“Word in the World”

word in the world
Photo by Emily Rhodes Hunter, M. Div. 2015, taken by the Sea of Galilee

Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

“What’s on your mind?” This question greets many of us every morning, afternoon, and evening as soon as we type “f” into the address bar at the top of our browser window. We may not even have to finish typing the address “facebook.com” because we visit the site so regularly. This social media page has become one of our closest communities and ways to stay in touch with one another.

Union Presbyterian Student, Carol Ferguson, decided to utilize this community as one aspect of her ministry during her “Student Year in Ministry” term at First Presbyterian Church in Henderson, NC. Not long into her time at First Presbyterian, Carol saw an opening for a new way to have open discussion. Schedules couldn’t stand the way of something with 24/7 access, and the “closed group” aspect provided a safe space for inquisitive minds to discuss everything from how they relate to Samuel’s call story to how they can see and use the Lord’s Prayer in new ways.

Every week, Carol posted a Scripture selection accompanied by a picture and question to ponder. She included tradition and historical information that could be useful and informative for that particular topic. The following day, Carol would invite people to begin discussing if they had not already.

“Word in the World” attracted several members of the congregation from different walks of life. In some cases, participants were not members of First Presbyterian, but they were friends of members. Some posted a response to Carol’s initial thought or question every week. Others never posted but simply read and pondered on their own. Some participants had a great deal of knowledge, others may have had none. No thought was disregarded and no conversation brought to an end before it ended on its own.

In a world where it seems that most words shared are done so online, it can be a struggle to find ways to share God’s Word in accessible and interesting ways. It is up to us as congregational leaders, community witnesses, and practicing theologians to respond to those changes. These three roles are what Union’s  academic curriculum encourages students to address in every class[1]. These three roles are what can guide us in our own curriculum development, worship planning, and community events for each individual congregation and the greater Church.

Facebook is not for every person or every community. Other’s might respond better to the photography focus of Instagram while some might respond best the 160 characters of Twitter. Some communities may not even know what any of those three are. Our challenge today is to look at the needs of those whom we minister to and what they are most interested in, and find ways to faithfully intertwine God’s Word into that.

“Word in the World” may not continue as Carol moves on to her final year at Union, or maybe a participant will take the lead and keep it going. Only time will tell. However, the conversations and thoughts that were shared  will last in every participant and all who joined the group saw that the daily question of “What’s on your mind?” can mean so much more than the daily photo of a cat or complaint about work.

What is on my mind, thanks to First Presbyterian Church in Henderson? My mind is spinning and flipping in all directions as I too try to find new ways to share The Word in the world.

First Presbyterian Church in Henderson, NC is led by Union Presbyterian Seminary alum, Rev. Keith Benze (M. Div. 2009) who continues a tradition of all Union educated ministers. Carol Ferguson has completed her third year at Union and plans to graduate in May 2016 with a Master of Divinity. She served as intern at First Presbyterian from June 2014-May 2015. Find out more about First Presbyterian’s ministry at http://www.fpchenderson.org.

[1] Learn more about the roles of Congregational Leader, Community Witness and Practicing Theologian on pages 21-22 of our Academic Catalog- http://www.upsem.edu/img/academics_pdf/Academic_Catalog_2014-15.pdf


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