Broad Street Ministry

Broad Street Ministry

This past Sunday, Sarah and I drove into the Philadelphia to worship at Broad Street Ministry. Broad Street Ministry is pastored by a variety of staff, but their founding pastor is Bill Golderer. The church is located on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts, and directly across the street from The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts and the University of the Arts: it is a central area for creativity and artistry in Philaelphia. They have a dynamic ministry going on at Broad Street Ministry (BSM) and it seems that any and all who show up add something to the mix, and offer their services and leadership wherever they can.

One thing I noticed is that they eat a lot at BSM. After their weekly worship gatherings, their worship space is converted into a dining room area and everyone shares meals with each other. Many local homeless come for the service and meal and it is a wonderful way to build relationships with both the local musicians and artists, but also with the homeless. They seem to have a focus on communion and sharing good meals with one another — always a good thing.

Their worship is based pretty much off of a traditional Presbyterian Church (USA) Order of Worship – but yet it is also very alive, which is refreshing. They have a wide variety of musical skills amidst people who attend, so I have heard the music is always very good – which was the case when we worshiped with them.

As I was checking out their website, one thing I was particularly drawn to was their Center for Subversive Theology. I really resonated with their description of theology and the purpose of it:

2. Why Subversive?
Any theology worthy of its name is by necessity subversive. For me in this context, it suggests several things: to lift up voices that often are not listened to, to be turned inside out by a different way of thinking, to gather with people who hold very different opinions and do so in a constructive way, and to allow oneself the possibility of transformation. And I hope that it will be a place for serious thinking and discussion. Serious thinking may force a person to be disturbed. And that may be why it is something our culture seems to avoid at all costs. We also plan to pay attention to those new voices that encourage social dissent: artists’ voices, poets’ voices. The church’s voice isn’t the only one that needs to be heard. At times we may argue that the church has to change, that the church has to be converted and transformed.

3. Okay, let’s define the rest of our terms: Theology:
In its broadest sense, I understand theology to be thinking and talking about God and self. Anytime we’re thinking of the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God and their interrelationship, we’re doing theology. So as it applies to this project, the center is the place where people come together to talk about God, themselves and the world.

Anyway – I know it’s someplace I will want to go back and check out again. And if you’re in the Philadelphia area, they are inviting any and all to come to their No Barriers Dinner this Wednesday (tonight). Just bring the below coupon with you and you’ll receive a free dinner and time to fellowship with BSM folk as well as anyone from the city who is stopping by and wants a free meal.

No Barriers Dinner

One Less Hoop to Jump Through

Jumping Through Hoops

Today marked one less hoop to jump through, hopefully. The Church Polity Ordination Exam was today, and it was the last of 4 (Church Polity, Theology, Worship & Sacraments, and Exegesis) ordination exams PC(USA)ers have to take – and pass – in order to get ordained. I say hopefully because I thought this exam was pretty straight-forward and simple. That post-exam feeling can be good – or it can mean that I totally didn’t get the questions. I’m hoping that it means I just did well and my Presbyterian Polity course at Columbia really paid off.

I’m really not a fan of these ordination exams. While it’s just one way to “test” to see if you’re ready to be a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), an incredible amount of weight is put on these timed exams. You have three hours for each of the Church Polity, Theology and Worship & Sacraments exams, and you get about a week for the take-home exegesis exam. If you fail, you fail – and you can’t move on in the ordination process until you’ve passed. Let alone the fact that some people aren’t good test-takers, it is an incredibly inauthentic process. You basically just have to say what you think the readers/graders of the exams are going to want to hear. So whether or not you believe what you write, and whether or not you’d actually act in such a way when you actually get out into the real world of ministry, you still have to “pretend” to be a good, Book-of-Order-abiding Presbyterian Inquirer/Candidate for ministry. And then you have to get a good grader. If any of your own “personal” theology or thoughts on ministry slip through your 40+ pages of writing for the four exams, and your reader disagrees with you, they can mark you down. One reader told me that it also really depends on the reader’s mood. While I’m sure they are told to be as objective as possible – one could argue whether that really happens.

Should we get rid of ordination exams? I don’t know. Maybe. Some might then argue that we wouldn’t know if people know enough “Reformed theology” or if they are proficient enough in their Greek or Hebrew (as if most will ever continue to use it once in parish ministry). Shouldn’t the process be such that relationships are formed between Inquirers/Candidates and their CPMs (Committee on Preparation for Ministry) where the committees should know that anyway because of their history with each person in the process. I suppose that’s easier for me to say when my Presbytery currently only has 2 Inquirers/Candidates going through the process.

There must be a better way. Anyone have any ideas?

Back in Princeton

On the Road

Sarah and I are now back in Princeton. We accumulated over 6,000 miles on our Yaris, listened to some really amazing books on CD, including Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat” and the entire “His Dark Materials” Trilogy by Philip Pullman. 9am Saturday morning we’ll be sitting in the basement of the Mackay Campus Center at Princeton taking our final exam for the PC(USA) ordination process: Church Polity. We have to write about 10 pages of material on church polity, government and discipline in 3 hours and then someone has to say, “Yup – you get it!” and then we can be done with one more hoop in this whole ordination process. So, if you’re thinking of us, and everyone else who will be taking the exam, around 9am-noon EST, shoot us up a prayer. Over the next three weeks, I have some plans for some interesting and hopefully thought-provoking posts for this blog – so keep an eye out for that.