Dr. Elizabeth Parsons, Lecturer in Religion and Development and a Resident Scholar with the CGCM, taught an exciting course this spring on the intersection of mission and development. The course, called Enacting Mission Through NGO and FBO Work, covered a variety of issues related to work in non-governmental, non-profit, and faith-based organizations. In the first part of the course, students gained a footing on the history and current functioning of NGOs and FBOs. Thereafter, they not only engaged critically with values and assumptions embedded in the business of development and NGO related work, they also learned practical skills important for the vocation, from money matters to navigating the rough waters of cross-cultural interactions.
The last part of the course engaged future contexts, opportunities, and challenges for NGO and FBO service and leadership in the 21st century. To help with these questions, Dr. Parsons organized a panel for the class, with the support of the CGCM, and invited the STH community to attend. Panelists were chosen for their connections with STH, for their own spiritual and ethical commitment to service work, and to show how theological education would be helpful for a range of service vocations. The panelists included STH alum Rob Gordon, Executive Director of United Way of Kennebec Valley; John Lindamood, Director of Resident Services in the Cambridge Housing Authority, who holds an M.Div. from Harvard and has made presentations at STH in the past; and Paula Kline, Executive Director of the Montreal City Mission, who oversees an organization that is a contextual partner of STH.
The panel, “Enacting Mission Through Non-Profit and Faith-Based Service Work in Unpredictable Times,” took place on April 11, 2014. Dr. Parsons introduced the class and each guest spoke of the paths that brought them to non-profit work, addressed how they integrate spiritual formation and commitment into their vocation, and in the question and answer sessions that followed, shared practical ideas about how to get into non-profit work, and what kind of skills are important.
Theological and pastoral education as laying the foundation for work in social justice and instilling compassionate values, working in partnership, and fundraising tips were just some of the key themes that emerged from the panel and discussion. The STH will look forward to future teaching and discussion on the intersection of mission and development.
For two years I have been working to bring a new course based on missions work in the HIV/AIDS to STH. This spring it has happened. The advert is below. More importantly, this is the first course with a critical international public health component and one which is field tested in missions round the world. Values and practices is based on my foundational work with the Ford Foundation and WHO on Decent Care. It will look at health and health systems and give a sense of how to understand what is happening in systems and what can change for the patient and family in that system. By enacting agency every one of us can be the manager of our own health care. For those of us in missions it is crucial to understand how each of us can have a say in what happens to people in health care encounters. The course will be driven the class itself with reasonable reading assignments and paper by midterm. The final will be the writing of an Op Ed piece, max 750 words. That should lighten the end of year issues, all to be done before finals week. Cannot figure out how to do this any better. It is a first-run course and we will learn from each other how best to make this work. So I hope you will consider signing up.
Important theoretical and practical issues related to cross-cultural, governmental and nongovernmental and faith-based service work related to the practice of *Decent Care and its application in developing healthy communities will be surveyed.
Structured according a developmental approach to health and health systems, students will be encouraged to think critically about and experience the application of values and assumptions undergirding health systems and structures of such service work as currently envisioned and practiced.
Case studies, guest speakers, and multimedia offerings will enrich the context of informed disciplinary and cross disciplinary approaches.
*Decent Care is a concept developed in the World Health Organization by the instructor. Decent Care bases the planning, delivery and evaluation of care on values that place individuals, in their social and cultural contexts, at the center of the caring process. The aims of decent care are to develop health systems around the primacy of persons in their own health care, and to build a bridge between the principles of human rights and the practice of medicine. By listening to and honoring the voices of the people care processes and models can be developed that respond to the needs of a community enabling human flourishing.