Living Room Ministry

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As a Chaplain Intern at Rex Hospital, I spent many Monday afternoons sitting with one older patient in Long Term Rehab looking over the bulletin from worship at her church the day before. We would discuss the different worship components, read the scriptures, and pray the prayers. One of the richest parts of our conversation was discussing what we would want to say and hear in a sermon based on the scripture reading but she mentioned many times how much she wished could hear what the pastor had to say in their sermon.

Ministering to our homebound members can be a struggle. How much is too much when it comes to visiting? How can we do more beyond taking communion? What if they don’t have a computer to live-stream worship?

I have never worked through this with a congregation, but I have spent a great deal of time with some of those homebound members and heard stories from congregations about how they reach out. The one thing that I know for sure is that this is a ministry that is needed and craved by our members, and one that we can learn best from those around us.

When I visited Berea Presbyterian Church (Four Oaks, NC) last month, Dr. Paul Rowland (CRE) explained that he was going to place a voice recorder on the pulpit before worship. I regularly slip a recorder of some sort in my pocket or on the pulpit so that I can listen back later, so I thought nothing of this. Dr. Rowland continued to explain that in addition to posting the sermon online, he would burn the worship service to a CD and take it to one of the members later. She is not able to come to worship in person, but loves to listen to the recording in the comfort of her living room.

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In addition to this recording that I know means so much to those who can’t attend worship and is more accessible than a live-stream for many people, Dr. Rowland not only makes a point to visit homebound members regularly but he shares a picture and word of thanks for the individual via social media when he visits. These posts can serve as reminder and update for other church members and remind others to pray for and even visit their own family and friends who might not be able to get out of the house.

There is no one way to minister to God’s children, and it can be especially hard to do when we may not see some individuals regularly. Sometimes mailing a copy of the bulletin is enough, other times a simple (even if not professional) recording can be incredibly meaningful. When schedules allow, it might be possible for multiple individuals from the congregation to visit and stay in touch but other times our vague but meaningful social media posts can provide just enough information to remind others to pray and update members on the wellbeing of their brothers and sisters.

How do you minister to your homebound members?
How do you involve the congregation in this ministry?

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

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When We Know

Know-Each-Other

As I worked on the sermon for this past Sunday and reflected about events of the week, I couldn’t help but relate to Elijah a little bit (from 1 Kings 19: 1-18). I felt alone. I didn’t know what to say to take the pain away or to explain how we should respond to the violence filling our world.

After quite a bit of typing, deleting, adding, and crossing out I stood up to preach at First Presbyterian Church in Kinston, NC. My heart ached but I felt at ease for the first time in a week. As I looked out at the faces of those gathered, I knew them. I had just met them, but I knew them. We shared this grief and pain, we shared in the struggles of everyday life beyond the horrific events in the news from Orlando. We shared in the excitement of Father’s Day and we shared in our celebration and praise of The Lord. Despite only meeting thirty minutes before, we knew each other.

There is a power that comes from knowing one another. I experienced the surface level of that, but I quickly learned that this knowledge of one another– their histories, their memories, their stories– ran so much deeper. Following worship, several individuals came to talk with me and then direct me to talk to one particular gentleman. We had just sung “Happy Birthday” to him so I knew “who he was,” but the reasons they shared for their request told me so much more. I had just played trumpet for the offertory and this gentleman used to also play; “this was like a birthday present for him!” several told me. Others explained more parts of his story to me as they guided me down the aisle to officially meet him.

Before worship began, a family invited me to their home for lunch. As we broke bread together that afternoon, they shared their stories of living all over our country as well as in England and Australia. Their son celebrated and shared his own memories from family adventures. They shared what they love about First Presbyterian and some of the things they have been involved in through the church. After we finished lunch, they shared their artwork and Civil War collections with me. They opened their doors and allowed me to get to know them.

In this world filled with violence and hate, spending time with the people we know and love can help to distract us. Spending time getting to know and love new people can serve to push that hatred away, even if just a tiny bit at a time. What is incredible about all of this is that in this world, filled with millions of people who we will never know personally, we are united with one another through our faith.

13254298_1186480588063208_2243257117184660814_nDuring my sermon on Sunday, I echoed the words of The Lord and asked the congregation “Why are you here today? Why did you come to church?” I told them that I came because that is where I feel safe in times like this- in that sanctuary, and in sanctuaries around the state and the world, with people who I know even just a little bit because of our shared faith and trust in God. I seek shelter and comfort in these places that I may only ever visit the one time, but will forever be joined with through the waters of our Baptism.

13406806_1206146586096608_1656312716221705815_nWhen we know that we are with others we are already joined with, together we can make a difference.

When we take the time and make an effort to get to know one another at a deeper level, we just might begin to change our world.

It was very apparent that the congregation at First Presbyterian in Kinston, NC knew and loved one another and that made a tough morning just a bit easier, it even turned some of our grief into celebration.

How do you provide space for your congregation to get to know one another?
Share your ideas so that we can get to know you better!

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer


Opening image from http://www.mutualresponsibility.org/

Roots

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When describing St. Paul’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), many people say something along the lines of “We are near Rex Hospital along Blue Ridge Road… where the oak tree is.” This oak tree is definitely a land marker recognized by many if not most Raleigh, NC natives. It’s branches have shaded many a picnic, Vacation Bible School, and Journey Through Bethlehem. A single grave stone at the base of the tree has served as the focus of many “lock-in” ghost stories and “base” for tag games during youth group. Families have celebrated weddings with first dances in its shade, and they have embraced and comforted one another as they mourned the loss of a loved one. This tree has weathered hurricanes and ice storms, always sheltering those beneath it.

As the congregation at St. Paul’s Christian Church has grown and changed over time, this tree has continued to stand strong. As I walked underneath it’s branches this past Sunday morning, heading into the sanctuary for worship with this congregation that raised me for the first 13 years of my life, I couldn’t help but think that this tree not only symbolized my own roots at this church but the roots of hundreds before me and hopefully thousands after.

St. Paul’s has indeed changed since I was one of the young children playing tag under this tree’s branches, since I sought it’s embrace as I sat underneath it following the funeral for one of our own youth members. The young children that I started my baby-sitting career with have just graduated from high school, teachers that encouraged me to ask questions about God have retired from teaching and new faces fill those classrooms. In addition to the families that have joined in the last fifteen years, church buildings now house three other congregations who are finding their own roots beneath this tree.

As a child, it was just a tree. Today, this oak tree symbolizes a remarkable story. As I looked up among its many branches on Sunday, I was reminded that no matter where we go in life we can find our roots with God. The one who has weathered every storm with us and celebrated every success and milestone with us, the one who will stand firm under the weight of our sorrows. God, the one who was here before and the one who will remain after. The one who we seek to be known through, “You know, that person who is so kind to everyone and really shows God’s grace!”

20160612_173448On Sunday, I was honored and privileged to fill the pulpit that I have heard so many transformational sermons from. I was able to spend time with these people who helped to raise me, and share about the school that took their lessons in my life to another level. I was able to return to my roots at the oak tree, and see how those same roots are nourishing so many others and helping them to grow just as they helped me.

As the Church ebbs and flows with the changes in our world, where can we find our roots? What in your life serves as a reminder that God is there, whether you realize it or not?

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

Reclaiming FUNdraising

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(c) Inherit the Mirth

Youth group… camps and conferences… great discussions… laughter… silliness…. mission… these are just some of the things that youth and youth leaders alike look forward to at the start of each year. Not on that list? Fundraisers. Whether it is trying to find the right way to raise (usually) much needed financial support, or signing up volunteers to help keep all of the pieces running on the big day, fundraisers can be the bane of a youth leader’s existence.

In the Presbyterian world, we are a few days into “Week 1” at Montreat Conference Center and youth all around the country are counting down the days, if not hours, until they pile into church vans and head to the beautiful North Carolina mountains for a week of rich discussion and enriching worship. In addition to youth conferences around the country, churches are also preparing to travel the world for mission trips. As the plans for each trip are finalized, the final checks are needing to be written and so the final fundraisers of the season are making their way into announcements and bulletins every Sunday.

This past Sunday, while worshiping with First Presbyterian Church in Garner, NC, I saw a ray of light in the world of fundraising! Not to mention a wonderfully creative and fun idea.

Before worship even started, I heard mumblings of the youth fundraiser as individuals asked one another if they had brought in their donations and if they would be helping. Of course with it being the start of summer, I thought they must be talking about a yard sale. At the start of worship, two very excited young girls stood up and informed the congregation that their departure to Montreat was just over 800 hours away and they couldn’t be more excited. As they prepare for the trip though, they need help…

“Come to our Auction!” the girls encouraged the congregation. This particular auction that the youth are hosting is a fun blend of a yard sale, craft sale, auction, and raffle. Members have donated items they have made or found at home and filled the Fellowship Hall. On June 18, the congregation will gather for an ice cream social and purchase raffle tickets for $0.50 each. As they fellowship, individuals can drop their raffle ticket in a cup for the items they would like to take home. Later in the night, an emcee will draw one ticket from each of the cups (this year there will likely be over 500!) and the winner will take that item home with them.

Seeing the excitement and support for the youth and their final fundraiser, and hearing memories of the previous year’s auction was invigorating and brought back so many wonderful memories of my own time in youth group and working at fundraisers. The task of raising money did not bring down any person, but instead energized the whole congregation!

Camps, conferences, and mission trips are wonderful experiences for our youth, but they mean so much more when supported by the congregation in such exciting ways. How does your congregation raise money for youth events? Share your ideas here!


Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

Congratulations, Graduates!

This weekend, the quad at our Richmond campus and sanctuary of Ginter Park Presbyterian will be filled with shouts of joy and accomplishment as we welcome another fantastic class of students into the folds of the Alumni flock. The students at our Charlotte campus will continue the celebrations next weekend at Sharon Presbyterian Church and in the beautiful courtyard on campus. Personally, I am especially excited for graduation because these are the students who were finishing their first year of seminary when I graduated two years ago!

Some of our graduates have already solidified their plans for this coming year and they range from continuing on to further education to serving congregations around the country. We are so proud of the accomplishments and plans of each of these students! These five are just a small selection of our graduates-

Daniel Burch will return to Union to complete a Masters in Theology, focusing in both Biblical and Practical Theologies, following his completion of the CPE program at MCV. Daniel will also continue his work toward licensing in the United Methodist Church.

Laura Kelly will serve as a VCU Health Chaplain Resident (and maybe lead a dance party or two for the patients?)

Carol Ferguson will be ordained on June 26 at Salem Presbyterian Church, just before she moves to Crescent Springs, KY where she will serve as Solo Pastor of Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church.

Leah Epps will complete her CPE internship at MCV this Fall and then hopes to serve a small congregation in Virginia or the Carolinas.

Ashley Harper Boschen will serve as the Minister to Families at Walnut Grove Baptist Church.

Samantha Richardson-Epps will be serving in the Chaplain Residency program in San Antonio, TX at Baptist Health System.

Elnoria Harrison will start a 12 month Chaplaincy residency CPE program at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

As we celebrate with each of these individuals, we also wait in anticipation to hear the plans of our other graduates. As exciting at graduation is, it also brings a an element of anxiety… the ever-present thought of “what is next?” was a  feeling that I was all too happy to forget after a very long summer following my own graduation!

If you would like to learn more about our students who are currently seeking calls, and their interests in ministry, please check out their profiles here (especially if you work with a congregation or organization looking for a new leader)!

As friend and colleague, former study buddy and current staff member, I want to offer my sincerest congratulations to each of our graduates. I have seen you grow for terrified first year students who were not sure what to do with summer language or our Bible courses, into empowered and empowering leaders of the Church in the world. Some of you made it here in a short three years, while others have endured early drives every Saturday morning for the last five years. All of you WILL make a change in this world and I look forward to seeing just what that change is!

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Members of the Union Presbyterian Seminary, Class of 2016 (Richmond Campus) celebrate their upcoming graduation with President and Mrs. Brian Blount.


Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer