two men named Simmons on the staff of Moravian Theological Seminary
this year, and they’re brothers under the skin.
On top of the skin, they’re probably not. One is Presbyterian,
the other Church of God in Christ.
Stephen Simmons, director of continuing education at the Seminary,
is the Presbyterian. Gerald Simmons, a pastor from Lancaster and
a visiting scholar at the Seminary for the year, is the other.
Together, they team-teach an important new venture at the Seminary
called the Urban Ministry program.
Under the terms of an $80,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona
B. Carpenter Foundation, the Seminary has developed a curriculum
for independent ministers and pastors to formalize their educations
and open their spiritual horizons.
Both Simmonses are delighted with the initial response to the program.
Using their own contacts and the names of independent congregational
leaders supplied by Seminary student Debra Hepburn, they sent invitations
to some 65 area ministers of small, unaffiliated churches.
More than 30 responded, and after a dinner hosted by President
Rokke, are taking classes in a streamlined program to turn a call
to preach into a more professional ministry. They’re learning
about Bible scholarship, pastoral work, and church administration,
among other subjects. In the spring semester, they meet on Thursday
evenings for a class in building cross-cultural teams for ministry.
At the same time, the Seminary is offering a different version
of urban ministry to its full-time divinity students. Each week
the Simmonses meet with a group of nine seminarians. The text for
their course is Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and
the Christian Faith, by Eric O. Jacobsen, a book about the increased
needs of diverse communities with which the church must come to
terms if it is to remain vital to their lives.
The students go on field trips to church outreach programs, soup
kitchens, social-service agencies, and political activists, and
then discuss what they’ve seen and heard, evaluate the usefulness
of the programs, and come to terms with the growing pressure on
faith organizations to take up the slack for reduced government
likes to ask his students a simple question: “What
is the most segregated hour of the week in America?” The
answer: “11’ o’clock on Sunday morning.” It’s
the aim of the Urban Ministry initiative to break up the black
and Latino congregations in the inner city and the white congregations
in the suburbs, and create a community of faith, whatever the denomination,
that speaks to all God’s children.