This article was originally published in focus magazine, the annual scholarly publication of the BU School of Theology, in May 2021. The full magazine is posted here and this article can be found on page 27.
On the Margins: As a Reporter, then a Priest, Christina Rathbone (STH'09) Has Helped People Excluded from Society Share Their Stories
By Andrew Thurston
Cristina Rathbone doesn’t normally wear a clerical collar, but the asylum seekers at the US border needed all the help they could get. If her collar helped nudge a border agent into waving them across, it was worth the effort.
A priest in the Episcopal Church in Boston, Rathbone (’09) spent six months in 2019 working with asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Central America and hoping for sanctuary in the United States. Like many of the people she met, Rathbone ended up in Juárez. The northern Mexican city sits shoulder to shoulder with El Paso, Texas—border cities split by the Rio Grande, but tied together by four bridges that carry thousands of migrants every year.
“I would put my collar on only to go up to the checkpoint and seek to lend a bit of my privilege as a US citizen and an ordained member of the clergy,” says Rathbone, “to try to encourage border patrol to uphold the laws as they stand—that anybody asking for asylum should be allowed straight into the country to pursue that case.” Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
In recent years, it’s become harder than ever to claim shelter in the United States. During his four years in office, former President Donald Trump consistently reduced the cap on the number of refugees the country would admit. In October 2020, he set the limit at just 15,000; in 2016, the US had welcomed 85,000. According to the Washington Post, the courts have a backlog of more than 1 million pending asylum claims. “My mother’s Cuban,” says Rathbone, “so I have always had a particular interest in stories of immigration, especially from Latin America.”
In the Heart of Suffering
Born in America, Rathbone spent her formative years in the United Kingdom—her father’s homeland—before returning to the States for college. After starting, but not finishing, a degree in documentary filmmaking in New York, Rathbone became an investigative journalist, publishing articles in a range of papers and magazines, including the Miami Herald and the New York Daily News. It wasn’t until she was in her forties that she switched paths and joined the church. “The kind of journalist I was and the kind of priest I am are so similar,” says Rathbone. The people Rathbone wrote about— particularly in her two books, On the Outside Looking in: Stories from an Inner-City High School and A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars—were on society’s frayed edges. “My home lay out on the margins,” she says.
“The homeless folks in Boston taught me everything I know about how to pastor to people even as they are in the heart of suffering. They taught me that mostly all I really need to do is listen and learn, and then I’ll be given the skills that I need, as I need them, from the community on the ground.”
It still does. After studying theology at STH, Rathbone joined the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, serving as a canon missioner and pastor to people experiencing homelessness. “The homeless folks in Boston taught me everything I know about how to pastor to people even as they are in the heart of suffering,” she says. “They taught me that mostly all I really need to do is listen and learn, and then I’ll be given the skills that I need, as I need them, from the community on the ground.”
On the Border
When Rathbone arrived in Juárez in August 2019, she joined with the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande in El Paso to do what she describes as small things: provide water, food, blankets, and clothing; later, she helped start a class for children and began walking with families to the border.
“I’m a great believer in small things,” says Rathbone. “Once we get sidetracked by trying to create big things, we spend more time thinking about the big thing than the actual work the big thing is supposed to contain and represent. “Having said that, it’s really hard doing small things in the face of such dire and multiple suffering.”
She says the resilience of the people she met—groups of moms and kids who’d banded together for the journey, parents whose children had been tortured and murdered by narcos—“enlarged and transformed my heart.” But caring for them required caring for herself too. Rathbone says she relied on encouragement— spiritual and financial—from the institutional church, as well as from friends and family. “When one’s operating very much out on the edge of things,” says Rathbone, “it becomes very important, at least for me, to feel tethered to the center.”
In November 2020, Rathbone started a new program to train and guide others in the church who want to help those seeking safe harbor in the United States. Neighbor to Neighbor connects asylum seekers with local Episcopal churches to help them adjust to life in the country. “I went to the border thinking it was the place where I needed to be in order to be of the most use in this immigration quagmire,” says Rathbone, who is leading the organization in collaboration with Episcopal Migration Ministries. “I’ve realized that the border is everywhere in this country already: people who cross the border go to literally every town and city. We can be of service wherever we are.”
Having spent so much of her life hearing and telling the stories of those excluded from society, Rathbone hopes Neighbor to Neighbor—which launched in the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts, Southeast Florida, the Rio Grande, and New Jersey—will enable others in the church to spend more time with them too.
“We, the church, need to be in relationship with the people who are most suffering, because they have the most to teach us about love.”
“We, the church, need to be in relationship with the people who are most suffering, because they have the most to teach us about love,” she says. “Those of us in the church tend to be particularly good at pretending we’re not broken. Being with people who can no longer pretend liberates us to confess our own brokenness; once we do that, the healing has already begun.”
The Illinois Great River Conference United Methodist Church is currently recruiting for Director of Ministerial Excellence.
The Director of Ministerial Excellence is responsible for providing oversight to the creation and on-going development of a conference process of ministerial excellence, which fosters the identification of those who are called to vocational ministry and supports them in finding their place in servant ministry, as well as in both growing and thriving within their ministry.
Download full job description here: DirectorofMinisterialExcellence
Email resume and cover letter to email@example.com
Closing Date: June 25, 2021
St. Mark United Methodist Church, a well-established United Methodist congregation is seeking an energetic and creative full-time Minister of Family Outreach to serve in Seneca, SC, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The minister's responsibilities are two-fold:
- Lead teams and individuals to design biblically focused ministries to enrich the lives of young people within the church and the broader community
- Recruit, train, supervise, and support all volunteer and paid staff in Children, Youth, and Family Ministries
Qualifications for this position include strong relational and organizational skills, excellent communication skills, and the desire and ability to plan for the future of family ministry through visioning, innovation, and enrollment progression. Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree (Master’s degree preferred) and related experience with youth. Resumes, along with a cover letter, can be sent to Elaine Pendergrass (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This obituary was originally published at Olson Funeral and Cremation Services.
Arvid W. Adell, 85, of Roscoe, died on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Born September 30, 1935, in Osage City, KS, the son of Arvid and Vivian (Udd) Adell. Arvid married Karen Akerlund on November 24, 1961 in Rockford. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Augustana and his PhD in Philosophy from Boston University. He was also a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago and attended a year of Seminary school at the University of Edinburgh. Arvid completed his Seminary internship at Bethesda Covenant Church in Rockford. Arvid was the chairman of the Philosophy Department at Millikin University where he coached basketball and golf before his full retirement in 2013 and the Pastor of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Decatur, IL until 2000. He also taught Business Ethics at Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar Campus in 2008. He attended First Congregational Church in Beloit, WI. He was a published writer and avid reader. Arvid enjoyed to bike, hike, and travel and was an avid golfer who occasionally tee’d it up in the fairway. As a trumpeter and singer himself, he had a passion for music.
Survived by his wife, Karen; children, Jani (Mark) Duffy of Scottsdale, AZ, Diane (Kendall) Boone of Rockford, and Mike (Deanna) Adell of Lemont, IL; grandchildren, Nils, Annika, Marta, Lauren, and Lizzy; sister, Eileen Thorpe of Chicago; brother, Rev. Willis (Mona) Adell of Seattle, WA; and sister-in-law, Beverly Adell of Sterling, IL. Predeceased by his parents; brother, Wallis Adell; and brother-in-law, Dr. Roger Thorpe. The family would like to thank the staff at Swedish American Hospital, PEAK Medical Home Care, Northern Illinois Hospice and many others for their care.
A memorial visitation will be from 4:00 to 6:00 on Thursday, May 20, 2021 at Olson’s North Main Chapel, 2811 North Main St., Rockford. Private family burial in Scandinavian Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials made to Doctors without Borders USA, PO BOX 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030 / www.doctorswithoutborders.org
June 4, 2021 – Boston University School of Theology PhD student in constructive theology and ethics Shaunesse' A. Jacobs has been named a Rappaport Public Policy Fellow by Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. Ms. Jacobs is one of 20 selected fellows out of a field of nearly 200 applicants from nearby institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College, and Harvard Medical School. She will spend this summer working in Massachusetts government agencies and meeting with other Rappaport fellows to discuss key issues in the Massachusetts region, including public policy and implementation. Her fellowship will focus on creating a bridge curriculum between home health aides and certified nursing assistants, and the resulting research will inform a policy strategy to increase entry into nursing professions.
For a full list of fellows, please visit the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston.
Carrington Moore (STH'14) signed up for a dating app to better understand user preferences for a start-up business. Then he came across Schnelle Shelby’s profile.
Carrington Moore never liked the idea of online dating. In the summer of 2014, though, joining Match all of a sudden became a professional obligation.
Mr. Moore, 34, of Cambridge, Mass., was starting a business, Go Break Bread, with a pair of friends that year. Liftoff of the project, meant to be like Meetup except for building religious communities online, depended on them getting a grip on how algorithms work. “We had figured out that dating apps were the best place to research algorithms, but one of my friends was in a relationship, and the other one was like, ‘I’m married,’” he said. Mr. Moore, being single, was singled out. “They were like, ‘Carrington, you’ve got to do it.’”
But his mission to research, and research only, was thwarted instantly when Schnelle Shelby’s picture popped up. “Schnelle came up wearing this zebra print dress,” he said. “She seemed really interesting and really pretty. I stalked her for like 30 minutes.”
Program Coordinator (Office of Spiritual and Religious Life), Full-Time, Emory University: Atlanta, GA
Emory University Spiritual and Religious Life is searching for a Program Coordinator. The Program Coordinator serves as the main programmatic assistant for OSRL programs, including pre-orientation, orientation, travel programs, tradition-specific chaplaincy events, and advancement and alumni engagement initiatives. This could be a great position for a recent alum and would be ideal for someone with strong organizing, event planning, and communication skills.
Full time interim Senior Pastor position available in Newton, MA
The Union Church in Waban (Newton, MA) seeks a full time interim Senior Pastor to serve a renewable 18 month contract while we search for a settled Senior Pastor.
We are an interdenominational church affiliated with the United Church of Christ and with American Baptist Churches USA, located adjacent to the Waban T station on the MBTA’s Riverside D-Train of the Green Line. With an active membership roll of 240 and average weekly worship attendance of approximately 70 (86 pre-pandemic), we have a strong intergenerational ministry and a full time Associate Pastor for Youth & Families.
Strengths include a solid financial footing, a strong cohort of children and youth, and an active and dedicated congregation which includes many theologically trained members.
Compensation negotiable, based on the UCC’s published guidelines.
For information, including a brief profile of the church please email email@example.com
The Union Church in Waban
14 Collins Road, Waban MA 02468
In 1988, our church was planted by our current and founding Pastor Dan Moore and his wife, Rosemary. Their vision was for a loving and warm, interdenominational church where people would grow into loving, mature and equipped followers of Christ and then be deployed for the sake of family, community and global transformation. Messiah pursues this vision through its generous, creative and deeply entrepreneurial spirit; we identify needs and develop creative ways to meet them. Read more about Messiah. Messiah is actively searching for the Senior Pastor whom God has called to help lead our church family into its next exciting phase of growth.
Characteristics of the Senior Pastor:
- Our desire is for a senior pastor who is a humble person of prayer and is a strong, creative and vibrant servant leader.
- Our new senior pastor will be looking for an opportunity to build on our strong foundation of disciple making, is excited about seeing people’s lives transformed by Jesus and sees the church on mission to our community. We are looking for a senior pastor who has a mentor or spiritual accountability and has experienced their own journey to the heart of Jesus, has been changed, and has, in turn, walked alongside others in their spiritual journey.
- The senior pastor must have a strong commitment to the expositional preaching of the Word of God with relevance and vibrancy, can effectively reach out to community innovatively, including through our recreation center.
- The senior pastor will work collaboratively and effectively at all levels of the church: with our wonderful Board of Trustees, our Elders, our ministry leadership teams and the congregation as a whole. Our church is extremely relational; the expectation is that our new pastor will love people and have a desire to shepherd them well.
Qualifications of our new Senior Pastor:
- The senior pastor will have a demonstrated record of strong leadership. They will have a performance history of working successfully with superiors, boards, other leaders and subordinates/volunteers.
- While education is important and we would like to see a bachelor’s degree, and master’s level work is desired, a lifetime of growing intimacy with Jesus, personal, exegetical study and the experience of being discipled and discipling others are essential to us.
- The candidate must have five to ten years of experience in church, parachurch, or other ministry with ever increasing responsibility and growth. We are open to a non-vocational person with a business background who has extensive experience in caring for people, leadership and preaching and teaching in
their local church.
- The new pastor must demonstrate and foster the biblical values of grace, humility, hospitality, transparency, and accountability and appreciate humor.
- Above all things, the new pastor must know that they are called to lead Messiah and embrace its current vision, while also envisioning the future, firmly rooted in the conviction that with God all things are truly possible. They must also possess a worldview, theological doctrine, and core values (we call them
our Stakes in the Ground) that matches those held by Messiah.
Find more about Messiah and view our Pastoral Search Video:
If you think you could make an impact on the kingdom through Messiah, please submit a cover letter and your resume (nothing else, please) to us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Linda Littell, Search Committee, Messiah Christian Church, P.O. Box 526, Wells, Maine 04090.
About NETWORK: A national network of social justice advocates – and the organization behind Nuns on the Bus – NETWORK educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation. Founded in 1971 by Catholic sisters in the progressive spirit of Vatican II, NETWORK works to build anew to dismantle systemic racism and shape a society and economy of inclusion. We value women’s leadership, we appreciate people from religious and secular backgrounds, we affirm members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we engage in the ongoing work to become a multicultural anti-racist organization.
NETWORK is accepting applications for the following positions.
Content and Editorial Manager
Start Date: July 2021 (remotely until safe to be in the office)
Permanent, Full-Time, Based in D.C.| $62,000, plus generous benefits
Start Date: July 2021 | $55,000, plus generous benefits
Permanent, Full-Time, Based in D.C./Open to Remote
Click on the job titles to read the full job descriptions and application information.