Developing a heart for the city

by Major Cherri Hobbins

How do you view life in a large city? Many people form opinions of what it’s like to live in a large city through media reports, which often lead to fear and abandonment of urban centers. Unfortunately, this can result in a softening or abandonment of accomplishing our mission as Salvationists. If we are to be salt and light to the whole world, a new and restored vision of ministry within our large cities must come clearly into focus.

The Salvation Army’s Urban Mission Center (UMC) in St. Louis, Mo., and Olivet Nazarene University are partnering to renew, restore and reshape a vision for ministry in an urban setting through the development of an urban ministries practicum.

Demonstrating a keen interest in and need for the program, all spaces were filled in just 90 minutes when the program was announced. This fall 12 officers from across the Central Territory met at the UMC for the new practicum which explores the city and its issues.

The week-long intensive course included explorations of the variety of neighborhoods incorporated into the City of Saint Louis. The first afternoon activity helped to underscore the diversity of culture by riding Metro trains in order to walk through four different city environments. Some brought a sense of comfort; others brought a sense of discouragement and great need. How will we, as Salvationists, join God in the work He is already accomplishing? There is so much to do!

The officers also were introduced to a variety of individuals who have ongoing ministries in urban settings. Amy Williams shared her life of ministry to high-risk young adults involved in gangs. Glenn Burliegh taught an eye-opening session regarding lending practices that have kept diverse populations from homeownership. Alderman Dan Guenther shared the challenges of local government in the neighborhood around the UMC. Major Gail Aho led daily devotions and discussions related to a biblical view of urban mission. Sara Johnson taught about the Urban Millenium which involves over half of the world’s population.

Academic credit is awarded to individuals who complete pre- and post-practicum activities. Officers may enroll in the practicum to fulfill their Salvation Army Continuing Education Program (SACEP) requirements. The practicum also may help to complete bachelor or master-level programs in practical ministries at Olivet Nazarene University.

The next urban ministries practicum is planned to take place in April 2018. In the future, the practicum hopefully can be opened to soldiers and employees as well.



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