It's difficult to describe, but I feel as if I've been here at Myers Park UMC for forever, and it also feels like I just arrived. This week has been long, and yet when I think about how short the entire internship will be (10 weeks) it seems as if it has gone quickly. Nonetheless, I am happy to be here and excited for what will unfold this summer.
Myers Park is a unique church. It has roughly 4800 members, and is located in one of the more affluent parts of Charlotte. It is additionally unique in that many of the members are themselves affluent. While most churches have some wealthy members, Myers Park has many. This creates an interesting ministry situation, and raises serious theological questions about wealth and the church's use of financial resources. With the multifarious challenges that emerge from such a situation, there are also numerous advantages. For one, this church has the ability to fund basically whatever project they want to whenever they want. For example, in order to complete serious renovations on the chancel the church needs to raise nearly half a million dollars. The senior pastor suggested that would be relatively easy to do, and the more difficult issues would be the logistical ones regarding where the congregation will worship while the sanctuary undergoes renovation, etc.
Issues of wealth and poverty have been on my mind and heart significantly this past academic year. Myers Park is providing me with a fantastic opportunity to think theologically about these matters in the context of the local parish. My roommate for the summer (George Fultz) will be working across town with Myers Park's sister congregation, South Tryon Community Church. South Tryon church is literally located in the projects of Charlotte. It is night and day from the situation in which Myers Park exists. I am very interested to see how the relationship between the two churches functions.
Let me give you a brief overview of what I've done this first week:
Day 1 - My first day was extremely overwhelming. There are so many ministries going on here at Myers Park, and the church is so large that even beginning to get acquainted with the building is a huge task. In the morning I was given a brief tour of the building and also sat in on a staff meeting. My afternoon consisted mainly of working with Barbara Barden (Minister of Education). We labeled books for the internal library in the church. Myers Park has a significant library inside the church with valuable resources. Basically, if I need a book for a sermon they will order it and have it here in a few days.
Day 2 - In the morning I gave George the tour of the church I had received the day before. Then I attended another staff meeting. Following, I sat in on a meeting about the renovation of the sanctuary. When this meeting ended I was taken to lunch by Dr. Howell. My afternoon was spent emailing the various staff leaders to set up dates and times when I could meet with them and ask some questions about their ministry fields.
Day 3 - I attended a meeting with the Adults Plus! group, at which Dr. Howell (the senior pastor and my supervisor) gave a summary of his time at General Conference. Immediately following I had lunch with the members of Adults Plus! upstairs in Jubilee Hall. Myers Park has a phenomenal cook (Shebra Claypool) and the food was fantastic (particularly the crab cakes!). In the afternoon I spent time crafting my learning goals and objectives for the Learning-Serving Covenant that Duke Divinity School requires the field ed students to complete. I also finished my Annual Service Report to the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church.
Additionally, I spent some time looking over the curriculum of a group that will begin meeting this summer. The group is called "Living The Questions" and will use a study designed by and for "progressive Christians." I will be leading one of the two-week sessions. It ought to be an interesting group and discussion. For those of you who are familiar with theologians and contemporary theological discussion, some of the people involved in the creation of this curriculum are Marcus Borg, Walter Brueggemann, John Cobb, John Dominic Crossan, Hans Kung, Amy-Jill Levine, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, John Shelby Spong, and Mel White. That gives you an idea of the type of study it is. :) Which is why I say it will be very interesting.
At night I went to the Wednesday H.O.T. meals that the church has every Wednesday. It's basically a chance for the congregation to eat together and fellowship. This was a wonderful time and I was able to meet some very kind parishioners.
Day 4 - In the morning I had the chance to sit down and meet with Dr. Howell for a few minutes. Then Nancy Pryor (the executive secretary) took me to Cokesbury to buy an alb. Pictures will be forthcoming. :) We also went to lunch at the Dragon Fly, a delicious little Chinese restaurant.
My afternoon was filled with meetings, as I met with Sarah Sumner (Director of Children's Ministries), and Carol Tate (Consultant for Spiritual Gifts). Both of these meetings were very helpful and helped give me a sense of the mission of Myers Park UMC. Needless to say, I am excited.
In the evening I attended the Disciple group graduation in the sanctuary, and then fellowshipped with these people over hors devours in Jubilee Hall. Again, Shebra made some wonderful food. I'm going to get fat this summer.
Day 5 - Fridays will typically be the day I have off. However, this Friday I had set up four meetings in the morning, so it was a bit packed. I met with Susan Mobley (Parish Nurse), Renae Burgett (Administrative Assistant - Youth), Vanessa Pierre-Parker (Events and Personnel Coordinator), and Jeanne Poole (Receptionist and Administrative Assistant). Eve with these meetings, I still have plenty to go. Yes, the staff is rather large.
What is most exciting about today, though, is that Jen is visiting! It seems like a long time ago that she was leaving me in tears to head back to Durham. But now she's coming for the weekend and I am thrilled!
I should also mention two interesting things that happened this week: First, I learned that a Rose Bowl game was held at Duke in 1942. Random, but I thought that this was pretty cool. The gentleman who told me about this actually attended the game and sold concessions. Second, I met Ben Witherington III's mother! Ha! Go figure. For those of you who don't know, Ben Witherington is a well known scholar who teaches at Asbury seminary in Kentucky. And now, I know his mom. Apparently she and her husband attend Myers Park, which I think is really cool. Like I said, this summer will be fascinating.