Pulpit SurveyOne of the joys that comes with being the President of New York Theological Seminary is in receiving numerous invitations to guest preach in churches. Many of these are urban congregations who partner with the Seminary in one way or another. Week after week I get to stand in a different pulpit and look out upon a new congregation. While it is by no means a scientific survey, I get to see a number of trends and patterns emerging over time in urban church life.
Personal Concerns Over Social IssuesA number of commentators have noted in recent years what I would call the inward turn in urban ministry and urban church life. I don’t know how many pastors have told me that their members want them to talk more about personal spiritual concerns in their sermons and not be preaching so much about prophetic justice or transformation. “My people need help with day-to-day management issues,” one minister told me. “They don’t want to hear about social issues in my sermon.”
Urban Youth Programs StrongLatino Leadership Circle’s Urban Youth Leadership Training program which has been going on for several years.
Reinforcing Youth in WorshipAt Good Will Baptist Church in the Bronx, where I preached several weeks ago, the Rev. Dr. Booker Sears identifies young people in the congregation by name during the Sunday morning service and talks with them about their successes as well as challenges in public school each week. The fact that there are young people in the Sunday morning worship service in the church is itself an important sign of health as far as the future of the congregation goes - to say nothing of the future of the church universal.
Urban Youth the New Social JusticeI wonder if addressing concerns of urban youth is not the new social justice frontier in urban ministry. Churches are organizing around issues of education and health care for children. Intervention programs for so-called “at risk” youth, such as “Uth Turn” in New York City are manifestations of a deeper realization that caring for the well-being of youth is a justice issue, to say nothing of taking care that the church will survive for another generation.
Dale T. Irvin is the eleventh President of New York Theological Seminary and Professor of World Christianity. He is the co-author with Scott W. Sunquist of History of the World Christian Movement. Dr. Irvin is also the author of Christian Histories, Christian Traditioning: Rendering Accounts (Orbis Books, 1998), and The Agitated Mind of God: The Theology of Kosuke Koyama (Orbis Books, 1996), which he edited with Akintunde E. Akinade.