“The Greatest Must be Servant of All”

“There’s something about kids and how they can make us stop in our tracks…a child changes our perceptions of a scenario or situation….”

This was a difficult sermon/homily to write in light of the ongoing crises in our world and how they disproportionately affect vulnerable people groups and children. This is my Homily/Sermon from this past Weds Night Worship on Mark 9:30-37 at Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, GA on 2015.09.16.

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faithful mentors

I’m writing this post today in response to a DAY OF BLOGGING for Exploration 2013, a United Methodist Event for people discerning a call to ordained ministry. They asked us to respond to the question: “Who influenced you in discerning your Call to Ministry?” So here it is:

For many in ministry or clergy roles we simply “walk alongside” and  “live life” with the people whom we guide and work with in ministry. This is what the many faithful mentors in my journey have done with/for me–they’ve simply been there as I have experienced (thus far) the full stretch of human life–good times and bad.

auburn samford hallMy specific call to ministry and working with college students came during my freshman year at Auburn University when I went on a Weekend Mission Trip with Auburn Wesley Foundation and Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) to Mobile, Alabama to work at St. Francis Street Mission. The trip was led by Lisa Pierce, the founder and director of ARM

On the trip we worked with a man named “Mr. Johnny” where we fixed his roof and shared some good times and even a few jokes about coffee, roofing, and life. On Sunday morning instead of GOING to Church we went and DID Church: we worked in the soup kitchen and sang songs with the men, women, and children, the poor and homeless, who were in the mission that day. It was an eye opening experience to DO Church instead of just attending church/worship on Sunday morning.Emory Wesley students at ARM on Spring Break 2013 I came back from that trip feeling called and knowing that I wanted to do those kinds of things, and help others to do those things as my vocation. Lisa’s facilitating that trip and encouraging me to go has helped shape the direction of my life for the better. We still stay in contact and it is a great joy to bring Emory Wesley college students on trips to do work with Lisa and ARM.

Over the course of my time at Auburn the Auburn Wesley Director, Rev. David Goolsby, guided and mentored me in ministry and helped shape me into a leader in the Auburn community. I had the opportunity to help lead music and liturgy in worship, experiment with different styles and types of worship, lead small groups, reflect theologically and dream about church models, plan and lead mission trips, and many more opportunities for transformation and service. David is still a mentor of mine, officiated our wedding, and is a thoughtful guide and ‘guru’ of campus ministry for many.

I am thankful and grateful to God for mentors like Lisa and David who helped me to hear God’s call in my life. I’ll end with a word from David in my own paraphrased Goolsby-ism: “May we seek to be faithful to God as God is faithful to us.” Amen.

For more info about Exploration 2013 click here: ExploreCalling.org!

Emory Wesley Orientation Video

Orientation Video 2012: Students sharing about the importance of Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University.

Here is the quick video introduction to Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University: (students on Facebook here  ||  Twitter here  || Alumni, friends, parents, supporters FB page

music: “Festival” by Sigur Ros used under fair use regulations and this statement by the band: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/banda/faq.php#13

Video making & Prepare 2011

I have always loved taking pictures–since being a kid and capturing images using one-time-use cameras to “borrowing” my mom’s film camera…

I have always loved taking pictures–since being a kid and capturing images using one-time-use cameras to “borrowing” my mom’s film camera (a Canon EOS Rebel…which I STILL have in my possession…oops).  Recently I’ve really enjoyed shooting video on my Digital SLR camera–formerly a Canon T1i and I have recently upgraded to a Canon 60D! (Christmas & Birthday until I’m 35 or so…). The video quality and the shallow depth of focus on these kinds of cameras is changing the way films are being made. Last year an entire episode of the TV show House was filmed on a Canon DLSR camera! They are also the tools of choice for amateur and aspiring film makers–both in the commercial and non-profit film world.

This spring and this summer I have had the privilege of working with a Design Team for Prepare 2011, which is a new collegiate minister training event (both meanings in there–it is both a NEW event and for those NEW to the field). The design team is made up of campus ministers and chaplains who are experienced veterans of ministry with college students. Prepare 2011, a mentor-based training event for those new to ministry with college students, will be held July 17-19th in Nashville, TN (a few days before the United Methodist Campus Minister Association gathering July 20-23 in Nashville, TN).

At a planning session back in April a few members of the design team allowed me to film a couple of quick takes about what to expect at Prepare 2011 and why new campus ministers and chaplains should come to Prepare. Using my Canon T1i and a 50mm 1.8 II lens I quickly captured a few minutes of video (literally we filmed the whole thing in 5 mins) and then created the following promo video. Enjoy.

New Orleans, college campuses, and the Church

This week we’re on vacation…jackson park fencewell my wife is at a conference and I’m walking around the city of New Orleans taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the food of course. In my walkings around the French Quarter, City Park, and the Warehouse district I’ve noticed how many tourists I see with very nice digital cameras taking lots and lots of photos. I guess New Orleans is a very photogenic city. Its historic nature and subsequent variety of people and architecture make it a great place to “people watch” and take pictures…although hopefully you’re taking pictures of the scenery and not the pedestrians.

There is always something going on here in New Orleans–a prime example: after I searched for 15 mins to park ourbrass band 2 car to check into the hotel I found a spot on a side street in the French Quarter. As I was getting our luggage out of the car and BAM!–right in front of me emerged a brass band and following parade moving down the street. It was out of no where and I’m not even sure why it was going on, but it was and it was awesome. Every time we come here to visit friends, there is always something going on–if it’s not Mardi Gras, it’s a Jazz festival, crawfish boil, or something else. It seems to me that the people  in New Orleans like to do things–not just talk about them.

I feel like that is what a college campus is like or supposed to be like. sandwich makingCollege is about learning–but (hopefully) not just about the theoretical part of things. Sadly many classes are about theory and the proper procedure, but are generally lacking the practice or application section. However, all the students at Emory are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities and service projects. Many of the students in the Emory Wesley Fellowship are very involved in campus activities–everything from being resident advisors (RA’s), being involved in student government as class representatives, and leading service trips for Volunteer Emory and even making sandwiches to help support people struggling with homelessness in Atlanta. Outside of service opportunities, there are many other interests and activities vying for attention from the student population.

Basically, there is always something going on at a college campus too. Whether for good or ill, I think that college students are about doing things. They’re interested in talking about things, but they also couple that talking with action and living out what they learn and what they believe.

This brings us to the Church. I won’t take this space to be too critical of the actions of the Church, that is the body of Cathedralpeople claiming Christianity as their faith tradition. I’ll leave that discussion for a later, more interpersonal time. However, the Church, when it is truly being the Church–the ekklesia, the gathered people–the Church is about action and about transformation. The life and teachings of Jesus motivate us to join in the movement of God towards the reconciliation, healing, and transformation of and for the world.

Now, the nexus of these topics is found in Campus ministry: young adults and college people who are about living out the good news and love of God through action to and with thier neghbors in the world. That is what campus ministry is about.

If you’re heading off to college, Emory or otherwise, and you’d like to get involved in a living, breathing, action inducing faith tradition, then check out a campus ministry like the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

As always, email with comments or questions. –Joseph   jmcbray@emory.edu

National Student Forum: Dr. Eboo Patel

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others.

This weekend (May 21-24) I’m here in Shreveport, LA at Centenary College attending the National Student Forum of student forum logothe United Methodist Student Movement–basically a gathering of United Methodist college students who are from all over the US. Also there are 50+ UM campus ministers and chaplains (I’m now one of those as the Emory Wesley Fellowship Director!) It is a pretty awesome gathering of people in the United Methodist Church who are deeply passionate about young people, the church, and the world. Our theme is breaking barriers and building bridges.

Today at the conference Dr. Eboo Patel founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core spoke to the students and later to the Campus Ministers about coming together despite differences, pluralism, and serving others. The Interfaith Youth Core, is an organization who “builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from Eboo Pateldifferent religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.” Patel is a young, energetic, extremely intelligent and well-read communicator.

He spoke to us about the importance of building the “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. Dr. Patel, a devout Muslim, shared his belief that MLK, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community consisted of and was informed/formed by two things: 1) his being deeply rooted in the Christian faith tradition, and 2) his relationships with people of other faiths. Patel encouraged and challenged the students and campus ministers to grow more deeply in their faith, noting that in deepening their own faith traditions they will encounter truths that resonate deeply with other faith traditions. He talked about the interfaith encounters and relationships of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to demonstrate that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a great leader for the civil rights movement and a great leader for the Christian movement, but that he was also a great interfaith leader.

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others. His message was and is encouraging, insightful, and it is gaining momentum–one conversation and one interfaith leader at a time. May it continue.

mississippi bridge