I've been preparing for my January coursework by reading this book, God's Long Summer, about Mississippi and its long journey toward integration and the church’s role (good, indifferent and otherwise) in that.

I've been preparing for my January coursework by reading this book, God's Long Summer, about Mississippi and its long journey toward integration and the church’s role (good, indifferent and otherwise) in that.

As you may have heard by now, today marks the first day of my studies in a doctoral program at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. This feels like the right program for me because it is focused in Public Engagement, that is, the role of the pastor and the church in public and civic life.

The program is organized with intensive terms in January and May and online work between sessions that involves much reading and writing. The class sessions will rotate between being held on Wesley’s campus in Washington, DC and in Charleston, South Carolina.

It is in Charleston that I begin this January. You see, the vision for this program was inspired by the tragic killing of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston just 18 months ago. Rev. Pinckney was pastor of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a South Carolina State Senator, and doctoral student at Wesley at the time of his death. He was a pastor engaged in the public square par excellence.

It is an important time to remember that we live our Christian convictions not just privately but publicly. There is no question that the Gospel and the whole of the scriptures have much to say about culture and society.

I am so thankful for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and its support for our continued growth as the pastors and people you call us to be. It is truly a privilege to serve with you. My real hope is that we’ll get “caught up” in public engagement together in the new year!

And, by the way, it has been almost 14 years since I was in school! I ask for your continued prayers.

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