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I completed two weeks plus of residency in pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY.  The campus is a picturesque setting this time of year, as is the surrounding countryside.  God has brought together a diverse group of 55 or so men and women in ministry from all parts of the globe.  Many states of the US are represented as well as Australia, Philippines, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Israel, Liberia, Nigeria, England, Ireland and Canada.  At the first session of orientation, we had assigned seating.  Beside me happened to be a pastor from Ohio, Brian, who grew up in Edenton, NC and whose parents met while attending ECSU, a local college.  Beside him was Simon, an Anglican priest from the Province of Kenya who, of course, knows our friend Qampicha Wario, now Bishop of the Diocese Marsabbit and “one of our best bishops” according to Simon.

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The three days of orientation and learning sessions focused on the overall scope of the program and on the initial phases of the dissertation process that will continue over 3-4 years.  The seminary faculty and staff were impressive in their preparations and focus for the students and program.  It clearly has been continually refined over several years to be the best and most fruitful possible experience it can be.  The orientation activities facilitated new relationships and even team building among our assigned small groups. Throughout the residency, the hospitality shown to the students was overwhelming.  From the leaders of the program to the RA’s who unlocked my dorm room a few times (a story in itself — thanks Tory!), we were treated like VIP’s.  I know that we were prayed for prior to and during the residency.

Because I was able to complete my pre-residency work prior to coming, I was able to use some free time to explore hiking trails nearby.  These outings were some valuable “alone time” during days full of interaction with people.  I was blessed to be directed to some beautiful trails and areas.  I included a link with some pictures.  These adventures included encounters with deer and snakes and one time ending up six miles from where I started and being blessed to meet a family who gave me a ride back to my car.

One of the most rewarding experiences of the residency was the development of the relationships between the members of my small group.  We met about every day, had meals together, prayed for one another, laughed and joked, told stories and talked about all sorts of things.  I believe these will be lifelong friends and cohorts in ministry.

On the first Sunday, Simon Thiongo, the Anglican priest from Kenya, and Mike Mwangi, a Pentecostal pastor from Kenya, and I visited a nearby Anglican church – St. Aidan’s.  It is a five year old church that was planted by an Asbury graduate named Fr. Lee Rogers, now an Anglican priest.  The service and worship were excellent and used the liturgy from the Anglican Province of Kenya. My Christian brothers from Kenya felt right at home.  Our international Christian brothers and sisters have much to contribute to our faith and Christian maturity. I have already benefited greatly from their witness.

The second Sunday, I drove to The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, the Trappist Monastery where the monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton lived.  Celebrating the Holy Communion with the monks and about 25 guests was an incredible mystical experience.  The picture of the fawn is from the garden in front of the church at the Abbey.

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I am very thankful to everyone who has facilitated and supported this effort.  It is especially a blessing to have two trustworthy priests at our church, Fr. Erich Junger and Mother Jessica Lee, to lead worship and preach while I am gone.  Along with our deacons Rev. Susan Witwer and Rev. Dr. Fred Moncla and all of the other leaders and members of the church, all was in good and capable hands.  Most importantly, God is present with us always.

In our discussions in class and in our small groups, three things truths continually arose to me:

  1. All of us in ministry provide a personal and Biblical view of God — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who is uniquely expressed through our personalities and giftedness.
  2. All of us have experienced challenges in life and ministry that God has redeemed by grace.
  3. All of us have benefited greatly from spiritual mentors who have taken us under their care and faithfully nurtured our spiritual development.

Some of the activities of the D. Min. program resemble elements of the M. Div program; however, we all have several years of pastoring and ministering behind us, so we bring to it all a more mature, seasoned approach.  In other words, our eyes have been opened.  We have more wisdom and spiritual gifts to share, and we have more wounds that need attention.  We’ve experienced the blessings and challenges of God’s vocation.  We come asking, “I need to know about this.” or “I need help here.” We also come offering, “I can help you with this.”

The professors of the program who taught the classes all demonstrated deep devotional lives, seasoned experience, passion for God’s word and a love for students and for teaching.  We were truly discipled, challenged and inspired by our professors.

Throughout the residency program and my hikes on the trails, the Spirit of the Lord was present and ministering.  A constant theme of it all was that God loves us and really enjoys us when we are enjoying him and his creation.  A message from the Lord that he impressed upon my heart was this: “Jesus really loves me and enjoys me and gives me freedom to enjoy life with no fear.”

Bringing people into the reality of that statement is ultimately the goal of ministry.  It implies and relies upon the constant presence of Jesus to reveal himself and make alive.  I am confident that the work of this program and the ministry I receive will serve to better facilitate this work of God.   So, may the paper writing continue…

Along those lines, the purpose of my dissertation project is to develop a training in spiritual formation to help equip the staff and volunteers of pregnancy resource centers for their ministry of life.  (helpful resource materials are welcome!)

Here is the link for pictures:

https://picasaweb.google.com/101968136012307111801/6305866782611333393?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCLvtsbH0t9jEQA&feat=directlink