According to a recent Pew Research study on the urbanization of America, family dynamics, education gaps and the wrestling match between religion and church are front-line issues in the urban conversation. The next generation of urban Americans is trendsetting, entrepreneurial and focused on opportunities that create value for them. The urban landscape is ever-changing. Urban ministries need to know and embrace the environment and culture around them, including the multicultural, multi-religious dynamics that shape the communities they serve. In the global context, the majority of the world now lives in the city, and there is an increasing need for workers to be trained to effectively lead ministries and social agencies in urban areas.
The Urban Ministry Initiatives are collaborative ventures. These multi-layered efforts have a three-pronged dimensional framework:
1. Community Engagement and Social Justice
The Community Action Network (CAN) provides a community social justice platform for students, spouses and other members of the Princeton Theological Seminary community who are seeking to participate in the healing, restorative work of Christ in the world. CAN aims to strengthen the academic community at Princeton, as well as the greater Mercer County area, through acts of service that emulate the kingdom of God–acts of service that contribute to both immediate and systemic change. With the support of the Federal Work Study program, CAN connects seminarians to employment opportunities at non-profit organizations that are working to create systemic change in Mercer County.
2. Field Work and Theological/Spiritual Formation
A cohort of 10-15 students engaged in Field Education in an urbanized context and during their second and third year will learn to engage the poor and the powerful, the young and the old to meet the needs of diverse cultures. It is here they are equipped to answer their call to dynamic, applied ministry in the complex social systems of the metropolitan area. Through field placement at churches and social service institutions, students will:
3. Praxis of Transformation and Ministry Renewal
In this dimension, we will seek to gain experience in engaging a social-cultural analysis to understand the nature and context of urban ministry. Platforms will be offered for working pastors and lay ministers who are actively serving in urban settings, but who may not have participated in traditional degree programs, and pastors and congregational leaders desiring to re-tool for ministry and outreach in urban contexts. Analysis of the social context will move us towards the formation of a relevant urban theology by understanding social issues that are particularly akin to the urban dynamic. Princeton Seminary is in a unique setting to walk with urban practitioners in negotiating urban systems as well as recognizing the complexity of today’s global, pluralistic world. Through a cohort-based model of learning, ten to fifteen area ministers and community leaders (possibly field education supervisors supervising student-cohort) can experience an intentional learning and living community.
The goal of the Urban Practitioners Cohort is to demonstrate an understanding of the social-historical development of cities and the relationship between the church and the urban context.
Through community engagement and theological analysis, field work and vocational discernment, praxis and ministry renewal, The Urban Ministry Initiatives will provide a forum with servant leaders for the work of God’s Kingdom in the city. It will provide learning opportunities for all persons, regardless of educational experience and theological perspective. The Urban Ministry Initiatives will move toward a theology of urban ministry that can provide a foundation for impactful engagement with complex urban systems utilizing both the learning environments of Trenton, NJ, the Greater Mercer County, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Together with leaders in the trenches, PTS students and community practitioners and theologians will study how the practice of an urban pastoral theology is a fulfillment of the pastoral office and the ongoing work of the urban church. We will affirm that contextualized urban ministry transforms both the congregation and its community, and therefore requires informed, intentional leadership.
“Preaching is one of the most important things we do as pastors. You get to challenge people’s minds and hearts, as the gospel challenges all of us. ”