Pastor Jo Mead Fosters Real Relationships Between Diverse Communities

Jo Mead - Beyond ToleranceIn 2015, the United Methodist Church noted that race relations was the top issue facing the denomination. Saint Paul graduate, Rev. Jo Mead, decided that she no longer wanted to just talk about it, but instead to act and form a real relationship with another congregation.

She contacted Pastor Eric Williams at Brotherhood Presbyterian Church. Eric’s church was listed as non-white and it was near where University United Methodist Church church was originally located before it moved to 21st Street across from Wichita State University. “I wanted this to be neighborly,” said Jo. The two pastors corresponded by email, phone and then planned to meet for lunch. She went to the local restaurant and began to wait for Eric to arrive.

Unlikely Lunch Partners?

Jo Mead And Eric Williams“I asked if there was anyone waiting. First the staff said no. I waited again. Then I asked if there was anyone waiting for Jo or an Eric thinking they may have names confused. They said one man was waiting but he was not waiting for me. So I left.”

Later, Pastor Eric called and wondered why Pastor Jo hadn’t shown up for lunch. “We had a good laugh that the two of us were not seen by the restaurant staff as potential lunch partners. We met again the next week at the same restaurant, and the staff was apologetic and kind.”

The two pastors arranged for a pastor swap, with Williams preaching at University UMC on November 15th, 2015 and Mead scheduled to preach at Brotherhood Presbyterian in April 2016.

As part of the partnership, each congregation tied ribbons to trees on their respective church properties and in the yards of members. The ribbons were to show their support of real relationships with – and not just tolerance for – people of different races, religious beliefs and cultural differences. Instead, those differences, as well as the shared love for Christ, are being celebrated.

Local TV stations covered when the ribbons were tied on trees at City Hall while the mayor spoke about the importance of real relationship. A community rally was held on November 22nd, 2015 at Century II. People made commitments to how they would live out “Beyond Tolerance” across their communities.

The two congregations are planning collective mission opportunities and a social chili supper.

“It’s when we break bread together that we enter into real relationship,” Pastor Williams said.

Jo Mead With KidsTruly the two congregations enjoy having fun. The chili supper has gone from a shared meal to a competition between pastors to see who can make the best chili. The best chili will be voted on with money that will be donated to a shared local mission making it a win/win for everyone.

As this congregational partnership has been formed, Pastor Jo Mead has often thought back to a seminary class led by Dr. Kris Kvam called Engaging World Religions.

“I had the opportunity to be in conversation with members of the Isalmic community of Kansas City. This experience taught me to open myself to opportunities of learning and growing together with the hope of making room at the table for all.”

“The opportunity here in Wichita is one of stepping out of our racial silo into the fullness of kingdom living regardless of race.”

Graduate Talks to Current Students about Building Long-Term Missions

Building MissionsDr. Jim Brandt and Saint Paul alum Trista Soendker Nicholson recently compared their experiences in Guatemala and Haiti. Trista shared stories of Haiti and gave advice to current students about building long term missions.

“One of my greatest privileges teaching at Saint Paul has been taking students to Guatemala to learn from Guatemalans about their lives and ministries” said Rev. Dr. Jim Brandt. “Our approach has been to do deep listening and learn how we might be in ministry with people like those in Guatemala in a way that is culturally and contextually appropriate.”

Trista Soendker-Nicholson participated in the Guatemala immersion in 2011.

“It was immensely gratifying to hear her speak as a graduate to the Saint Paul Community about how that experience has shaped the work she is doing in Haiti, said Dr. Brandt. “The Missouri Conference mission in Haiti does the kind of incarnational ministry we affirm: listening to the people, building long-term relationships, and doing ministry alongside folk in ways that are mutually transformative.”


Dr. Tex Sample Brings Community Organizing to Saint Paul

Dr. Tex SampleTex Sample is a specialist in church and society, a storyteller, author, and the Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society at Saint Paul School of Theology.

After moving back to Kansas City, Dr. Sample has reengaged with the seminary in several ways. This past August, students at the Saint Paul: Church of the Resurrection campus and Saint Paul: Oklahoma City University campus were able to learn from his many years of experience in Community Organizing.

Tex brought in four professional community organizers from the National Offices of Industrial Areas Foundations who helped with the teaching.

My conviction is that real change occurs from the bottom up. Great things begin when the people involved are doing the work and organize around their concerns. Many of the efforts start out in grass roots efforts. Building relationships has the power to get things done.

Dr. Sample related Community Organizing to the work that pastors do in the church. “An awful lot of these skills translate into ministry and can immediately be put into place as a pastor. Skills such as listening, building relationships, talking to government officials, business leaders, and the minimum wage worker.” he said.

<a href="">Not only do pastors need to know how to talk to people, they also need to analyze information and find out the common areas where agreement may occur.

I emphasize the 1 to 1 meeting in my class,” said Dr. Sample. “You need to find out the passions, interests, and convictions of others before they will follow you.

Dr. Sample was recently asked to fill in at a local Kansas City church until a full-time pastor is found. “I took it upon myself to call each of the 96 people on the member list before starting to work. It was a 96 member congregation and after those calls 150 people showed up on the first Sunday. People want to know that you care.

Ed Kail Teaches Saint Paul Students About Rural Life and Ministry

Ed KailWhat does a person do after they retire? They may read, write, or travel. Others, like Ed Kail, continue to share their knowledge and passion with others.

Kail (pronounced Kyle) is a leading advocate for rural churches; he was a leader in Iowa’s response to the 1980s farm crisis. In 1991, he began to teach Town and Country Ministries at Saint Paul School of Theology and was director of Course of Study for five years. He then went on to serve churches in Iowa, until his recent retirement.

Upon returning to the Kansas City area, Ed Kail reconnected with Saint Paul School of Theology. He participates in our Town and Country Ministry Committee meetings and helped organize and lead a Rural Immersion Ministry in western Kansas this summer.

Saint Paul students lived with families in the rural communities of Lyons and Nickerson, Kansas. This allowed them to experience several “day in the life” experiences of their hosts. They also reflected theologically after visiting with the churches and pastors of each town. Emphasis was placed on the relationship of church to community and how lay and professional ministries relate to their contexts. The particular locus of the immersion included rural disaster relief efforts, pastoral care needs of rural ministries, and insights into farming and agriculture.

Rural ImmersionWe enjoyed having the students here in Lyons. It was a good week,” said Saint Paul alum Rev. Brenda Davids. She even alerted the local newspaper and the Saint Paul students became front page news.

Rev. Davids explained that she appreciated the relational aspect of being the pastor at a small church. “I appreciate ‘walking with’ the families in this town through some of the happiest (baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays) and some of the most difficult (deaths, illness) times in their lives. These are the times I experience God at work through us.

Saint Paul alum Rev. Melissa Naylor was also happy to answer questions about the rural town of Nickerson where she served. “Rev. Melissa Naylor was very open and honest about the joys and struggles that she has experienced as a rural minister,” said MDiv student Linda Jones. “I have not lived in a rural area and I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything.

We are so happy that Rev. Ed Kail has come back to the area to be with family and that he continues to enhance our rural ministry program at Saint Paul School of Theology!

Rev. Dennis Hanneman Receives Humanitarian Award

Rev. Dennis HannemanSaint Paul School of Theology alum Rev. Dennis Hanneman has received the Humanitarian Award from Nebraska Wesleyan University and will be honored at their homecoming in September.

Rev. Hanneman has a tremendous record of service in war zones. He was a medic in the Vietnam War and a missionary in the Congo. He served with World Vision in Mozambique, Sudan, and Bosnia during their civil wars. Hanneman called that part of his service and ministry “just part of a basic attempt to do good in the world.”

Pastor Hanneman now serves as Pastor of Senior Adult Ministry at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. He loves to meet people and hear their stories and continues to travel to different countries all over the world.

Adam Leathers – Rappelling For Addiction Treatment Awareness

Saint Paul alum Adam Leathers lives out social justice daily.

Adam Leathers at WorkAdam graduated with a Masters of Divinity in 2008.  While in seminary, he served as student pastor at Grand Avenue Temple United Methodist Church, a congregation comprised of mainly homeless individuals.

Adam developed a passion for working with the marginalized.

Appointed to Wellston, Oklahoma, he began work with Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries (CJAMM) of the Oklahoma Annual Conference.

“I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:36

Adam now serves as senior pastor of Penn Avenue Redemption United Methodist Church and Executive Director of Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries of the Oklahoma Annual Conference.

Rev. Leathers explained that Exodus House works to help ex-inmates find the proper resources and treatments for their addiction and reintegrate into society.

“When inmates are released, they often received $50 and a bus ticket when they get out. A lot of them don’t have a long-term place to go. A lot of them don’t have a short term place to go,” Leathers said.

Exodus House records show 197 former inmates have participated in the Oklahoma City program since 2008. Of those 197 former inmates, 81 completed the program, 43 relapsed and 25 returned to prison.

On May 12th, Adam decided to promote addiction treatment awareness in another way by entering as a climber at the Sandridge Energy Building. He took the Shatterproof Challenge – rappelling down the entire building. And his coworkers had his back! Adam made sure to wear a CJAMM T-shirt signifying that he was rappelling for Oklahoma Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries.

We are so proud to say that Adam is a Saint Paul alum!

Come See Author, Professor, and NPR Talk Show Host Dr. Michael Dyson Speak at the 2015 Cleaver Lecture

Saint Paul School of Theology presents the 2015 Cleaver Lecture in Religion and Public Life with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on April 29th at 7:00 p.m.

Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to see Dr. Michael Dyson present a lecture titled, “Policing the Black Body: Fast Terror and Slow Terror in America.”  This event is free and open to the public!  Dr. Dyson is currently University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University and NPR host of the “Michael Eric Dyson Show”.

The lecture will take place at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri at 7:00 p.m.  The lecture is free and open to the public with a reception following.

Dr. Dyson blends scholarly insight with popular culture and provides commentary on modern social and intellectual thought.  He makes use of cultural criticism, race theory, religion, philosophical reflection, and gender studies.

He has been named by Ebony as one of the hundred most influential black Americans, is the author of sixteen books, including Holler if You Hear Me, Is Bill Cosby Right? and I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.

Michael Eric Dyson

Saint Paul School of Theology Cleaver Lecturer will be Dr. Dyson on April 29.