By Phuc Luu, Director of Education, projectCURATE
Rev. Beth Halverson talks about her experience as a Lutheran pastor who is attending projectCURATE:
“Sometimes, I let my world become ‘too small.’ However, projectCURATE generates a fresh spirit within me, helping me experience a deeper and broader reality in which God is involved. I cross denominational, economic, and racial lines to develop friendships. I listen to insightful people, from various perspectives, discussing significant issues facing Houston. It is a commitment, but one that we gladly make,” says Rev. Halverson.
ProjectCURATE is the Center for Urban Reconciliation And Theological Education, located and rooted in the city of Houston. Its goal is to build bridges across cultural, ethnic, and economic barriers through the context of theological learning, built in kinship and growing from the soil of the city. Often, Christian communities find themselves divided by these walls, especially during the Sunday hour. How can we overcome these divides?
As members of projectCURATE, both Beth and Russell Halverson have been attending workshops and engaged in the online curriculum. This is Beth’s first year through the curriculum and Russell’s second year. They have joined with others of different denominations to learn through the four broad categories that make up the learning framework: Contextual Theology, Scriptural Imagination, Systemic Change, and Missional Enterprise. Through these face-to-face encounters, Beth and Russell have made friends they would not otherwise have met.
Houston has become the most ethnically diverse city in the United States, narrowly surpassing NYC, but we are still very divided by the ways we live and interact. What this means for the church is that the attractional model of creating better worship services, and programs so that more people can come visit, is not working for many congregations; if it does work, then it works at the expense of the communities around them.
Many churches in Houston are in very diverse communities, yet their involvement in the community is minimal and, at best, seen as service work. Through a unique form of interactive and experiential learning, cohort members join in learning activities on issues and ideas that make a difference in our communities. Instead of trying to bring people into the church, projectCURATE seeks to bring the church into the world.
As a part of our time together, we take “Pilgrimages of Pain and Hope” throughout different neighborhoods in order to get a sense of who lives there and who are neighbors are. We take time to hear the stories from those who have newly immigrated to Houston, those who have struggled with living in the 5th Ward, and those who are ministering to this city’s homeless population. We will visit the site where 11 year-old, Josue Flores, who was murdered in the Near Northside and ask if this tragedy would have happened in another neighborhood.
ProjectCURATE seeks to bring together those who are committed to overcoming the divides in Houston and responding in Christian faith. We currently have a gathering that represents United Methodist, Vineyard, Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, non-denominational, Catholic, and Evangelical Lutheran churches in Houston.
For 2017, we are seeking more ELCA churches in Houston to commit to participate in our one-year program of learning. We are working with Bishop Rinehart to help Lutheran clergy and laity better understand and engage within their communities.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, Phuc Luu.