Millsaps College's Spiritual Formation for Youth and Worship Resourcing Academies
Dear Mississippi Annual Conference,
Greetings from Millsaps College! On July 1, 2017, I began a new appointment as director of church relations and chaplain of Millsaps College. In this new capacity, it is my joy to steward the relationships among the three stranded cord of our conference, our college and our Center for Ministry (see Eccl. 4:12).
It has been a personal, marvelous gift to be exposed to the reality that God is at work throughout our Conference, Millsaps College and the ministries offered through the Center. There are “glory sightings” in all sorts of places. It brings to mind the proclamation of Jesus “…My Father is still working, and I also am working” (see John 5:17). In response to God’s grace in Christ, we are invited to participate in the work that God is already doing.
We now live in the midst of denominational uncertainties and strained relationships. Our culture’s 24/7/365 news cycle exposes us to the world’s suffering, violence, ceaseless fear-mongering and frantic quests for security and doctrine. Recognizing God at work (holy noticing) in our context, may prove more difficult than we would like to admit. This poses a real danger—the danger of despair. Against such, we must be ever vigilant.
If we live in constant fear, we may spend our time, thoughts and even the treasure that has been entrusted to us in efforts to evade despair and ensure the peace that the world gives. The peace the world gives is never fully satisfied and hinders our ability to “see” God at work.
The peace of Jesus Christ is different than the world’s peace. The peace of Christ is not of this broken world. The peace of Christ does not wrap us in despairing and fear-filled hearts (see John 14:27).
Discerning the difference between what the world offers and what Jesus offers requires sincere theological reflection. Otherwise we become functional atheists: We may say, “I believe in God,” while in all practicality, function as cynical, fear-filled, despairing persons—acting as though the Triune God of love, peace and Communion is not at work (therefore nonexistent).
As Methodists we are called to reflect upon God’s gracious action in our lives. This makes all of us theologians. As such, our theological task is fourfold (see The Book of Discipline Par. 105):
- study the Word of God with open minds and hearts
- consider the 2,000-year-old tradition of the Christian Church in its process and form, so that we might interpret the truth of the gospel for our time
- examine our individual and corporate experience of the work of God’s Spirit, as the Spirit empowers new life in Christ and the assurance of God’s liberating love
- use reason in asking the hard questions of faith while we seek to understand God’s action and will.
Our task requires that we participate in fresh theological inquiry. This is the Methodist way. Our theological task provides accountable framework for us to recognize God at work and to participate in God’s work as vital and appropriate Christian witnesses.
Seek opportunities to strengthen your theological skills. By joining others in our theological task of life-long learning, “glory sightings” of the divine-human encounter are recognized in even more abundance. We are equipped to better discern the difference between Christ’s peace and the peace the world gives.
If you are interested in studying the scriptures, learning major movements in 2,000 years of Christian Church tradition, experiencing new avenues of prayer and spiritual direction, gaining skills to ask hard questions while growing in faith, contact the Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley at email@example.com, director of the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College, or visit the website for more information (601 974 1488 | www.centerforministry.com).
The Center for Ministry is currently developing plans for a Millsaps College Youth Academy for Spiritual Formation anticipated to begin in the summer of 2020. High school students from across the conference will spend several days at Millsaps learning about the creative aspects of writing liturgy, the meaning of sacraments and the intersection of loving God and neighbor through a Wesleyan lens. Students will be offered opportunities to experience and recognize our loving God at work in the midst of suffering and joy. The students will engage hard questions so that they will be better prepared to become future leaders for the transformation of the world as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Additionally, plans are underway for an Academy for Worship Resourcing beginning sometime in 2020-2021. This Academy will offer learning opportunities for the planning of worship services, the meaning of various patterns of worship, how to lead music, write liturgy and understand the rhythms of the church calendar. Participants will learn how to corporately invite the Holy Spirit into worship services and to reflect upon “why we do what we do” or “don’t do what we don’t do!”
If you desire further information about any of the above, or would like to schedule me to visit your church or small group, you may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the three stranded cord of the love of God, the peace of Jesus Christ, and the leading of the Holy Spirit direct your theological task, your life-long learning, your recognition of God’s work in the world, and your joy-filled participation in and with “glory sightings” of God’s grace wherever you may be.
Grace and peace and holy noticing be yours,
Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton, Millsaps College, January 2018