This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program. Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.
What’s a vital church in today’s world?
To me it’s a church that looks like the rest of society. Our world has changed; we no longer live in communities where everyone looks just like us. My life experiences tell me this is a good thing. I am greatly enriched by the experiences, customs, traditions and backgrounds of all people that I have met in my life! Our churches need this enrichment as well to be vital places of worship in today’s world.
This summer through the Candler Advantage program, I have been exploring what makes a church where everyone is welcome work. Through my internship at Park Avenue UMC I am gaining valuable ministry experience, and I get to do it in my home conference, the Minnesota Annual Conference of the Methodist church. This vibrant church is a place of acceptance where people are free to pray, sing and worship in a manner that meets each individual’s own needs for connecting with God. There is a high percentage of laity involvement in the leadership of worship services, and there is intentionality in who leads each portion of the service. Every service also includes a variety of types of music, which vary from week to week, to provide the opportunity for each parishioner to connect with God and the Holy Spirit during worship. The service is a place where all are uplifted and this tone is conveyed throughout the worship service.
For one of my contributions I recently lead the evening prayer group. In the spirit of the church, I wanted to think of a way to include the many different ways that people pray during this prayer time. I chose a creation theme, and we began by experiencing small bowls of water and soil (earth). As we stood together, I offered a meditation on these foundational elements of creation which I tied to scripture readings. Then after sharing prayer requests, I began our prayer and invited those in the group who wanted to pray aloud for others in the group. This offered an opportunity for many different prayer styles to be expressed. I am discovering that I need to think broadly when I am planning worship, prayer groups, studies, etc. to include many different ways of responding to God’s presence. I am also learning that this practice adds to the vitality of this church and emphasizes that everyone is welcome and appreciated.
Through these experiences I – and hopefully the church – are learning how to live together honoring each other. Once we as a worshiping community live this way we can go out into our communities and honor each other every day in all that we do. To me, the church then becomes a vibrant teacher of how to live together in our 21st century communities.