Community Building in a Mobile World

COS Talent ShowEach summer, Saint Paul School of Theology hosts approximately 150-200 Course of Study students. Students arrive from the Midwest, the Dakotas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states and then drive back to their parishes at the end of the week. Our challenge—to build community amidst commuter students.

Our solution hearkens back to ideas used historically at family reunions.

Saint Paul held an ice cream social and “optional” talent show. The participation varied greatly with the dynamics of each weekly group. The first week and third weeks had a variety of participants sign up. The second week preferred to visit while they ate their ice cream.

COS Talent ShowThe Course of Study students proudly danced, sang, and played instruments ranging from a pocket harmonica to a red accordion. Some told stories, danced and another told a string of jokes. One group did animal noises with loud applause –especially for the turkey call. The most interactive event was when one student asked the audience to participate in learning Taekwondo moves. The second-career COS students laughed as they kicked and punched through the air.

Students left the room more energized that when they arrived. Laughter, talking, and congratulatory remarks filled the air. This ice-breaking event at the beginning of the week, helped others get to know each other more quickly. It was a time to turn off their phones and appreciate the varied gifts God had given them.

COS Talent Show COS Talent Show COS Talent Show COS Talent Show

Science, Theology, and Ministry Classes Visit the Zoo – Fellowship With All Living Things

Saint Paul at the Zoo Saint Paul at the Zoo

It’s not often that seminary students find themselves outdoors for their theology courses. It’s even more unique to be coexisting with wild animals.

Saint Paul School of Theology Science, Theology and Ministry students went to the zoo recently to better react to reflection questions posted by Dr. Nancy Howell. Since Dr. Howell is now serving as Acting President of the seminary, she requested that Dr. Kyle Butler, a 2007 MDiv alum of Saint Paul, lead students at the Kansas City Zoo. Meanwhile she experienced the Oklahoma City Zoo with students from Saint Paul at Oklahoma City University.

Each group opened with the prayer of St. Basil the Great.
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail.

May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.

Saint Paul at the ZooThe group then answered reflection questions individually while observing wildlife and nature. As they observed the wildlife, students reflected on Scripture passages. They met together at the end of the afternoon to reflect as a group. A highlight was watching the gorillas as each zoo had a baby gorilla around a year old. Several social interactions and feelings were observed while watching the gorillas.

Some students identified with the antics of one species or another. What do you think this identification between a human and an animal means? Is it a welcome or a troubling one? Some students empathized with the animals when they saw them desperate to escape. Another student realized that as humans we can be helpful in saving some species from extinction.

The afternoon concluded with this question, “Are humans the only children of God?” Food for thought.

Saint Paul at the Zoo Saint Paul at the Zoo

Teens Confirm Art Moore’s Call to Ministry

Art Moore and TeenagerArt Moore has always had a heart for God and the church, but never thought to pursue it as his profession. He had a good job as a regional director of pharmaceutical sales in Nebraska. Through the years, he’s helped with church committees and projects, and with orienting new pastors to the area.

It wasn’t unusual that Art agreed to be a mentor for a teenage confirmand in his congregation. He enjoyed the experience and was talking about that with the teenager on the last day of confirmation.

She looked at him very seriously and said, “you should be a minister.”

Clarksville, MO ChurchArt Moore was surprised to hear these words coming from a thirteen-year old, and it made an impression. Later that same year, his own 14 year old son mentioned that he thought that his Dad would be a good pastor. “I was surprised to hear it from him, too,” said Moore. “Especially since, as most teens, he sometimes acts like he doesn’t even like me!”

Moore looked into the requirements to become a pastor and began his studies at Saint Paul School of Theology as a Course of Study student. Later, he was notified that his job was being downsized. Circumstances had aligned for him to pursue full-time ministry.

“The Lord called me to do this and gave me the desire in my heart to serve Him,” Art said. “I now serve a two-point charge at the Centenary and Clarksville UMC churches in eastern Missouri.”

Pastor Moore believes in helping those in need.

Serving at Centenary UMCThe Clarksville Church, which is only 14 members, stepped up to serve the volunteers that came to help sandbag the area when the Missouri River flooded. They worked with the local grocery store to provide food for the workers.

The Centenary UMC church also wanted to focus on community. They came together with four other churches in the area to provide 420 free meals at Thanksgiving to local residents.

“I want to not only be part of a local church, but to lead people to Christ. It’s important to not always focus inward but to reach out the community, especially to those in need,” said Pastor Moore. He looks forward to his next trip to Kansas City to learn and exchange ideas with both faculty and fellow Course of Study students.

Saint Paul Fellows Program Helps Teacher Fulfill Seminary Dream

Rod and Sharon Hennig and Amie Littrell

From left: Sharon and Rod Hennig and Amie Littrell

Mother of three felt called to full-time ministry, but tuition costs made it impossible

As a schoolteacher, Amie Littrell has worked to encourage and build up the self-esteem of her students. But through the years, Amie began hearing a call to move beyond the children in her classroom and into the broader mission of the church.

“Part of my life experience has given me a heart for people who are marginalized and suffering from brokenness and addiction. I just want to give my life to serve God in the hopes that people can experience genuine heart and life transformation,” Amie said.

For years, Amie dreamed of attending seminary to become a full-time pastor, but with the average clergy member graduating with $45,000 in student loan debt, it just wasn’t an option.

“My husband has always known I felt called to the ministry and is supportive of me serving the church,” Amie said. “But whenever I brought it up, he would gently remind me that unless it was free, we just couldn’t afford it.”

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In late 2014, Church of the Resurrection members Rod and Sharon Hennig were invited to a small gathering to brainstorm about ways to fund a fellowship program for Saint Paul School of Theology located on Resurrection’s Leawood campus. President Sharon Howell and Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton shared with the group of about 30 church leaders that Saint Paul was losing out on high-quality seminary candidates because it lacked a full-ride scholarship program.

Sharon Hennig immediately felt called to support the effort.

“The meeting was very eye opening. How would anybody know about this need unless they wanted to go to Seminary?” Sharon said. “Building up future leaders in the church is one of the most important things we can fund.”

The Hennigs committed to sponsoring one Saint Paul Fellow every year in perpetuity through the Hennig Family Foundation. Under the charitable arrangement, the foundation grants funds to the students, but Saint Paul chooses the Fellows and oversees their course of study.

“What makes this Fellows program truly unique is its collaboration,” said David Sisney, Saint Paul Vice President of Advancement. “Students get placement in the local church, which pays them a stipend for their work. In the meantime, donors to the local church fund the student’s tuition, books and fees.”

The initial vision for the Saint Paul Fellows program was to fully fund one Fellow each year. But donor interest in the program surpassed expectations, and Saint Paul plans to fund at least five Fellows beginning in 2016.

“Our vision is to move forward and grow this program,” Sisney said. “We want to ensure that the expense of attending seminary never keeps a person called to ordained ministry or church service from fulfilling that call.”

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In early 2015, the Hennig’s desires to grow future pastors aligned with Amie Littrell’s call to ministry. Amie was one of the first students accepted into the Saint Paul Fellows program, with the Hennig’s underwriting her education through their family foundation. The Hennigs and Amie met recently for the first time over coffee.

“It’s such a dream that seemed so far off and you have made it a reality,” Amie says, eyes glistening. “I thought, ‘This can’t be real.’ I am so excited to meet you and be able to thank you in person.”

Rod and Sharon sit across from Amie, holding hands. “I’m glad we can help you,” Rod says. Sharon asks Amie about her seminary experience so far.

Amie tells the Hennigs she is spending her first year working in the Congregational Care Ministry at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest mainline denominational church in the world and location of Saint Paul School of Theology’s Leawood campus. In Congregational Care, Amie offers one-on-one pastoral care to church members.

Finally, the Hennigs ask Amie where she believes her seminary journey will lead her.

“The possibilities with God are unlimited. I just hope to follow Him and be fruitful. The mainline church is in such a precarious state right now,” Amie said. “I just want to be able to help carry this faith to generations of people.”

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Urban Ministry: Austin Dey Lives and Serves in Northeast Kansas City

When Austin Dey came to New Student Orientation at Saint Paul a year ago, Austin Deyeveryone went around the table and explained why they wanted to come to seminary. When it was time for Austin to tell about his calling he said, “I want to be a change agent!

For four years, Austin served in an established church in Jefferson City, MO as their youth director. When he first visited Saint Paul as a prospective student, he spoke with Saint Paul student Paula DeSeure about a possible location for his youth group to visit when they came to Kansas City. She mentioned Cherith Brook and he connected with the director who showed them around. The experience was a good one and initiated Dey’s curiosity. With the opportunity to intern at Cherith Brook, Austin began learning more about the Catholic Worker House Movement inspired by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.

Living and serving in the Northeast Neighborhood of Kansas City, Austin enjoys the built-in community at Cherith Brook which includes six leaders, two interns, and two children. The director, Eric Garbison, is a Presbyterian minister who was called to start this house of hospitality. “Our daily lives are structured around practicing works of mercy as found in Jesus’ teaching,” he said.

Hanging Clothes to dry at Cherith BrookThree mornings a week, volunteers at Cherith Brook serve people from the local community in their café.

People come in for breakfast and coffee. They can wash their clothes and get a shower,” said Dey. Community meals are available on Thursdays. “It’s a lot about hospitality and peace-making on a personal level, but also caring about the greater peace,” he said with reference to the round-table discussion series hosted regularly in the cafe.

Austin has weekly duties. He may tend the garden, fix the meals, or hang laundry on the line. “We are trying to live with less,” he said. “I’m learning sustainable practices here.” They recycle, grow food in the gardens, and care for chickens and bees.

It’s not so much about giving back as an expression of the Christian life. It’s not so much about ministering to those that are poor but having solidarity with them. We are trying to blur the lines between us and them,” he said.

Cherith BrookI feel that the Church needs to have more ways to be empowered to live outside of the box. The church needs new wine skins or new forms to hold new wine. I want to look at ways that are not conventional and are pushing the envelope to what the church can be. At the same time, the tradition of Christian gathering is an old tradition that I appreciate.

It’s inspirational to see our students making a difference in their local communities!