Pacific School of Religion LogoWhat you are about to read – why exactly you are reading this is a whole different question – is my Doctor of Ministry Personal Statement for my Application to the Pacific School of Religion. Turns out they like me, they do like me, as I begin classes in the Spring of 2007.  Yeah student discounts!

Part of the fun for me in posting this is to see how many links I could find.  In some cases I links to Wikipedia or UrbanDictionary while in others, I used Google’s Blog Search to see what folks are saying about certain phrases and words (very interesting).  Please click through as you see fit and experience the randomness of cyberlandia .  Also, if you do happen to find something of use, intereste, etc., feel free to “liberate” and give credit as your conscience dictates . . . WWJCWhat Would Jesus Cite 😉

Describe your community of faith and your understanding of your place as leader.

I currently serve as an Evangelist for San Francisco Presbytery and have been deployed since 2000 as the Organizing Pastor of Mission Bay Community Church (MBCC) in San Francisco.  We are a Presbyterian Church (USA) New Church Development (NCD) and officially launched weekly services in 2001.   MBCC is the first urban, non-ethnic-based NCD started by San Francisco Presbytery in over 20 years.  On Sundays we worship at about 60 people, 40% Asian American, 40% Anglo and 20% other.  MBCC also represents a broad spectrum of theological, cultural and political perspectives. We are a community that encourages conversations around all issues with a posture of questioning and discussion rather than limited discourse and rigid litmus-testing.  Our common demographic denominator is primarily generational and socio-economic: under forty, middle class, well-educated, urban professionals.  This particular sub-culture is sometimes known as “Bobos,” “Cultural Creatives,” “Creative Class” or “Postmoderns” and is often associated with gentrification and the cultural elite.

As the “Organizing Pastor” of this amalgamated gathering of experiences and perspectives, I have the unique opportunity to help shape and form the pastoral leadership expectations, structure and culture.  Because of this opportunity/responsibility, my leadership requires me to constantly examine how I live out my pastoral authority, communally, spiritually and structurally.  When done well, I hope to model a healthy posture of being a person of faith who has a joy-filled spirit regardless of the chaos, questions and ambiguity of life.  When not done well, I resemble a church and institution that is more concerned with institutional survival, spiritual dogma and rigid control.  With this daunting task, I feel that my specific role is to offer guidance, influence and spiritual grounding so that, as individuals and community, MBCC will live into whomever and whatever God hopes for us to become.

Identify the most critical issues facing your community of faith.

The most critical issues and questions that MBCC struggles with have to do with being Christian community within the framework of our particular context and common experiences, namely the specificity of the San Francisco spiritual culture, a shared urban socio-economics, common life-stage issues and adversity of theological/political perspectives.  Some of the questions we are grappling with are:

    • What does it mean for us to be a sustainable institution in a spiritually vibrant but diverse city such as San Francisco?
    • Who are our neighbors and/or the “Others” in our midst and how do we engage with and for them in ministry?
    • How do we live out faith within the larger theological and political discourse in regards to race, class, economics as well as diverse theological and political perspectives?
    • What are the inherent structural, historical, theological obstacles and strengths of being part of a traditional mainline denomination?
    • How do we engage in integrated and life-changing spiritual formation?

Describe how participation in PSR’s DMin or CAPS program can assist you in addressing the critical issues that you have identified.  What are the academic resources at PSR that would be most helpful to you, and how would you engage with these resources?

It is my hope to first take advantage of UC Berkeley courses to examine the larger cultural and social shifts that have taken place in urban settings in regards to postmodernity, spirituality, class and economics.  I then hope to explore some of the ways the GTU schools see these shifts affecting such things as theology, spirituality, pastoral leadership, ecclesiology, missiology and the public square.

Describe the focus of your proposed research project.  Which of the critical issues in ministry identified in your answer to question 2 above will you explore, and how will you explore it?  What is the context of the research project (the churches, communities and geographic locations in which your research will take place; the history of the ministry issue that will be your focus)?  Give as much detail as you can in the space available, and keep in mind the DMin’s interdisciplinary design, ecumenical intention and attention to critical cross-cultural resources.

Working Title: Mainline congregational development and the urban creative class.
Focus: The focus and purpose of this project will be to explore the traditionally mainline denominational and congregational response to recent urban demographic shifts and the growth of the urban creative class.  This will include exploring historical trends and cultural shifts both sociologically and ecclesiastically and then to offer strategies and approaches that will help to define and develop healthy and sustainable Christian communities.
Working Assumption: While I am open to what I may discover in the process of my research, I begin this project with one simple assumption; because of their unique gifts in history, theology, structure, tradition and mission, traditional mainline denominations are in a unique position to build and strengthen sustainable and healthy Christian congregations who are appropriately focused on the urban creative class.
Context: The context for this project has two tiers, general and specific, each within and urban mainline context.
The general context will include the following geographic and ecclesiastical settings:
Methodology:
    • Reading: Books on the creative class, postmodernity and urban culture shifts, both secular and religious.
    • Coursework: Both general classes on postmodernity, urban development and socioeconomics as well as particular classes on ecclesiastical responses.
    • Personal Interviews: Interviews will be done with, but not limited to, community members, congregational members, pastoral leadership, judicatory staff and experts on social and ecclesiastic culture shifts;
    • Online Surveys: As part of the project an online survey will be developed to enhance personal interviews and other research.
    • Urban Excursions: Visitations will be made to various urban centers to conduct interviews, visit appropriate congregations and gain personal experience of the differences and similarities of the urban creative class.

Specific areas to be addressed: This project will cover a variety of church areas including, but not limited, to these five areas:

    • Pastoral Leadership: What does it mean to lead such a congregation?
    • Ecclesiastical Issues: What does it mean to be a sustainable community?
    • Mission and Service: How do we engage and serve the “other” in our midst?
    • Social Justice and the Public Square:  How are we connected to issues of justice, community involvement and the larger political discourse?
    • Spiritual Formation: How do we positively influence and nurture the spiritual lives of individuals and community?

el fin . . . thanks for taking a gander.  See you in a couple of years!

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