Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.



Congregation Mishkan Israel, Hamden, CT
Annual Service in Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jan. 18, 2008

“Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord in its behalf, for in it’s shalom, you will find your shalom.” –Jeremiah 29:7

As the National Director of the Shalom Initiative at Drew University, I come to offer a Methodist interpretation of Jeremiah 29:1-12 in light of Dr. King’s vision of the “beloved community” as an inclusive, integrated, interdependent, kinship of love, joy, peace, liberty and justice for all.

I want thank Rabbi Brockman for the invitation to be here, and John Lang for his friendship and facilitation. Indeed, it is a joy to participate in your Shabbat service in honor of MLK. Rabbi Brockman, as I have come to know, is an adjunct professor at Yale Divinity School from where I graduated, and is active in interfaith education and justice work at Hartford Seminary.

Mishkan Israel, I’ve learned, is 167 years old, the oldest continuous congregation in New England. A progressive congregation in the Reform movement, you are socially active in the community with a number of wonderful projects. Rabbi Goldberg in the 1960s was a friend of MLK, spent jail time with him, and led Mishkan Israel in support of the civil rights movement.



And Dr. Martin Luther King came here to speak from this very pulpit on October 20, 1961. I wonder what he said?

I. “The American Dream” and the Vision of the Beloved Community

I looked up King’s sermons and speeches from 1961 in my king-size book entitled: A Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings of MLK, and noted a now famous speech from that year called “The American Dream” which he gave at the University of Penn in June. So maybe he gave the same speech at Yale and here at Mishkan Israel in October 1961.

The American dream, he said, is amazingly universal. Even though he did not use inclusive language at the time, the social issues he addressed were about equality and justice:

“It does not say some men, but it says all men. It does not say all white men, but it says all men, which includes black men. It does not say all Gentiles, but it says all men, which includes Jews. It does not say all Protestants, but it says all men, which includes Catholics.”

Before the age of quantum physics, King had the insight to say:

“…all of life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in the world, no one can be totally rich…Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way the world is made. I didn’t make it that way, but this is the interrelated structure of reality.”

In his speech on the American Dream (perhaps given from this very pulpit), King quotes the prophet Amos, “who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice run down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.



In appealing to the “American Dream”, King envisioned a new community of peace, love, and justice for all. Central to his thinking was the concept of the "Beloved Community." The theme can be traced through all his speeches and writings, from the earliest to the last.

In one of his first published articles he stated that the purpose of the Montgomery bus boycott was “reconciliation, . . . redemption, the creation of the beloved community."

In 1957, writing in the newsletter of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he said the ultimate aim of the organization was to foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood could become a reality. . . .

His speech on the American Dream concludes with the now familiar words of freedom and justice: “That will be the day when all of God’s children, black and white, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, [you can say it with me] “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!”

The dream died with the idealism of the 1960’s, but the theme of the beloved community continues to inspire many, and informs my work with Communities of Shalom ministry in the United Methodist Church and Drew University.


II. My work with Communities of Shalom:

Communities of Shalom is a grass-roots, faith-inspired, community development network initiated by the United Methodist Church in 1992. There are now more than 100 shalom sites (sometimes called “shalom zones”) in USA and Africa, coordinated and equipped by the Theological School of Drew University.

This is the end of my third week as the New National Director of this network, responsible for training and certification of individual sites, and I’m slowly finding my way.

I’ve taught and directed the Doctor of Ministry program at Drew University since 1996. I have a background in community development work prior to coming to Drew, so I jumped at the chance (after 12 years in the classroom and administration) to direct a new training institute at Drew and to provide specialized training and support in the field for these sites.

As Director I hope to help move it beyond Methodism more into the interfaith arena, and beyond a strictly social community development model into one that is ecologically sustainable as well. And I need help to sort out the organizational name, vision, values, mission, network, history, goals, principles, strategies and sites that I’ve inherited.

The Name: Shalom, of course, is a Hebrew word, but the concept, I trust is not proprietary or if it is, I hope you'll share it. Shalom is a scriptural word without a single English word translation. SHALOM, as you know, refers to a quality of life characterized by peace, prosperity, justice, harmony, health and wholeness for all God's people.

Vision: Jer. 29:1-12 In the cross-cultural and oppressive context of Babylonian exile, the prophet urges God’s people to pray for peace in the city, and to seek not just their own health and welfare but the shalom of the whole city where they have been sent for a long season (70 years, a whole generation in exile).

Mission: The mission of Communities of Shalom is to create economically and ecologically sustainable communities of good will in which God’s people experience shalom in all its fullness, and to work together for the common good. The mission of the Shalom Resource Center at Drew is to engage and equip congregations and communities to work together for shalom in order to manifest the “beloved community” of God.

History: The Communities of Shalom initiative began as a United Methodist Church response to the conditions and social unrest in Los Angeles following the non-guilty verdict for police in the Rodney King trial in 1992. The first “shalom zones” were created in neighborhoods where rioting occurred in south central Los Angeles. The model has been replicated in the United States and around the world.

The Shalom Model has four distinctive elements:

1. Faith-based community organizing (leading past agitation to transformation)

2. Asset-based community development (identifying resources and strengths before assessing needs)

3. Interfaith, multicultural collaboration--congregations and communities working together for

4. Systemic Change, more than direct services and social relief.

Spiritual Values: Rooted in the prophetic tradition and a practical theological interpretation of Jeremiah 29:1-12, the Shalom Initiative promotes four spiritual values:

1. Spiritual Growth--As members of congregations and communities become effective in linking faith and action, the Spirit of God is revealed in their midst and they grow in their spiritual life. Spiritually inspired and motivated by faith, Shalom teams are able to “seek the welfare of the community” (Jer. 29:7) and work together for peace and wholeness, growing into God’s shalom.

2. Multicultural Harmony--Shalom does not succeed when one’s own cultural group or faith tradition sets out independently to offer community services. Rather, shalom teams succeed when representatives from many cultures and families of faith, as well as a diversity of community residents, organizations, institutions and businesses, and including those who could be considered ‘Babylonian oppressors’ (Jer. 29:1) come together to envision and build what Martin Luther King Jr, called the “beloved community.”

3. Economic Prosperity--Recognizing that collective economic stability is essential for community wholeness, shalom teams seek to empower people to “build homes and live in them….Marry and have children” (Jer. 29:5). Shalom communities intentionally promote affordable housing, small business development, and shared economic growth. As individuals are supported in finding and keeping jobs, providing for their families, accessing education, and economic prosperity can be shared.

4. Health, Healing and Wholeness--Communities of Shalom promote positive mental health, improve community healthcare, facilitate the healing of persons, and seek wholeness for the community and the environment. Part of what it means to seek shalom is to "plant gardens and eat what they produce." (Jer. 29:5) Saving and sustaining the environment, no less than working for social-economic well-being, is valued and promoted in the shalom model of community development. Thus, some teams create health clinics, other healing ministries; some coordinate social services, while others advocate for justice and systemic change. Some plant community gardens and feed the hungry, while others work ecologically for a 'greener' community. All work for wholeness in oneself, the community and in the whole creation. For in seeking the shalom of the city of God, "...you will find your shalom." (Jer. 29:7)

When these four values are translated into principles and strategies, the real work of shalom begins.

A Shalom Moment:

Since November, I’ve visited shalom sites in Dallas, Los Angles, Baltimore, Richmond, and Newark. Shalom site coordinators share with me particular “shalom moments’ in which a spirit of peace, healing or wholeness was experienced in their midst.

For example, on Wednesday of this week, I was in Richmond, VA, with Rev. Marilyn Heckstall, an African American leader in her community and one of our site coordinators. Her shalom team joined forces with a reconciliation ministry [called “Boaz and Ruth” (remember the interracial couple in the Bible? Ruth was the Moabite or Jordanian woman who married Boaz, an Israelite, her people’s enemy).

The ‘Boaz and Ruth’ shalom team organized and hosted a series of movie and discussion nights in the church on the theme of racial healing and reconciliation. They were bold in showing hard-hitting, emotionally-charged, films and documentaries on historic racism in America. Films like “Mississippi Burning” and documentaries like the “Rosewood Massacre” which evoked passions and debate. In Rosewood, Florida, in 1923, an attack on a white woman--allegedly by a black man--led to destruction of a whole community. See http://www.listeningbetweenthelines.org/html/history.html

But instead of confrontational dynamics, open dialogue was fostered, and honest sharing encouraged in a circle of safety.

“I had no idea” was the common response of Whites upon learning that an entire community was burned out by a public mob in search of a black man who was falsely accused of the crime, while the sheriff’s men refused to intervene.

The African Americans and European Americans that came to the series opened up and shared some hard times in their own lives when they felt rejected, in danger, marginalized, victimized or oppressed. Genuinely surprised and emotionally moved, Marylyn described how the European Americans asked African Americans for forgiveness in behalf of their race. Black women and White women openly wept and embraced each other, and steps were taken from all sides toward racial reconciliation and healing. Its hard work, requiring small steps, in the long and necessary process of seeking the shalom of the city.

Michael Lerner advocates for racial reconciliation and solidarity, not just between Black and White, but between Muslims, Christians and Jews. “In speaking truth to both the powerful in Israel and the powerless in Palestine,” he says, “we plant the absolutely essential seeds of shalom. In the final analysis, no political settlement will work without a huge amount of compassion, open-heartedness, generosity of spirit, and ability to recognize the Other as equally precious in God’s eyes. This is the special contribution that we in the religious community must make.”

This is what MLK was trying to say about his vision of the beloved community:
“Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living -- integration."
"Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation . . ."
"We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality…"

"Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally ‘in the red.’ "
The "I" cannot attain fulfillment without the "Thou," invoking Martin Buber.
Conclusion: shalom

Peace, commonality, well-being, healing, harmony, wholeness, Shalom.

Today, let us celebrate the many nuances, facets and interpretations of this inspiring biblical vision of community wholeness in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. And let us apply the term and the work of peace to the difficult issues of our day.

Aaronic Benediction:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord lift up his face and cause his sun to shine upon you, and be gracious to you, and give you peace!”

Shalom, Salaam, Right on, Amen!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Richmond--A City of Shalom

Richmond, VA

Thirty members of the Council for Creative Urban Ministries of Richmond met today at Ginter UMC to review the vision, goals, principles and strategies of the shalom model of community development see www.communitiesofshalom.org and committed themselves to work together to build a City of Shalom in Richmond, requiring bold initiatives in health care, affordable housing, job development, mentoring and racial reconciliation.

Representatives from multiple sectors of the city—business, academic, government, non-profit, and faith traditions—each shared their institutional affiliation and strategic role in working with the Council to advise the staff and board of directors of United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond, Inc. (UMUMR) and serve as a stable, diverse, and well-connected platform from which to guide Communities of Shalom.

About four years ago, Marc Brown, District Superintendent of Richmond, called for the revival of earlier “shalom zones” in the city, and supported their re-development. In 2005, he hired David Cooper as Executive Director of UMUMR and coordinator of existing and future shalom sites. Dave had extensive experience and expertise in economic community development, and under his leadership, seven new shalom zones were created and 36 shalom team members completed basic training in 2007. Three more congregations now are eager to start new shalom zones and schedule their training.


The seven Communities of Shalom in Richmond form a synergistic network for creative urban ministry in the city. Their respective and combined projects include:
• co-developing two affording housing units in the city
• collaborative services of affordable health care
• working with local schools and foster homes to create and support mentoring programs and job skills for children and youth
• after school tennis program and activities for community youth
• computer literacy for preschool-aged children
• providing opportunities for safe dialogue toward racial reconciliation and healing
• and organizing to influence public policies related to fair wages

Shalom site coordinators shared with me many 'shalom moments’ in which a spirit of peace, healing or wholeness was experienced in their midst. For example, Rev. Marilyn Heckstall, pastor of Asbury UMC and Site Coordinator of Church Hill Community of Shalom is an African American leader in her community. She shared how her shalom team joined forces with a reconciliation ministry called “Boaz and Ruth” (named after the Israelite man and Moabite (Jordanian) woman who crossed hostile ethnic and cultural boundaries to marry and witness to God’s inclusive love).

The ‘Boaz and Ruth’ shalom team organized and hosted a series of movie and discussion nights in the church last year on the theme of racial healing and reconciliation. They were bold in showing hard-hitting, emotionally-charged, films like “Mississippi Burning” on historic racism in America, and documentaries on mass racial violence like the Rosewood Massacre about mass racial violence in 1923 see http://www.listeningbetweenthelines.org/html/history.html

The films evoked passions and debate, to be sure. But instead of confrontational dynamics, open dialogue was fostered, and honest sharing encouraged in a circle of safety.

“I had no idea” was the common response of many European Americans upon learning that the entire community of Rosewood was burned out by a public mob in search of a black man who was falsely accused of the crime, while the sheriff’s men refused to intervene.

Both African Americans and European Americans came to the film series. But instead of active confrontation, open dialogue was fostered, and honest sharing encouraged in a circle of safety. Many, remarkably, opened up and shared hard times in their own lives when they felt rejected, in danger, marginalized, victimized and oppressed. More incredibly, European Americans asked African Americans for forgiveness in behalf of their race, and steps were taken by all sides toward racial reconciliation and healing. Its hard work, requiring small steps, for a necessary process in seeking the shalom of the city.

This was my second visit to Richmond to give support and encouragement to an impressive team of staff, interns and volunteers that is demonstrating “best practices” in faith-based community development.

Four graduate students enrolled in MDIV and MSW programs are doing a one-year internship with UMUMR. Two interns, [insert names], as part of their project, are performing an evaluation of the shalom curriculum and assessing the pedagogical delivery of the training program in Richmond. The third intern [insert name ] is working on congregational identity formation using the shalom model in relation to various systems and identity-formation theories. And the fourth intern [name] is revising the design of the Communities of Shalom Steering Committee to function as the Council for Creative Urban Ministry—the very group I met with today.

In my short speech to the group, I simply said that Drew is committed to preparing prophetic leaders for community ministries, and that the Shalom Resource Center at Drew was open and ready to facilitate specialized trainings of local interest, such as faith-based community organizing, asset-based community development, effective grant writing and fund development, community mental health promotion, and multi-faith spiritual formation.

There are 45 United Methodist Churches, 1000 other congregations, and close to 5,000 nonprofit organizations in the city of Richmond, I was told. Too many community organizations competing for limited resources. Part of the solution, Dave Cooper believes, is to change the way we understand ourselves as “church.” “A new identity formation,” says Dave, “will require us to stop building church buildings simply for worship and church functions.” Dave’s vision: “Use bricks and mortar for multiple purposes with an eye toward sustaining the building with social enterprise revenue rather than relying solely on tithes and offerings. We could create affordable housing and health care and worship space in the same building for the good of the whole community.”

Given his vision and considerable expertise, I asked the Rev. David Cooper, MDIV, MSW, CPM, to serve as our first Regional Coordinator/Trainer of Communities of Shalom in Virginia, and he graciously agreed.

For further information on Communities of Shalom in Richmond, visit: www.umumr.org

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On the Road with Shalom

I’m ‘shaloming’ on the road during this my third week on the job as National Director of the Communities of Shalom Initiative. Four Stops in five days leading up to the 40th anniversary observance of the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr.

First stop: Washington D.C. to meet with Bishop John Schol, Bishop of The Baltimore-Washington Conference, which is comprised of about 200,000 members in nearly 700 United Methodist churches in Maryland, Washington, D.C., the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and Bermuda. Their strategic goal: We seek to become like Christ as we call, equip, send and support spiritual leaders to make disciples and grow at least 600 Acts 2 congregations by 2012.

I visited the Bishop in his Washington office today. The United Methodist Building in Washington stands tall on Capital Hill, directly across the street from United States Congress and Justice Department. Bishop Schol’s fifth floor office has large bay view windows overlooking the Capital and Washington Monument. He prays for all three branches of government from his perch, but so far it hasn’t worked very well, he says with a revealing smile …



Bishop Schol is a young, vibrant, prophetic leader who developed Communities of Shalom in its infancy, and who continues to chair of the National Shalom Committee and currently serves as President of the Shalom Community Investment Foundation.

The urban focus of his Conference’s urban ministry efforts is downtown Baltimore. With 269 murders in the city in 2007, Baltimore now has the second highest murder rate in the nation. Bishop John Schol and conference leaders pledged to take five decisive actions in the coming year to address the systemic issues that contribute to the high murder rate. One of those actions is the establishment of five new Communities of Shalom to bring peace, wholeness, harmony, and prosperity to their neighborhoods.


Shalom team visits murder sites in the neighborhood and prays for victim's families

Shalom teams from at least three churches will be trained by national staff from the Shalom Resource Center at Drew University. The Bishop and I spent a productive morning together developing a workable transition plan for the first year of Shalom at Drew, a Shalom Reception at General Conference in April, and an official launch event at Ocean Grove in July, 2008.

Second stop: meet with staff members of the General Board of Church and Society, which is also housed in the United Methodist Building on Capital Hill. The impressive building was built in 1923 by the UM Women’s Division.



In the rotunda area, near the ceiling, are two Bible verses from the prophet Micah that sum up the work of the General Board of Church and Society:

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares” (Micah 4:3)

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)


At the time the building was dedicated (1924), Methodists were engaged in two social movements: Temperance and Labor Reform. The agency continues to advocate for social reform, do justice ministries and work for peace.


My meeting this afternoon was with Rev. Neal Christie, Assistant General Secretary for Education and Leadership Formation, and my dear friend, Linda Bales, Director of the Louise and Hugh Moore Population Project. We spent our time together seeking ways for the General Board of Church and Society to work with the National Shalom Committee on prophetic leadership training and strategic community development in the US and Africa.

Third Stop: Richmond, VA to meet with David Cooper, Regional Coordinator for Communities of Shalom, his site coordinators, and their shalom committee.

Fourth stop: Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, Conn. to share about Communities of Shalom in relation to Martin Luther King Jr.’s compelling vision of the “beloved community” of inclusive love, joy, justice and shalom for all people, for their annual observance of the contributions of Dr. King.

I have more to say about Richmond Shalom sites as well as new interest in Communities of Shalom in the Jewish congregation in Connecticut, in subsequent blogs.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Noosphere

From Wikipedia:

The noosphere can be seen as the "sphere of human thought" being derived from the Greek νους ("nous") meaning "mind" in the style of "atmosphere" and "biosphere". In the original theory of Vernadsky, the noosphere is the third in a succession of phases of development of the Earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life). Just as the emergence of life fundamentally transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition fundamentally transforms the biosphere. In contrast to the conceptions of the Gaia theorists, or the promoters of cyberspace, Vernadsky's noosphere emerges at the point where humankind, through the mastery of nuclear processes, begins to create resources through the transmutation of elements.

The word is also sometimes used to refer to a transhuman consciousness emerging from the interactions of human minds. This is the view proposed by the theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who added that the noosphere is evolving towards an ever greater integration, culminating in the Omega Point—which he saw as the ultimate goal of history. The noosphere concept of 'unification' was elaborated in popular science fiction by Julian May in the Galactic Milieu Series.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany and the Noosphere



"After 12 days of Christmas, the season of Epiphany has started...and the light of Christ has fully dawned.

Two thousand years ago, an unusual astral phenomenon (‘star in the East’) around the time of Jesus’ birth was interpreted by the Magi (astrologers from Persia, modern Iran) as the herald of a new born king of peace. The current age of darkness and strife was ending, and a new age of light and justice was dawning.

Though the cosmic tale has been somewhat “watered down” into a Christmas story of 'three kings of the Orient bearing gifts’ for the baby in the manger, we still celebrate the dawning of the light on Epiphany Sunday each year, which is today.

The star that rose and the light that dawned about 6 B.C., signaling to the Magi that the new age of Pisces had begun, may have a correlative today in 'new light' shed on an old conception--'worldsoul'--and the dawning of something new on the horizon.

Roger Nelson, Director of the Global Consciousness Project at Princeton University, has collected an impressive amount of scientific data over the years point to what he suspects to be the emergence of a “Noosphere” of human consciousness in mathamatical syncrinicity with the 'spirit of the earth' or 'soul of the world.'

How can such syncrinicity, resonance, coherence, connectivity, intentionality, global thinking and feeling, or collective consciousness (whatever one wants to call it) be registered or measured?

Roger Nelson, as a physical engineer, thinks it can. How? Where?

http://noosphere.princeton.edu/

"Noosphere" is Chardin’s name for the conception of a global membrane that resonates with collective human consciousness as it evolves.

"The Age of Nations is past," he says. "The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the [spirit of the] Earth."-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 -1955) was a visionary French Jesuit, paleontologist, biologist, and philosopher, who sought to integrate religious experience with natural science, and Christian theology with theories of evolution. In this endeavor he became enthralled with the evolutionary potential for humankind for realizing a coalescence of consciousness and convergence of systems which he named the "Omega point." In the evolution of human consciousness, guided by the hand of God, a new state of planetary peace and unity was possible, based intrinsically upon the evolving spirit of the Earth.



Planet earth, he reasons, like all heavenly bodies, has a spirit. The "Gaia Hypothesis" as it has been termed, suggests that the Earth is actually a living being, a collosal biological super-system of inner-connectivity and global consciousness. The spirit of the Earth. What the ancients called worldsoul. What Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called Noosphere:

"We have reached a crossroads in human evolution where the only road which leads forward is towards a common passion. . . To continue to place our hopes in a social order achieved by external violence would simply amount to our giving up all hope of carrying the Spirit of the Earth to its limits."

Chardin's radical notion is that the Earth, in its evolutionary unfolding, was growing a new organ of consciousness, and that it was essentially and intricately connected to the depth of human consciousness.

According to Roger Nelson, Project Manager of the Global Consciousness Project at Princeton:

“The noosphere is analogous on a planetary level to the evolution of the cerebral cortex in humans.

“The noosphere is a "planetary thinking network" -- an interlinked system of consciousness and information, a global net of self-awareness, instantaneous feedback, and planetary communication. The planet is developing her cerebral cortex, and emerging into self-conscious awakening.

“This convergence however, though it was predicted to occur through a global information network, was not a convergence of merely minds or bodies -- but of heart, a point that he [Chardin] made most fervently. It is not our heads or our bodies which we must bring together, but our hearts.

“Humanity. . . is building its composite brain beneath our eyes. May it not be that tomorrow, through the logical and biological deepening of the movement drawing it together, it will find its heart, without which the ultimate wholeness of its power of unification can never be achieved?"

In order to explain his vision theologically and scientifically, Teilhard de Chardin wrote many books, which include the following:

LET ME EXPLAIN
THE APPEARANCE OF MAN
THE DIVINE MILIEU
THE FUTURE OF MAN
HOW I BELIEVE
HYMN OF THE UNIVERSE
LETTERS FROM A TRAVELLER
LETTERS TO LEONTINE ZANTA
THE MAKING OF A MIND
MAN'S PLACE IN NATURE
THE PHENOMENON OF MAN
SCIENCE AND CHRIST
THE VISION OF THE PAST
WRITINGS IN TIME OF WAR
BUILDING THE EARTH


Thursday, January 03, 2008

My new job at Drew



As you may know, I've been the Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Drew since 1996. I take great delight in knowing that over 350 pastors and community leaders completed the program and received their doctorate on my watch. And that the DMIN program developed from a standard 'one size fits all' program to a program with six concentrations, including pastoral care and counseling, ecological ministries and an online program in postmodern leadership development. And that this year has the highest number of incoming students in the DMIN program in recent years: 45

But, after 12 years, its time for something new.

Announced in October but beginning yesterday, I'm now National Director of the Shalom Initiative at Drew University that will offer community development training, consultation, relational support, seed grants, and student internships in support of the growing international network of shalom sites, also known as "shalom zones>". See www.communitiesofshalom.org


I'm incredibly motivated and enthusiastic about this new role which allows me to 1) return to my roots in urban ministry and international relief and development work, 2) continue teaching in the college and seminary at the intersection of spirituality and social justice, and 3) incorporate the pastoral training program I developed in Malawi into the shalom network (there are already five shalom sites in Africa).



Let me know if you want to receive shalom news and views from time to time.

The announcement below was sent today by the Dean to Drew Faculty and staff about my new job at Drew:


Shalom Zones Come to Drew


Faculty and Staff,

Beginning January 1, Drew is the new home-base for Communities of
Shalom-- a grass-roots, faith-based, community development network of
200+ shalom sites in the USA and Africa. Previously coordinated by the
General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, these
community transformation sites, often referred to as "shalom zones" now
will be resourced by the Theological School of Drew University in
collaboration with the National Shalom Committee and the General Board
of Global Ministries.

Drew was chosen as the new National Partner of Communities of Shalom
after a six month request-for-proposal process with United Methodist
institutions. The new partnership was announced jointly in October by
Bishop John Schol of the Baltimore-Washington D.C. Annual Conference and
chair of the National Shalom Committee, and Dr. Maxine Beach, vice
president and dean of Drew University Theological School. (see news
release http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/pr.cfm?articleid=4707

Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Director of the Doctor of Ministry program
at Drew since 1996, was named as the National Director of the Shalom
Initiative and will assume responsibilities for the new position on
January 1, 2008. Dr. Carl Savage, currently Associate Director, will
become interim Director, and a search for the position of Director of
the D.Min. program will be conducted in Fall 2008.

In addition to his administrative and teaching experience at Drew in
the area of spirituality and practical theology, Dr. Christensen has
expertise in urban ministry, disaster response, international community
development, and community mental health. Most recently, he designed and
implemented a psycho-social training program for Chernobyl victims in
Ukraine and a pastoral and congregational care training program in
response to HIV/AIDS in Malawi, Africa.

The Communities of Shalom initiative at Drew will offer training,
consultation, relational support, and student internships in support of
the growing international network of shalom sites. What this means for
the Drew community, according to Dr. Christensen, is that there will be
many new active learning sites for prophetic ministry, social
justice and community development in and beyond the local church.

Beyond developing ministry relationships with churches and community
organizations, the Shalom Initiative also lets Drew relate to the
General Conference and Annual Conferences of The United Methodist
Church with our best foot forward-our social justice and prophetic
witness work in the world. Shalom also connects directly with President Weisbuch's call for University-wide civic engagement and interfaith involvement in culture and conflict in the world today.

For more information on Communities of Shalom, including summer
internships, visit www.Communitiesofshalom.org
or contact Dr. Christensen at shalom@drew.edu.

We hope that interested faculty from all three schools will find way to
participate in this initiative and invite you to contact Dr. Christensen
with that interest.

Maxine Clarke Beach, Dean/VP

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Sponsors Needed


I traveled to Malawi for the first time in August 2005 with my 16 year-old daughter, Rachel. I spent my 2006-07 sabbatical working with CitiHope International in launching its Malawi Mission. I plan to return in March. Currently, I'm trying to find sponsors for 20 Village Well projects in Malawi. I'm a man on a mission to help save the lives of 10,000 AIDS orphans in Malawi through food security, medical aid, AIDS education, and fresh water, and I need some help.

If interested, contact me at mchriste@drew.edu

Happy New Year 2008


Sunset in Malawi, 2007

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let it go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife,
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweet manners, purer laws.

Ring of old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace…
--Alfred Tennyson

Timeless God, who can make all things new,
We humbly bring before you the record of our lives
in the year just ending.
Where life has been good to us,
do not let us take more credit than we deserve.
Where we have been good to others,
help us to forget thoughts of honor and reward.
Where we have fallen short, forgive us,
and free us from brooding over what is past.
Cleanse, guide, fill and lead us forward
in your all-conquering hope. AMEN.
--Central Presbyterian Church last Sunday