Coming Alive in Christ: Training for PC(USA) Ruling Elders and Deacons based on the Constitutional Questions
Introduction - Baptism, Call, and Membership
1) In 1937, the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., published a poem by the Reverend Howard Thurman, an African American Baptist minister, professor of theology, and dean of the chapel at Howard University. The title of the poem was “O God, I Need Thee.” Thurman poetically describes our need of God’s sense for time, order, and future.
“O God, I Need Thee”
I Need Thy Sense of Time
Always I have an underlying anxiety about things.
Sometimes I am in a hurry to achieve my ends
And am completely without patience. It is hard for me
To realize that some growth is slow,
That all processes are not swift. I cannot always discriminate
Between what takes time to develop and what can be rushed,
Because my sense of time is dulled.
I measure things in terms of happenings.
O to understand the meaning of perspective
That I may do all things with a profound sense of leisure–of time.
—Howard Thurman (1899–1981), in Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans
In 1953, Thurman published Meditations of the Heart, the second in a volume of meditations that were originally written for personal and congregational use at Church of the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, where he served as co-pastor from 1944–1953 with Alfred G. Fisk, a European American Presbyterian minister and professor of philosophy. Both Thurman and Fisk were deeply concerned about building bridges of understanding among varied races, cultures, and faiths, and their multicultural congregation embodied this hope. The purpose of the meditations is, as Thurman puts it, “[T]o focus the mind and the heart upon God as the Eternal Source and Goal of life.” One hundred and fifty-two short meditations in this 210-page book provide a significant source of insight, centering prayer, and nourishment for faith journeys. Meditations are the type of sustenance that fed civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was mentored by Thurman.
2) A community of discernment/mentoring community:
Sharon Daloz Parks, a faith development expert and director of leadership for the New Commons, discourages competition in the discernment process and encourages communities of support and nurture as opposed to communities that adopt competitive models for vocational discernment. Families, churches, and even worksites can be mentoring communities. She believes that a mentoring environment and culture is essential for young adults to discover their vocation. Mentoring environments provide “network[s] of belonging … [and] promise a place of nurture for the potential self.”
According to Parks, young adults in 2005 understand the church as local and not as a national entity. She makes this point in Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. Drawing on the best sociological, psychological, and faith development theories, Parks boils down the adult questions to one of trust. Answering this question of who and what is authoritative in life is the journey into young adulthood. In fact, she says, “One becomes a young adult in faith (at whatever age) when one begins to take self-conscious responsibility for one’s own knowing, becoming, and moral action, even at the level of ultimate meaning making.” In other words, adults in search of purpose and meaning and, ultimately, vocation, have to decide for themselves whom they will trust. They cannot be told in whom and what to trust. Parks is convinced that young adults trust mentoring communities such as colleges, professional educators, workplaces, travel, the natural environment, families, and religious faith communities. In other words, a whole culture of mentors already exists with the potential to nurture the Christian vocational discernment of young adults.
 Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 126.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 64.