Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hosting the last residency of our first Spanish cohort at Wycliffe Associates and Wycliffe Bible Translators in Orlando, Florida. Lots of laughter, mixed with tears but mostly rejoicing as we celebrated the end of this unique academic journey embarked 3 years ago. This is a first for the Spanish MDiv. Our pilot cohort invested much of their time and sacrificed in many ways. Their input was vital to our contextualizing process and the commitment to offer an MDiv that responds to the needs of the Hispanic church. While it remains a work in process they helped to lay the foundation. Congratulations to MDVS-01!!(Felicidades, ¡Juntos Comenzamos y Junto Terminamos!)
I’ve reflected on the highlights of the capstone course during the past few days and want to share just a few of the things I heard from the students.
- Missional…they get it! One student described the interconnectedness of our curriculum in particular how the courses point back to the first course, la Iglesia Misional. Every student shared about the changes happening within their communities. One talked about the lack of concern for the poor prior to the course but now they have a thriving food pantry that serves people outside of the church. Another partnered with the city and provides opportunities for those mandated by the courts to complete community hours by serving in activities the church oversees. One other talked about partnerships with agencies (Christian and non-Christian) which serve the least of these.
- Worship as in most settings will differ from one congregation to the other but there were some common threads in terms of the impact this course had upon the students. Communion and benediction were repeatedly mentioned. I heard stories about how the partaking of the bread and the cup changed not only in liturgy but in the order of service. One student said they have a monthly service, which revolves around the Table. They spoke about the sacredness and the richness of each aspect of the Holy Supper not as a ritual but as a transformational experience. And the benediction…it was not an integrated or intentional element of the worship liturgy in most of their churches. Each one shared about the personal impact in preparing for the benediction and the responses of those receiving the charge. Simple and yet profound.
- For these students Formación Espiritual de la Congregación was a profound but challenging experience. They wrestled with ministering to people from different age groups and generations. They sought to better understand the differences between the 1.0’s (solamente español) versus the 1.5-2.0 (bilingual o Spanglish) and the 3.0+generations, which speak English but are culturally and at heart Hispanics. And then there was Christian Proclamation! So refreshing to hear the talk about the different types of sermons and focuses. Many confessed to preaching the same sermon in the past using different passages but with no variations in terms of the message and no sense of what type of sermon was necessary at the time. Those that consider preaching their greatest gift were strongly influenced by this course.
- The students talked about Leadership and Congregational Relationships courses as two courses that flowed as a continuation of the other. One pastor shared how in the leadership course he discovered certain aspects about his leadership and then in congregational relationship he saw that leadership style in action. He realized he was a bit more authoritarian than what he preferred and decided to create space for others to contribute their thoughts. The pastor called the staff to a meeting and apologized for not being more intentional. He designed a new framework for interaction, which rapidly improved his interaction with the staff and the congregation including the youth. He said the wealth of knowledge obtain in a short period of time is unbelievable. I also heard tons of great things about our 1 hour spiritual formation courses. Everyone talked about their spouses as the most qualified person to speak about the personal changes.
Needless to say, I remain encouraged. We have a wonderful team of Adjuncts who also journeyed down this path. (Gracias a tod@s por su contribución.) Our curriculum at Wesley Seminary is unique. For the Spanish MDiv the integration piece puts it into perspective and one of the distinctive I most appreciate about this program. The missional aspect takes it a step further from simply an inward focus to an inward focus with the purpose of outward impact.
The decision to host residency at Wycliffe was an intentional missional decision. During the week they heard about places where the bible is not available and learned about the celebrations and parades that take place when a bible is translated with the help of indigenous leaders and placed in the hands of the people. The idea was to expose them to something greater and beyond their little piece of the world. I sometimes worry we don’t find balance and think we often shift to one of the two extremes. We are called to serve here (wherever here may be) and there (wherever there may be). It’s not one or the other…It’s both. It’s actually Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria AND the ends of the earth.
We ended our week reflecting on the task that lies ahead and the opportunity to be agents of change. I used the book of Colossian as a guide for our devos throughout the week. This was perhaps one of my favorite parts of the intensives as I gleaned from their knowledge and viewed scripture through their lenses. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for Paul and the letters he wrote. One of the many things that intrigue me is the tiny interjections or perhaps hidden messages he sends. The last chapter of Colossian, Paul ends with his traditional greetings on behalf of those who are with Paul and specific greetings for some amongst those to whom the letter was written. However, if we are not careful with our reading we will miss the direct and intentional message he sends to Archippus.
Colossians 4:17 states, Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” We know from Philemon 1 that Arquipos was a co-laborer, perhaps a church planter or part of a church plant team. Not sure. We just know he was one of the faithful but for some reason Paul understood he needed a reminder. I am uncertain if Archippus was upset, weary or contemplating a change. Maybe he just needed a nudge or to be reminded of his calling. It is quite possible that nothing was wrong and Paul was encouraging. What I do know is Archippus was singled out by Paul in a letter that was publicly read in Colossae and Laodicea and probably Hierapolis. It is just one line but what a powerful line. What a commissioning: SEE to it …COMPLETE the ministry…RECEIVED in the Lord.
That was the send-off for this first cohort, who will graduate in April and good reminder for all of us. May it be known we’ve RECEIVED what is necessary to COMPLETE the ministry before us. May we SEE it come to fruition…Amen!
¡Hermano/a, ocúpate de la tarea que recibiste en el Señor, y llévala a cabo…AMEN!