Saturday, March 06, 2010

creativity and ministry

The week was somewhat unusual; in addition to the ordinary work of ministry--visits, phone calls, e-mail, an emerging sermon on communion, a staff meeting, and lunch with a leader of our church--there were three occasions of particular significance. For me the common thread was creativity.

On Tuesday morning I participated in a roundtable discussion led by Jacqueline Novogratz at Wofford College. I was invited by my friend Ron Robinson, and the morning concluded with her lecture on social investment in the world's poorest, especially in east Africa. Some of her story is found in her recently published The Blue Sweater, and the story that occasions the book's title is remarkable in and of itself. She talked about a third way in contrast to the markets, on the one hand, and top-down charity and development, on the other. Our congregation is deeply involved in a microcredit partnership in Haiti, so this was of great interest. Jacqueline is a person of great wealth and privilege, and she has channeled this background into the Acumen Fund; yet she is marked by a humility and generosity.

On Wednesday evening our congregation hosted Barnes Tatum, who gave a presentation on Jesus at the Movies. Barnes is a longtime and legendary professor at Greensboro College; he and his wife Linda were also charter members of Saint Timothy's UMC, a church that I helped to begin in the middle 1990s (Saint Tim's was 15 years old last year). Barnes is an authority on Jesus and film (see his Jesus at The Movies: A Guide to the First One Hundred Years), and he is an engaging and provocative lecturer. Afterward Barnes, Linda and I enjoyed a late dinner. Being a United Methodist pastor does have one vocational hazard (well there are more than one, but I focus on one here): you grow close to friends and then at some point you move on to a different congregation. I have always erred on the side of not interfering in settings I have left, but one misses friendships nonetheless. It was a great evening.

On Thursday and Friday morning, I took part in the Board of Visitors meeting at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. I graduated from Duke 27 years ago, in 1983; the school has changed dramatically, and all to the good. The faculty is nothing short of phemenonal: I could start with Stanley Hauerwas, Richard Hays, Geoffrey Wainwright, Richard Lischer, but the list goes on and on, and I would omit someone's favorite. Greg Jones has been a remarkable Dean over the past thirteen years, and he now moves into new role in International Strategy within the larger university. Richard Hays will serve as Dean for the next two years as a search is undertaken. Among the most memorable presentations were ones on the Faith and Leadership website and the work of the Center for Reconciliation.

The common thread across these events, for me, was creativity: an investment banker uses her skills and resources for a somewhat unusual purpose---to provide clean water and affordable housing among the poorest of the world's citizens, through large scale investments; a biblical scholar crosses into the terrain of popular culture in general and the medium of film in particular; a seminary dean engages in "traditioned innovation", connecting with business and medical schools to create needed modules for learning about leadership and global health. I came away from these experiences reflecting on my own need to see daily life and ministry in new and more creative ways.


Blogger WWH said...

Thanks so much for writing about Jacqueline and Acumen Fund's work! I work with her at Acumen on Blue Sweater outreach and was wondering if you'd be interested in posting this to our community site at We'd love to see more introspective posts like this one!

My email is if you'd like to get in touch!

10:37 AM  

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