Pastoral care outside the fold – Urban Mission Practicum
Wance Kwan Chan
Assistant Professor of Practical Studies
Urban Mission Practicum sends CGST students from their comfortable campus to different corners of Hong Kong during summer every year. The six-week full-time practicum challenges students to roll up their sleeves and walk alongside people in our bustling city. On one hand, they learn to live and proclaim the gospel. On the other hand, they learn to allow the gospel to transform their own lives through observing and reflecting on their field experiences. Serving in various organizations enables students to engage with different communities, such as the marginalized minorities, and those who may have difficulty adjusting to mainstream church settings.
The goal of Mission Practicum is to nurture reflective practitioners. Before the practicum, students are required to take an introductory course on Church Mission. It serves as an orientation to a framework of mission practice so that students will be able to engage in skills learning as well as reflective thinking in the context of ministry in the city. Mission practicum takes students to a world beyond their churches, where they face the reality of tensions and even conflicts between faith and practice. It is through these tensions when they start to uncover significant issues for further reflection in the light of theological and biblical studies.
Issues that confuse or perplex students most during practicum are often the most important learning points for them. A student who served in hospital chaplaincy shares, “There is intense struggle in my heart when I see a patient dying in front of me. Should I grasp this final chance to preach the gospel? What about the status and needs of the patient and the family here and now?” What does this inner struggle reflect? Facing the patient and his family, what does it mean to be a messenger of the Lord Jesus’ gospel of reconciliation? Another student joined an organization which serves sex workers. Among whom were new believers who are still involved in business as usual but were willing to study the Bible. The tricky question for the student is whether one can lead worship and bible study on the bed where this new believer receives her customers. To these women ravaged by sin, what does it mean for the church to become their neighbor, besides evangelism and providing individual pastoral care? Another student who worked in an organization that serves the poor was puzzling, “I am so busy with manual labor, toiling every day. When can I truly ‘preach the gospel’?” Students are challenged to reflect on the meaning of integral gospel, the value of service, and whether God can reveal the power of the gospel through our manual labor. In the context of real people in real communities, they come to realize the kind of loss that is incurred when the gospel is proclaimed without witnesses through acts of love done in Christ’s name.
We have a vision towards the nurturing of our students through Practical Studies. This vision may be represented by three [M]s: Mature, Multi-culti, and Missional.
Mature: We hope to see our students grow to become mature leaders who are able to receive instructions humbly. While accepting their own limitations, they are willing to grow. We hope that our graduates are humble partners with other ministers in all arenas of God’s Mission, serving in the church, Christian organizations, going on overseas missions or working in the marketplace. We hope to see them esteeming others better than themselves, looking out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Multi-Culti: This is a term coined by a Dutch missionary and aptly describes our hope for students to be multicultural. In this day and age, not only overseas missionaries are required to meet the demands of cultural diversity. Theological students in local practicum also need to prepare for these challenges. In cross-cultural exposures through Urban Mission, they learn to listen to people from different walks of life and observe God’s works among them. They learn to preach the gospel in ways that others can understand, using one’s life testimony to uphold the message that is shared.
Missional: We further hope that students will have a deeper understanding of the mission that is centered upon the Lord of missions, and have a firmer sense of the call. Students’ concern at the beginning of their study is usually focused in where their own vocation will take them. They are eager to find out whether they will serve God in the context of the local church, overseas or urban mission field, or the marketplace. While this is a good starting point, we hope that during Mission Practicum, students will step out of their comfort zone, and meet the great Shepherd and His sheep outside the fold. (John 10:16) We believe that moving amongst the people, they may draw close to the Shepherd’s heart that crosses boundaries, and hear the call to move on from focusing on their personal callings towards leading the church in becoming His missional church.