The Stories We Tell of our Past and how they Shape our Present

The below newsletter was sent out a few weeks ago to my partners in ministry; I just neglected to post it here.

You can read the whole thing here:

When Buzz Gifted me a Manual

A few years ago my boss, Buzz, CSFPA’s Executive Director, assigned the task of new staff training to me. This was one of the new roles I took on as Director of Staff Development. Buzz passed on to me a fat (more than 3 inches!) binder filled with articles and presentations and all the material he used to train campus ministers. Thankfully, there was also an online version. He gave me freedom to edit and add to it as much or as little as I liked.

            Buzz has worked on campus for over three decades and there is a lot of wisdom in that ministry manual. Mostly I have just added to it. Much of what I have added has been things I have taught the other campus ministers during our staff retreats over the past three years, as working with our current staff is also a task of mine as Director of Staff Development. One of these seminars was about how the world we live in became “secular”; what was the story of how Western culture moved from a world where everyone believed in God in 1500 to where the idea of God is greatly contested?

            As I mentioned in my newsletter last month, I have learned to recognize what I am passionate about and to excel in those areas, while leaning on others with gift in other areas. Putting together seminars like the one I mentioned, and reading authors such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor and John Milbank nourishes my brain. So once that seminar was over, I added it to the staff manual. 

            Yet, it seemed sort of random. How did it fit in with what Buzz had given me? The current manual was filled with lots of practical ministry topics (small groups, leadership, outreach, etc.). It seemed one area that could use more material was the “theory” side. I decided to create a “Foundations” section that presented the Story of Scripture, followed by two sessions on church history, the second of which was that seminar I had done with the staff.

            The past few weeks I have been going through new staff training with our new minister at the University of Pittsburgh (Eddie) and our two interns at Penn State University Park (Chase and Phil). While we have been going through this training, our nation has been watching news of protests and rioting. Some of us have attended protests to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of us have had discussions about white privilege, confederate statues and what a just society looks like. As it pertains to new staff training, it has been impossible not to notice how these things happening right now tie in deeply with the history I have been going over with the new staff. My goal in including these sessions in the staff training manual was not just to dump some information into the new staff’s heads, but to help them see the world we live in today is intimately connected to all that has come before. A basic understanding of the past will help us in the present and on into the future.

            In this newsletter, I want to share some of this with you.

(To keep reading about how the story of scripture echoes the story of Christendom and the story of America, and how we can see both good in our past as well as things to confess, click here:

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