And Finally: February 2018

I’ve come to an important place in my Doctor of Ministry program. It may not be that I’m quite in the homestretch yet, but at least I’m somewhere in the final curve and know that the homestretch is getting close! Because what I am now focusing on is the final element of my Doctor of Ministry program, which is the Thesis Project. Doctor of Ministry programs are designed to be carried out with the participants serving in ministry settings, with all of the course learning done in dialogue with one’s ministry context and applied to one’s practice of ministry. As I’ve progressed through my studies at McCormick, I’ve been giving you some updates on the coursework I’ve been doing, and I’ve connected that to the ministry of Hope Church in various ways. This is even more specifically the case for the Thesis Project, as my challenge is to design a project that explores issues that I think are important in the contemporary church and in the particular setting of Hope Church. The Thesis Project is meant to combine academic and theological depth with the applied practice of ministry, with the purpose of serving both one’s specific ministry setting and also offering insights and resources to the broader Church.

One of the interests that I carried into my DMin studies and that has continued to be percolating in me throughout this time, is my appreciation over the past decade for the work of two contemporary theologians, René Girard and James Alison. These theologians have offered an understanding of atonement – God’s saving work in Christ – that has for me opened up Scripture and brought insight and energy to my faith. I’ve been interested in finding ways to draw on the themes I’ve found in Girard and Alison, and creatively weave those into the worship and educational life of Hope Church, believing that to do so would be a way of supporting and encouraging the ministry of Hope Church and the faith of its members. As I’ve progressed through my DMin program, I’ve had the chance to consider various ways of carrying out such a project, consulting with folks within and beyond Hope Church, and I’m now at the point of designing and implementing some of those ideas.

So, what does that look like? Well, I have some specifics developed, and some things still to be worked out, so I can both sketch out a general overview for you and also ask you to stay tuned! My Thesis Project has three areas of ministry I will focus on, as I develop materials for Children in Worship, for Youth Ministry, and for the liturgy for worship services. With the Youth Ministry, I have designed materials for a retreat in January. With Children in Worship, I am writing a story to be used in the worship centers, and I will also be holding a workshop with parents to explore some of their ideas and wonderings about talking about faith with their children (scheduled for Sunday, February 25 – watch for details soon for that). With our worship services, I will focus in particular on the Prayer of Confession, writing prayers to be used in the liturgy. With all of these aspects of the project, there are some values that guide how these ideas are developed and carried out: this is a collaborative process, as I draw on the gifts of my colleagues and congregation for developing this project; this is an appreciative process, as I am seeking to support and nurture Hope Church in its expression of faith and service; this is an evocative and creative process, as the various parts of the project are meant to make and explore faith connections as they are carried out.

And finally, and most importantly, this is a participatory process, which means you participating! In the areas of the youth and children’s programs, I’ll be asking for feedback from leaders in those activities, but I’m also going to be offering a general invitation to the congregation to engage specifically with the “prayers” aspect of the project. I am still working out the details, but please watch for information this Spring and/or Fall about workshops to offer some responses to the materials I’ve developed. All will be invited, and your participation and feedback will be a part of the wisdom I am able to incorporate into my Thesis Project.

That’s the plan for the Thesis Project! In terms of timing, I’ll be carrying out the project and writing the thesis over this 2018 year, with a draft of the thesis due towards the end of the year. When my Thesis Project is submitted to McCormick, I will be asked to do a defense of the thesis at McCormick in early 2019, and then, if all goes well, I will complete the DMin program with graduation in May of 2019. So, as I said, it’s not quite the homestretch yet, but I know it’s just around the corner. I look forward to working with Hope Church in the coming months to carry out this project, and I trust it will be a benefit to the people and ministry of Hope Church.

I’m so grateful to be able to serve as a pastor among you, and I sincerely thank you for supporting me in my Doctor of Ministry studies!

Pastor Gordon