Looking back ... and moving forward

Posted Sep 18, 2013 | The Discipleship Project


By Annettia Brooks-Rankin

Meeting with Rev. Thulani Magwaza of St. SabinaAs I look back over the first year of The Discipleship Project (TDP), I remember many experiences. I’d like to highlight one of the key tasks that was outlined for the group at the beginning. We were to visit vibrant communities of faith in order to engage those involved so that we could learn what was working in their particular communities and, of course, what wasn’t working. To that end, on April 27-28, 2013, some of the members of TDP and two guests had the opportunity to visit two dynamic Christian communities in Chicago. They are St. Sabina Catholic Church and Trinity United Church of Christ, both urban congregations in Chicago.

St Sabina Catholic ChurchOn Saturday we visited the historic St. Sabina, where Rev. Dr. Michael J. Pfleger is the senior pastor, and Rev. Thulani Magwaza is also a pastor. St. Sabina is an African-American Catholic community that addresses the needs of its surrounding community. We met with Rev. Thulani, who gave us a tour of the church and the area surrounding the church, which is a part of their ministry work. They focus on the needs of the people and offer ministries to meet those needs, including a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade academy, a youth community center, economic and academic advancement for youth and adults, business development (education and counseling), housing for senior citizens, housing for the homeless, Employment Resource Services (training and job placement), and a clinic in Ghana. St. Sabina is reaching out the south side of Chicago using Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "global vision of a model place where all people can share in the wealth of the earth.”

Group at Trinity UCCTrinity United Church of Christ is also on the south side of Chicago. Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor and welcomed us to his office following the second of two Sunday morning worship services. While time did not allow us to tour the campus or grounds, we learned of a particularly vibrant project Trinity has undertaken called Imani Village. Thirty acres of land (on the south side) will be transformed "to create a sustainable urban community" using the best green technology and providing education and employment opportunities. The plans for Imani Village include a state-of-the-art school, sustainable housing, an organic community garden, an urban farming and agricultural center, an NCAA-certified sports complex, a retail center, and a community health center. More than 1,000 persons will have temporary employment, and, once completed, 500 people will have permanent employment. Imani Village will be the first holistic, sustainable, and green community to be undertaken by a faith-based entity in the City of Chicago.

Carved chairs at St SabinaI was moved and impressed by the work of these local churches who are responding to their communities and meeting needs that otherwise might be overlooked. They are truly models of vibrant church communities in an urban setting. We believe we can study such communities to find application even in Indianapolis.

Altar at St SabinaAs we begin a new year as “seasoned TDPers,” we will continue to seek out these models and bring back vital insight into the work required of us as disciples to serve as Jesus served. I am looking forward to TDP's second year and hope and pray we continue to cast our nets wide as we learn to positively impact the work of the Kingdom.

Annettia Brooks-Rankin is a Master of Divinity student preparing for pastoral ministry and a member of the first TDP cohort. She is excited about the opportunity to experience various churches whose ministries extend beyond their four walls in such significant ways.

The Discipleship Project is a groundbreaking approach to theological education at Christian Theological Seminary that is inspired by Jesus’ pedagogy in the New Testament gospels. To request permission to repost this content, please contact centerforpastoralexcellence@cts.edu.