The Church Is People
Part of our continued Summer Blog Series, you will read experiences from students who are participating in summer internships. This week you’ll hear from a student who is an intern at Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, which strives to deepen the spiritual journey, to be engaged with the poor and suffering, and to work for justice in the world. Green Street celebrates the diversity of the human family, and is where the Kingdom of God is breaking through! Read more about Green Street on their website or on Facebook.
The church is not a building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place; it’s not a place at all. The church is people.
My internship this summer is at Green Street United Methodist Church in the West Salem neighborhood of Winston-Salem. Evangelical in nature and progressive in theology, Green Street has opened my eyes to the reality that a building does not define the church. The lead pastor, Rev. Kelly Carpenter, will often welcome church attendees by saying, “we are white and black, gay and straight, male and female, people of low class, middle class, and no class at all. We are Green Street.”
Housed in a 1922 sanctuary and a 1958 educational wing, the buildings of Green Street need some love. However, as any member of the Green Street congregation would tell you, the building does not define their ministry. Although old and handicap inaccessible, the church building houses the offices of three local nonprofits. It has a food pantry, a medical clinic, a soup kitchen, and a clothing closet open to anyone who is in need. The sanctuary is shared by a Methodist Church, a Presbyterian congregation, and the community at large. It has been estimated that the annual community worth of Green Street Church is $500,000.
The church is people.
All of these ministries and opportunities are not due to a building or any type of permanent structure. Rather, it is the people of Green Street, West Salem, and the greater Winston-Salem community that have made Green Street what it is today. Although I am already heading into my second year of Divinity School, I struggle with my calling. I have a yearning toward ministry but I cannot decide if that ministry is congregational ministry or nonprofit ministry. However, what I am beginning to see through Green Street Church is that those two avenues of ministry do not have to be separate.
The School of Divinity prepared me for this internship by opening my eyes to the beauty of diversity. In what other seminary could I be friends with a transgendered man as well as an evangelical fundamentalist? At Wake Forest I have learned how diversity is a beautiful thing, which in turn made my transition into my internship, at perhaps the most diverse church in Winston-Salem, smooth.
Going forward I will continue to struggle with my call. But one’s call to vocation by God is a beautiful thing to struggle with in a setting like Green Street and the School of Divinity.
Rayce hails originally from Hendersonville, North Carolina and graduated from Emory & Henry College in Emory, VA before coming to Wake Forest. Although uncertain about future vocational plans, Rayce is confident that his time here at Wake Forest will help guide him toward his divine calling.