So this is our charge!
On the weekend of September 20-22 a group of Wake Div students ventured to Princeton, New Jersey to attend the Second Annual SERV Conference hosted this year at Princeton University. Students received a community engagement grant through the Office of Leadership Development to attend a host of workshops and sessions designed to empower, encourage, and motivate the movement of seminary students from classroom knowledge to practical hands-on service in the community. Sessions included topics such as Prison Reform, Racial Reconciliation, Economic Injustice and Equality Workshop, Integrating the Arts into Social Justice Work, Homelessness and Housing, Immigration Issues, Environmentalism and Sustainability, and LGBTQ Community Concerns. Below is a reflection from first year student Rachel Revelle.
The weekend of September 20-22 I had the chance to attend a conference on community engagement at Princeton Theological Seminary along with seven other Wake Divinity students. That experience was immediately followed by a powerful week of preaching here at home in Wait Chapel as the School of Divinity hosted three dynamic preachers at the 2013 Elevating Preaching Conference: we were encouraged to do the hard work of coming forward to say what needs to be said (Anna Carter Florence, Columbia Theological Seminary); to not only see the damage done to the disinherited but also the image of God at work in them (Thomas Long, Candler School of Theology); and to go on God’s doxological diet which is for others, about others, and for the common good (Luke Powery, Duke Divinity School). Later that week, in chapel, we were reminded to not miss the opportunity to serve (Clifford A. Jones, Sr., Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte NC). All of these messages made me realize the power of the pulpit! They also reminded me of the responsibilities of ministry. And finally, they affirmed the framework made evident each and every day at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, that our faith cannot be separated from our service in the world.
It was this framework that made me proud to be a Wake Divinity student at the SERV conference – Seminarians Empowering Revolutionary Vision. Students from across the country gathered at Princeton, eager to combine their theological education with a passion for pressing social issues and combating systemic injustice. We had rich conversations about racial reconciliation, economic justice, prison reform, and sustainability, among other topics. The solidarity established there and the motivation to return to our locations with renewed energy was appreciated. I could not help but thinking, however, that I was very grateful to be at a divinity school that does emphasize social justice. Many of the other students seemed frustrated that they did not have further support from fellow students and administrations. That speaks to the need for greater national awareness. Meanwhile, our group acknowledged that we are surrounded by support – we have no doubt that if anyone wants to pursue a project or investigate a problem that is on their hearts, our school will absolutely be behind them. This is a great blessing.
Many of us are already involved in service ministries of various types. Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the SERV conference was the desire to learn more about the networks of service of which we are a part, and to make sure that everyone is aware of opportunities they may pursue. For those have here, John Senior’s database on the Art of Ministry webpage is a good place to start! I also encourage you if you have not already to fill out the community engagement survey. We can use this to help organize our areas of interest and add collective support to those efforts. Talk to classmates about the ways they engage in the Winston-Salem community. Whether we have been here two months, two years, or more, we can always use a reminder that we are contributing citizens to a place larger than Wake Forest.
One of the speakers at the conference noted that the wicked problems of the world—those without easy answers—require a synthetic and holistic approach, to which theologians can contribute significantly with their recognition of whole beings and their wish to see the world in light of the kingdom. So that is our charge! But let us remember that service is not only a duty we owe or something we should be especially equipped to do as innovative and holistic thinkers, but it is also a special kind of incarnational ministry, a way in which we may experience God in others and they may experience God in us.
First Year MDiv
Rachel feels called to work in peace and reconciliation ministry, and will pursue ordained ministry. Before joining the Wake Div family, she was the Student Programs Coordinator for the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.
To the Wake Div Community: To keep the efforts going around Community Engagement at Wake Div, we would love to hear about your interests. Let us hear your feedback on our Community Engagement Survey.