Yesterday, I Made an Assumption

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” Today we are excited to feature Angela Williams, who is serving as a Young Adult Volunteer with NEXT this year! She is also working with people experiencing homelessness at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. What is saving her ministry is the breaking down of stereotypes. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Angela Williams

Yesterday, I made an assumption.

I was riding high on my white savior complex
Proud of all the work I had done
All the talking
All the listening
All the organizing
All the helping
I had done it.

I was building relationships with guests,
But we had parted ways.

Yesterday, I made an assumption.

Two young, black men.
Taut bodies with long dreads cascading,
Sweatpants and t-shirts, with gym bags on their backs
Riding bicycles
Perhaps they were going to the gym to strengthen their muscles.
Maybe they were athletes in high school?

They aren’t like me.
They would think it weird that I talk
to people
On the street,
On the sidewalk,
On the bench,
In the park.

I help people.
I do service.
I am a volunteer.
I work with the church.
I make friends.
I am different.
I am good.

The young men stop.
Open the packs.
I see pieces of plastic loops.
Plastic bags of food.

They give the packages
to people
On the street,
On the sidewalk,
On the bench,
In the park.

My interest piqued:
“Are y’all with an organization?”
One responds,
“It’s just God’s work.
He started, and I joined him.
Have a blessed day.”

Yesterday, I made an assumption.

Angela Williams is a Presbyterian pastor’s kid from Rock Hill, SC, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2014. She is in her second YAV year in Washington, DC, serving with NEXT Church and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, after living in the Philippines last year. Angela is heading to Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to pursue the Master of Divinity and Master of Science in Social Work degrees next year. She enjoys cycling around the city, listening to live music, and reading blogs. This post originally appeared on her blog.

Being Loved and Loving Back

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” Today we are excited to introduce you to Linda Kurtz, who has just joined the NEXT Church team as a Communications Specialist! We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Linda Kurtz

It’s strange to call the life I am living right now a ministry. Some days I feel like I am in the in-between, a place between my former “career” and my future one. This in-between place is both busy and under-scheduled, exhausting and life-giving, a reminder of where I came from and where I am going. This place is seminary, a place I am still trying to figure out as a first semester student. I suppose, then, my ministry is one of learning, of developing, of opening my mind and heart to God so that I may better serve God and the church when I enter professional ministry.

Though my ministry today might look very different from yours, what’s saving it is not any tip I’ve picked up so far (though when more experienced seminarians told me it wouldn’t be possible to read all of the words I am assigned, and I shouldn’t beat myself up over skimming when appropriate, the sun broke through the clouds of homework) or book I’ve read (though my class on race, gender, and justice in the church rocks my world each and every week and has filled a shelf with life-changing reads). It’s something I hope everyone has: a supportive community.

What saves me from getting lost in the endless reading, confusing Greek paradigms, and essays on early Christian ascetics are the people that have loved me into being here. My community is the family I was born into, none of whom are pastors, some of whom are elders and deacons, and all of whom encourage me to pursue my ministry goals. My community is the church family I grew up in, who formed my Christian identity as a teen, welcomed me home each college break, asked me to serve on session when I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, gave me the space and place to hear my calling to ministry, prayed for me, and send me supportive letters, emails, and texts now that I am here. My community is my friends from school and former jobs, some of whom are weekly churchgoers, and most of whom let me know when they’re thinking of me and don’t tell me I am crazy (at least to my face) when I tell them about my dreams of working in college and parish ministry. Now, my community is also Union Presbyterian Seminary, where I’ve met students, faculty, and staff who prayed for me before I even arrived, who I highly admire, and who I can’t wait to grow closer in friendship with.

My community is life-giving and ministry-sustaining. It’s hard to express how much their love means to me. So in return, I try my best to love them right back, and to be part of a loving community for others I know in ministry. I think it’s fair to say that this semester, in addition to the Greek and history and Christian education theories I’ve learned, I’ve also understood the value of letting the people in your life know you’re there with them, cheering them on.

lindakurtzLinda Kurtz is a first-year Master’s of Divinity and Master’s of Christian Education student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA and the new communications specialist for NEXT Church. She is from Burke, VA and a 2011 graduate of Elon University.  Between undergrad and seminary, Linda served for as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Washington, DC as a grassroots neighborhood organizer and worked as a communications “expert” for nonprofits. She loves local food, national parks, large dogs and running (usually).

What is saving your ministry?

By Jessica Tate

It’s a busy season in church and in life, without much time to pause and reflect. This season the NEXT Church blog will offer bite-sized reflections in which church leaders answer the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” It might be a spiritual practice or a book or a mentor or a mantra. It might be a skill or a scheduling tool.

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