Philadelphia in photos

8 10 2012

Where we stayed:


New friends:

In honor of World Communion Sunday…

8 10 2012

Here are some pictures from my worship experience last Sunday. My master’s degree cohort attended a trilingual church in West Philadelphia, and it was a beautiful experience of what the body of Christ can be!

Every Scripture passage, every song lyric, every prayer had to be repeated three times: once in Spanish, once in English, and once in Indonesian. In contrast to most churches I know, which aim to get people out the door in exactly 60 minutes, this service showed us the value of slowing down…even if we only understood 1/3 of what was being said. But it was a beautiful inefficiency, reminding us of our connection to Christians throughout the world and throughout history.

The service was wonderfully inclusive and participatory. Men and women of all different nationalities sang in the band onstage; then, after each reading, three new speakers would move to the podium for the next segment of the service. Probably half of the congregation was involved somehow in leading worship for their church.

There’s just something about stumbling through the Indonesian lyrics of “Shout to the Lord” that makes you appreciate the power of music. Many of the tunes were familiar to me; some were not. I can hardly put into words how amazing it was to know that we were all praising the same God, with the same tunes, in our own languages.

The sermon for the morning was about prayer; but rather than simply challenging us to pray “more” or “better,” the pastors sent us into the neighborhood to pray. So we, the Urban Studies students who had just arrived in the city one day earlier, joined lifelong residents and immigrant families in praying for their community.

We returned to the church to share a meal together…well, two meals really. First, the sacred Communion ritual practiced by Christians worldwide. Then, a home-cooked Indonesian meal prepared and served by the church members.


It was an incredible start to the week. I was challenged throughout the residency to deepen my faith, sharpen my reason, and act upon my sense of justice; this church spoke to me on all three levels. Church members admitted freely that they were far from perfect; they’ve had their share of growing pains and cultural misunderstandings. But in spite of it all, they have remained faithful to their calling: growing, serving, and worshiping together.

(photos by Nathan Corbitt)

Who are you crazy about??

27 08 2012

Back in the swing of school…I just finished my first reading assignment for the new semester: an excerpt from Salome Thomas-El’s book I Choose To Stay. Thomas-El, an education consultant, was a teacher and principal in inner-city Philadelphia for more than 20 years. His website sums up his philosophy: “Every child needs someone to be crazy about them.”

I totally agree. It can completely alter the course of a student’s life to know that someone cares. So when we encounter a kid, no matter who the kid appears to be, we can’t ever just assume that they’ve already found that person…much less that they know who that person is! The responsibility falls on us, then, to make sure that those kids know we’re crazy about them, we believe in them, and we’re rooting for them every step of the way.

I love the way my friend Kenny once described his mentor: “Lorris had a particular way of telling you, ‘I think you’re really neat.’ Even when I broke the rules, and any other camp counselor would have rightly fussed at me, Lorris would come up and put his around me. Instead of a lecture, he’d say something like, ‘Kenny, you know something? I think you’re pretty neat, and so does God.’ And somehow he’d get the point across, too.”

I only got to meet Lorris once, but in the short week I spent with him, he told me several times that he thought I was pretty special. And even though I knew he probably said the same thing to the other 50  campers, his words still left an impression upon my heart.

So who are you crazy about? And have you told them yet?