Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prayers for the Sick

Arlecia D. Simmons, Durham, N.C.

This past week I had the opportunity to interact with all of the generations that make up Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. One of my key duties this summer will be to share the teaching responsibilities of the Wednesday noonday Bible Study. This hour of prayer, praise, and teaching is followed by visitation with the deacons and prayer warriors. After this week’s service I ventured to Durham Regional Hospital with an associate minister, two deacons and Mrs. Joyce Turner, the wife of Dr. Turner. No Mt. Level members were hospitalized, so we visited with two people who were “friends” of the church.

Prior to entering the room of the first patient we all had to cleanse our hands and put on hospital gowns. We prayed after exchanging greetings with the family members present and the infirmed older woman. The minister anointed her head with oil while a deacon read James 5:14: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

It was on the next visit of the day that my teachable moment occurred. We walked into a room where the patient was unable to communicate with us and family members were not present. It was evident the man was in some kind of distress. Mrs. Turner summoned us to continue with prayer and the group looked to me to lead them. I pray often but was hesitant about praying in this moment. We gathered silently and held hands around the bed of the man who was too sick to acknowledge our presence.

Praying for the sick is one of the topics we had previously discussed in Dr. Turner’s The Holy Spirit and Ministry class, but I still wasn’t sure if I was praying the “right” prayer. Do we ever know if we’re praying the “right” prayer?

After evening Bible Study I was able to talk with Dr. Turner about my concern. He was more knowledgeable about the man's condition, and offered instruction on how to approach similar scenarios in the future. Pray the Scriptures,” he reminded me. This was the same advice Dr. Stephen Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, gave us during his Old Testament lecture on the Psalms.

At the end of the day I had to make peace with the fact that God knows what to do with our petitions. I was also reminded that to be effective in ministry, we must meditate on the Scriptures day and night. If we are to pray the Scriptures then we must know the Scriptures. If we are unable to recall the words of the psalmists, as Chapman suggested, then we must rely on the Spirit to make intercession.

A Birthday Celebration

Robert Flowers, Clemmons, N.C.

On my first Sunday in Clemmons, NC, Centenary UMC threw a Pentecost party during the 11 o’clock service. As Rev. Barnhardt read aloud Acts 2, Nolan Hill, a talented artist in the youth, sketched the scene on a white board in front of the congregation. During the sermon, members in the right and left pews competed against each other in a balloon race. Meanwhile, the sound of toy harmonicas swept through the sanctuary. Finally, to top it all off, the members sang “Happy Birthday” as birthday cake was served after the service.

Unaccustomed to such a celebration, my initial thoughts were scattered. At first, I couldn’t understand how a full-blown birthday party fit into a church service. Isn’t church supposed to be quiet, where the congregation does not interact with those behind the alter? Second, I thought about my next 10 weeks. Would every Sunday be like this? What party am I going to throw when it is my turn to preach? In short, I “sneered” at this congregation, thinking that its members were “filled with new wine.”

Yet, as I listened to and re-read Acts 2, my doubt in the power of the Holy Spirit surfaced. Originally, I came into this setting ready to hear one language—the worship style I already understood. Now, having exposed my naivety, the Holy Spirit has transformed my discomfort into feelings of “awe.” Not only do these new feelings allow me to celebrate the different languages of worship, they create excitement—excitement for learning more about how I fit into the church’s mission.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tongues of Fire

John Bryant, Denver, N.C.

Like most field education students, my first Sunday at Salem United Methodist Church was Pentecost. I really appreciated how the church weaved several aspects of Pentecost into the service. The confirmation students officially joined the church on Sunday. Since we recognize Pentecost as the birth of the church, this makes a lot of sense. But I had not ever really stopped to consider putting the two elements together. I hope the youth recognized the significance of the timing but even if not, I found meaningful.

Part of the Pentecost service incorporated a dance by seven girls in the children and youth program at Salem. They had three banners, some ribbons, and two flags in the color of fire (red, orange, and yellow). The two flags were the most interesting part for me. At the end of the dance, two girls stood in the center aisle and waved the flags overhead. For a period of time the rippling of the flags was all you could hear. The routine gave me a real sense of the freedom and movement of fire which brought alive the story of Pentecost for me. The sight and sound of the flags rippling like tongues of fire above the heads of the congregation offered a glimpse of what that fateful day in Jerusalem might have looked like.

To all those students in field education placements this summer, to all those persons in their congregations, remember this. You can’t bottle the Holy Spirit or control it. It moves free like fire.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Jason Oliver Evans, Greensboro, N.C.

My first day (Pentecost Sunday) at St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Greensboro, NC was a definitely a learning experience. I arrived before the 8:30 a.m. contemporary service. I greeted the church groundskeeper Mr. Brown and waited for my supervisor, the Rev. Dr. Arnetta E. Beverly to arrive. Mr. Brown took on an impromptu tour of the facility. On the tour I met Sunday's liturgist Dr. Bergmann and host of other congregants.

Then Rev. Beverly arrived, greeted me with a hug, and escorted me and Dr. Bergmann to the Pastor's Study. We spoke briefly and prayed before we exited the study and proceeded to the sanctuary.

An acolyte joined us at the main door to the sanctuary. As service began the acolyte headed the procession of the pastor, the liturgist and me into the sanctuary. I walked beside Rev. Beverly as we headed first toward the altar (where she instructed me to bow) then into the pulpit.

At both services, Rev. Beverly introduced me as the summer intern. I gave a quick remark at each service. At the second service, Rev. Beverly invited me to pronounce the benediction. Then we sang a alternate version of the Doxology ("Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow"). That was an honor. I will be preaching on the joint service on Trinity Sunday.

St. Matthews UMC is a wondering place to learn and grow as a minister. I'm learning to appreciate liturgical traditions which are different from my own (I'm a Baptist). I hope to learn more as the days go by.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sun is Still Rising

Jonathan Andersen, Atlanta, Ga.

Rising of the Sun

Psalm 113:3, "From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD's name is to be praised."

I sat under this stained glass window yesterday during my first time worshiping at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA. The image of the sun rising daily serves as a strong reminder to me of God's faithfulness to humanity and my need to praise God on a daily basis as well.

Throughout this summer I will preach from a pulpit for the first time, accompany middle schoolers on a mission trip, visit the sick in the hospital, teach the church about Twitter, serve the homeless of Atlanta, and much more. These opportunities for ministry seem exciting yet overwhelming to me at the same time. I know I cannot succeed in any of them by my own power and abilities. Fortunately, God the Father has sent the Holy Spirit who enables us to be powerful witnesses to the saving work of Jesus throughout the world (Acts 1:8). As the sun rises on this new experience in my life I ask for your prayers as I serve in this new place and continue to discern God's call upon my life. I'll be keeping you posted on how its going with some good stories, photographs, laughs, and tears along the way.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Gift of Pentecost

Arlecia D. Simmons, Durham, N.C.

Today as I began my field education placement I was reminded of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. At 7:35 a.m. I arrived at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church and met Dr. William C. Turner,Jr., the pastor and DDS Associate Professor of the Practice of Homiletics. During the fall 2009 semester I enrolled in Dr. Turner’s The Holy Spirit and Ministry class, so our conversation naturally began by acknowledging the day as Pentecost Sunday. “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,” Turner said reciting Acts 2:3. “Amen!” I responded, recognizing that I would need this same power to guide me during the next 10 weeks of service.

I served as lector during the first service and fellowshipped with members during the breakfast preceding Sunday School. After attending the 10:45 a.m. service I journeyed with the youth department to Frankie’s Fun Park. Those two experiences outside of the pulpit reminded me that “ministry” is always taking place. We are ministering and being ministered to when we listen to a senior talk about canning and pruning a tree to bear more fruit, or when we are present with a group of teenagers during a game of Laser Tag. During the trip I asked the young people about their hopes and dreams, and we discussed how they could accomplish their goals. One of the students prayed before we departed and another prayed upon our return. I was thankful that I could join in on those prayers and sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blessing the Bicycle

Luke Wetzel, Durham, N.C.

Probably my greatest privilege this week was to lead a group of people in blessing Charlie's bicycle. Charlie is a regular attendee at the three-times-weekly prayer service at Urban Ministries of Durham. The service is a remarkable gathering where people share the many blessings in their lives and those things for which the feel called to pray. Charlie has an joyful and infectious passion for God. He told the group that he had been praying for a bicycle for a couple weeks. Finally he got to spend a few hours working at the Durham Bicycle Cooperative and through his efforts received a mountain bike of his very own. After the service a group of us went out to the parking lot and prayed over his bicycle.

Here is something like what I said:

"This bicycle is a testament to prayer answered.

Almighty Father, through your providence Charlie has received this bicycle. We ask that you bless it, use it for the ministry that you have called Charlie to do. Help Charlie to keep it in good repair. Keep Charlie safe as he rides it. Guide and keep all of us on the roads and sidewalks of of our lives in service to you. We ask all these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen."

This may seem trivial, but I see it as anything but. Charlie's bicycle allows him significant mobility that he previously lacked. On his bicycle, Charlie is able to enjoy God's creation in a new way and go further to spread the hope that is within him for which he does not hesitate to share the reason.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Luke Wetzel, Durham, N.C.

On Sunday I got to attend Duke's commencement exercises. Yesterday, on my third day at Urban Ministries of Durham I attended a graduation of a different sort. Eleven people graduated from UMD's HOPE/BELIEVE recovery program. These men and women had completed a rigorous five months of residence, classes, support groups, and service in the Urban Ministries shelter. Each were making plans for jobs, housing, and clean and sober life outside of the shelter. Some of them already had jobs and housing lined up, others were in process, one woman expressed the desire to learn to play the saxophone. The ceremony was inspiring. It featured an address by Duke Divinity preaching professor, Dr. Charles Campbell. Dr. Campbell reminded the graduates of the remarkable witness that their sobriety is to the power of God to overcome addiction, not only to drugs and alcohol, but to consumerism, to violence, to busyness. Todd, Victor, Wilbert, Jack, Robert, Mike, Lamont, Bobby, Kenneth, Thornton, and Monique still have a ways to go. Addicts don't talk about being "recovered," but "recovering." For them and for all of us there are temptations and challenges daily.

You can read about the event in the Durham Herald-Sun here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Contributors, 2010

Jonathan Andersen, from Georgia, has just completed his first year of Divinity School and is serving at Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta, Ga.

Luke Wetzel, from Kansas, has just completed his first year of Divinity School and is serving in one of our agency placements, Durham Urban Ministries.

Arlecia Simmons, from South Carolina, just completed her first year and is serving at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. under the supervision of Dr. William C. Turner.

Robert Flowers, a pre-enrollment student from North Carolina will start at Duke Divinity School this fall and is serving at Centenary UMC in Clemmons, N.C.

John Bryant, from North Carolina, has just completed his second year and is serving at Salem UMC in Denver, N.C.