Rev. Dr. Quintin Robertson, in organizing the Mt. Airy-based Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia’s (LTSP) inaugural Ministry Day, hopes the event will lead to new ways of viewing ministry for those who feel the call.
The Ministry Day will take place from 9am to 4pm on Saturday at the Seminary’s Germantown Avenue campus.
In inviting alumni and current students, as well as lay-people who want to learn more about Seminary education, Rev. Robertson describes a variety of workshops “to really help people discern and define their niche,” or to offer a chance talk with those who are already involved in the attendee’s desired career.
Rev. Robertson emphasizes that nowadays, a Seminary degree or certificate does not necessarily mean a pastoral career.
“All ministry doesn’t take place at the pulpit,” he says. “There are other forms of ministry, and we want to help people explore what that is.” These might include counseling, education, or music. He hopes that a day with the Seminary can help prospective students clarify their own call, especially in a field increasingly geared toward social services, and not simply preaching.
Rev. Robertson has worked for three years with LTSP, after a decade on staff at his alma mater, The Interdenominational Theological Center of Atlanta, GA. Now, he’s the director of LTSP’s Urban Theological Institute, which oversees the Seminary’s Black Church Studies program, as well as the Institute’s annual lecture series and Preaching with Power public program. He has teamed with LTSP’s admissions office to plan the first annual Ministry Day.
They considered a few different names for the event, but settled on the word “ministry” because “as Protestants, we take the statement about the priesthood of all believers seriously. Everybody should have some form of ministry, but what happens is people don’t know what they should do.”
“It really is open to all persons,” aspiring ministers or not, Rev. Robertson adds. “There are people who just want to learn.”
The event is drawing some of Philadelphia’s best-known clergy members, including Pastor Keon Gerow of the West Philadelphia-based Catalyst for Change Church. Gerow is well-qualified to offer a workshop titled “Planting a New Church”, having grown Catalyst for Change from about 20 members when it was founded in 2008 to over 400 today.
“People are interested, because most churches are dying today,” Rev. Robertson says.
Another session will focus on missions in the modern world, given by Philadelphia Bishop Ernest McNear, known for his work in Ghana.
“Our cultures are so intermixed these days. It’s not just a US community anymore, it’s a world community,” Rev. Robertson explains. “I don’t know if we go into strange lands as much as we used to, because we know so much about each other already.”
A workshop on women in ministry makes another notable offering, taught by Rev. Jocelyn K. Hart, presiding elder of the Philadelphia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
While Rev. Hart is not the first female elder of the A.M.E. Church, in her ministry career, she has come to the pulpit several times as a congregation’s first woman pastor.
She notes that most congregations have a large female contingent. “In some denominations women are accepted and in others they aren’t, but still yet there’s a call from the Lord,” she says of challenges that still exist for women who aspire to this traditionally male-dominated field.
In addition to inviting her workshop attendees to share their own experiences, Rev. Hart will illuminate the history of women in ministry, talk about her own journey, and emphasize “ministry that needs to be done regardless of gender, and the great support and mentoring that can come across generations.”
In addition to a keynote address on a balanced life in ministry by the Rev. Dr. Wayne Croft, pastor of South Philadelphia’s Church of the Redeemer Baptist, attendees will be able to choose two out of four total workshops.
For Robertson, the core goal of the Ministry Day is to enroll more students at LTSP, especially if the event can help people learn that coming to Seminary isn’t only about pastoral work. Enrollment for the Ministry Day has already topped fifty people. “We’re excited because we did it as brainstorm. But our expectations have already been surpassed,” he says.
Ultimately, Revs. Hart and Robertson hope that attendees will come away with something of deep value.
“Seminary education gives people a greater appreciation for other religions,” Rev. Robertson says. “The more we learn about our own faith, the better we appreciate other people’s faith.”