Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…


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What’s in a gown? Sartorial Reflections on Baccalaureate

I am not sure that anyone would ever call me a stylish person. I try more than some and less than others, but overall I wear what is comfortable and if that happens to include a humorous T-shirt, fun pair of socks, or exciting tie then I am all the more excited. However, when I was thinking about what I was wearing for Baccalaureate It seemed rather significant.

For those who do not know, Baccalaureate is essentially the graduation for Duke Divinity School. Sure I will not technically graduate until Sunday when the President of Duke University and other people say things that few people listen to or remember, but the good part with worship, sermon, and hoods is what we have all been waiting for. For the service there are two required pieces of attire:

1) Black robe–Unlike High School and College there are no required styles of robes. Most people wear the robes they have purchased for leading worship as pastors. I think this makes it that more significant. In Divinity School, we have been working with the end in mind. I know that four years ago when I began the dream I had was to be a pastor standing in front of my congregation and proclaiming the Word of God. Wearing the same robe to graduate that I will wear when I deliver my first sermon as a pastor reminds me that the four years of work that I have put in were not an end in themselves, but were instead a preparation for my future ministry. My particular robe is extra special because it is one that I got for free while I was in England. The Wesley Study Centre where I was studying received the robes and stoles of a former Methodist minister. No one else could fit in the robe and so I got to keep it. It is a very nice (and expensive) robe and I am extremely grateful for it. However, I am even more grateful for what it represents. My time in England was one which reaffirmed my call to ministry and helped me to understand what it was that God was calling me to as a pastor. I am so excited about what God is doing missionally in England and the friends that I made during that year inspire me in so many ways. As I wear my robe in the service as well as in the pulpit I know that they are a part of my story and ministry.

2) Hood–The hoods represent the fact that I have mastered divinity graduated with my masters of divinity. My particular hood is one that I am borrowing from Rev. Chris Brady who was the lead pastor of Living Hope, the new church plant that I was a part of for most of my time at Duke. While Living Hope has been closed by the Bishop, the community that God brought together for that season of my life remains an important part of who I am, and the ways in which I grew as a person and as a pastor will forever mark my ministry. Chris Brady who is now the pastor of Wilson Temple in Raleigh has been my pastor during my entire time at Duke and a generous mentor and friend.

While most people will only see the robe and the hood, for me they represent both the communities that have shaped and formed me in the past, but also the ways in which God has used those people (and countless others) to prepare me for the work that I am called to in the future. If there is one main thing that I have learned in Divinity School it is that ministry is not something that can (or should be) done alone. Without my community here in Durham as well as all over the US and UK I would not be here today. As I cross that chancel area my wife, parents, mother-in-law, and many friends will be sitting in the congregation of Duke Chapel as well as worshipping online and I am so grateful to be able to share with them that moment and the many other ones to come.

GHS Graduation

June 2006, Me and my parents after my High School graduation.

FSC graduation

May 2010, Me and my two best friends after graduation.


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Duke Article

One of the things that I have tried to do while being here is to remain connected to Duke and the community I built there. For my first post of reflection, I wanted to share with you an article I co-wrote with the other American student who is here with me Kayla for the Divinity School’s student newsletter. A version of it is due to be published in a few weeks by the WSC in their newsletter as well. I have made a few edits to it for the sake of clarity and because I can and also added links to explain some of the terms.

Greetings from England!

In case you have been wondering where we have been, or who we are, some background is probably helpful. In September we began a one year exchange program with the Wesley Study Centre (WSC) in St. John’s College at Durham University in England. As we begin our new term, we wanted to let our Duke community know how things were going. Having been here for several months, things that initially seemed strange have become normal. Durham Cathedral (a place of prayer for over 1,000 years!) that towers over our college no longer gets called the “chapel,” having tea (with a bit of milk) has become a mainstay of any social interaction, and the words, “circuit,” “mission” and “”The Doctor” have become part of the normal vocabulary.

While these may seem like incidental changes, taken together they hint at a much more foundational change in who we are as students, ministers, and Christians. One of the most significant changes has been that by studying and worshipping with the British Methodist Church and the Church of England, we have begun to see ourselves as part of Christ’s world-wide Church. We are studying with students from South Africa, Germany, China, and Brazil, however, the whole ethos of this place seems to look outward. The two central concepts which shape the majority of conversations in the classroom and common room are mission and practical theology. How does the Church discern and participate in what God is doing in the world? How is what we are learning going to shape how we do ministry in our churches parishes?

While neither of these are new questions to us coming from Duke, the ways in which they are asked and the answers they are giving have a unique and powerful particularity. As part of our studies we have both been given the chance to be placed in a Methodist Church (similar to a Field Ed) where we are able to put some of these questions and answers to the test. After adjusting to British worship styles and hymnody, we have found that there is a great freedom in ordering the worship service. Many services are done in “café style” or are particularly shaped by the needs of children (called “Messy Church”). There was a service over the summer at a Christian conference which was called a “Goth Eucharist.” Such creativity and intentionality is a lot of fun and has given both of us permission to be creative as well. Last term, for example, we both led the daily morning prayer according to the United Methodist Book of Worship.  While some people said it “felt like a holiday,” for us it felt like a little bit of home.

It is certainly difficult in a lot of ways to be away from you all. There is no place like Goodson Chapel, of W0016, however, as you begin this semester know that as we gather to pray in a small chapel in Durham, England that you are in our hearts and prayers. We look forward to sharing many more stories and experiences next year when we return!

Kayla, LJW, and I in front of Duke Chapel.

Kayla, LJW, and I in front of Duke Chapel.

[Note: Kayla has also been blogging her trip and often includes video blogs. Some of which I feature in. If you are interested check it out: http://kbharward.wordpress.com/]


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Micro Mission: Just a Stranger On a Bus

This is the end of reading week here at Cranmer/WSC and so one would think that I would have had a lot of time to write another blog post. Well I have started several (including a Little Wesley update!), but alas, they are not print ready yet…So, I thought I would share an assignment we did several weeks ago for my Mission class. In the class we are talking about what it means to be in mission and to be a missionally minded people. This topic is one of the main reasons why I wanted to study here because the way the Church in England (both Methodist and Anglican) is thinking about mission is very exciting! The assignment was to go out for an hour an half during class time on a “Micro-Mission” and “proclaim the Kingdom of God however you feel led.” It was a daunting task, but this is the reflection I wrote about it. You can see other people’s experiences here.

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
-Joan Osborne

Mark and I by a bus stop.

One of the fundamental ideas of mission is that you don’t bring God into a situation, but that God is already working out in the world around us, and that by going out we seek to participate in that work. The question becomes how do we do that? For Mark and myself this proved to be a complicated question. We wanted to go somewhere we would have real conversations with people, but also someplace where we could break though the walls that people build up around themselves. Walls which insulate people from the world around them.

In order to do this, we decided to just get on a city bus and talk to people. It was a simple concept, but one which was a strange concept to many people who we told it to. This was not a sneaky way of trying to turn the conversation to Jesus. There was no ulterior motive. We were people of faith, we are training to be an Anglican vicar and a Methodist minister, that is who we are, and we were not going to hide it. But, the point of the mission was to talk to people, to hear about their lives, not to impose our own agenda.

So, on the day of our mission we went up the Cathedral, seeing no one on the bus, we walked down the streets of Durham greeting random people along the way until we found a suitable bus stop (the first one we came to). When the bus pulled up we explained to the driver that we wanted a ticket to the end of the line. He was not quite sure what to do with two guys who had no particular destination in mind, but he gave us our tickets and we sat down.

Over the course of our bus ride we greeted many different people. Some were eager to talk about their pets, to tell stories of their connection to St. Johns, or one woman who had been waiting to see the cathedral for 80 years. These however were the exception. Often we greeted a pair of headphones, a vacant stare, or the back of a person’s head. When there was no one to talk with, we prayed. We prayed for people even though they didn’t know it.

When the bus finally brought us back to our stop and we had to get off the question was left in our minds. Where was God? Was God in our greetings? Was God in the rejection? Was God in the people we missed? I think the answer to it all is yes. God was on the bus, off the bus, and in all places trying help us all find our way home. And, for that hour and half, both of us were just along for the ride.

-Drew and Mark