The School of Theology at the University of the South is offering a course this fall to help those who talk the talk to walk the walk.
City Faith, which covers "the peculiarities of urban ministry," is based in Chattanooga and is hosted by the St. Andrews Center.
"We all look for things to make our classes practical for those going out into parishes," said Dr. Suzanna Metz, assistant professor of contextual education and director of field education at the School of Theology. "It's important for these folks to be getting off the mountain (Monteagle) and talking to people and seeing people do things that are a little bit scary."
The course, which is offered as an elective for theology students but can be taken for continuing education credits by nonstudents, covers strategies such as grant-making, working with foundations, dealing with governmental bodies and connecting with other groups that can be of help.
City Faith can facilitate "how you start working with people who are not necessarily church folks, but who are critical in order to do a completely holistic ministry to people in cities," Dr. Metz said.
The Rev. Greg Smart, pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church, said the class provides him continuing education credits and feeds his interest in learning more about "doing ministry with those who need it most."
Visiting places some ministers might not even know exist, such as Chattanooga environmental resource center Green Spaces, "starts opening your eyes to real possibilities," he said. "If these are things that are happening, you wonder what else can happen."
The arts also shouldn't be forgotten in urban ministry, Dr. Metz said.
"We get so focused on feeding, housing and health care," she said. "Priests don't always look at how to build up and deepen their whole creative sense, but that's so critical if they're going to be working with people."
Dr. Metz said she and the Rev. Jocelyn Bell, rector at Christ Church Episcopal in Chattanooga, have discussed such a course for several years. Both women saw the need for a more intensive experience for seminarians who are surrounded by rural churches at the University of the South.
When the Rev. Mike Feely organized the St. Andrews Center several years ago, Dr. Metz also discussed the idea with him.
Mr. Feely, a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary, has hosted urban ministry internships for Tennessee Wesleyan College students and, in 2007, had offered a two-week urban ministry immersion to seminarians at Wesley Seminary.
That exhaustive immersion, Mr. Feely said, led City Faith class organizers to figure out how to offer the course at a pace that would be more conducive to those who plan to make a life out of such ministry.
The general idea, he said, is to provide "intensive practice and experience" in a city faith.