the melody and began to sing along. This would also happen during worship with the reciting of prayers and liturgy.
As I ended my year at Holy Comforter, I had a new and profound respect for how prayers, scripture, and liturgy welcome all to join in. Music is a great way to blend scripture and prayer to the worship experience of any congregation. Yet I have also found the use of technology to be just as profound. Point University was my first experience with the use of power point to be used during worship. While I became accustomed to its use at Point, it was not until I was in worship for the first couple of times at Holy Comforter that I appreciated their use. As someone who was new to the Episcopal Book of Prayer, I often found myself lost during worship. I have heard many praise the use of screens projecting the bulletins for the order of worship, I have also heard the lack of appreciation for their use. I do still believe that we as a culture have moved forward and this is just one way in which we have and it is a small but effective way to include everyone to participate in worship.
Another way that our culture has moved forward is the use of social media, the internet, and websites. In the day and age in which we now find ourselves, the use of the Internet begins as early as kindergarten, if not before. From paying our bills on line, buying our clothing, movie tickets, etc. we find ourselves more and more dependent on the internet. The internet has become the tool we turn to when we need to find a place to eat, shop, get directions, the answer to trivia questions, and even the local church. While locating, a church is easy through a web search, it is the use of websites that helps to draw people to our congregations. Websites have become the easiest and most effective way to show individuals just who we are, our theological views, our ministries, and upcoming events. Yet not only does it help to bring new individuals to the church it also helps the members of the congregation to stay connected to the ministries of the church. This is also seen in the use of social media in the use of emailed newsletters and sites such as Facebook, The City, to name a few. Here is how the church reaches the younger generation yet it is still just as important to continue to use print for the more mature congregation member.
While we are moving rapidly toward a life that is almost completely on-line, we must not forget that we are not 100% there yet so we must blend together the use of both worlds to ensure that everyone finds themselves welcomed and informed. I understand this need more than most. It was not until I was in my 30’s that I had my first email address or even used a computer for the first time. My skills of using the internet did not fully (if you would even say fully) develop until I began college and had to start using a computer to write papers and do internet research. I often still find myself not the most computer savvy. While this is the case for me and many others, I still see the use and benefits of merging both worlds together so that no one finds themselves on the outside looking in. I have seen this merger take shape at KUCC and one that I fully intend to bring to my ministry.