Imagery of Regent people and campus

YURC Develops Urban Residency with Norfolk Church

By Amanda Morad | September 26, 2012

Wells, Mazzola and Duckett with School of Divinity Dean Palmer in front of the Northminster House at First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk.

The historic neighborhood of Ghent in Norfolk, Va., is often thought of as the urbane metropolitan center of the city, where coffee shops and art galleries line the street and attract upper middle class patrons. But several Regent University students are finding out there's more to the area than posh shops and old brick homes.

Through the Youth and Urban Renewal Center (YURC) in the School of Divinity and First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk (FPC), Samantha Mazzola, Lonnie Duckett, and William Wells are piloting the Urban Ministry Residency Program (UMRP). Its purpose is to provide selected divinity students with 12 months of hands-on experience in an urban area.

"We want to ignite and equip students who sense a divine calling for urban pastoral work to lead in urban transformation and to do so from a theologically informed perspective that is distinctively Christian," said Dr. Antipas Harris, director of YURC and assistant professor in the School of Divinity.

In August, Mazzola, Duckett and Wells became residents of the Northminster House on the campus of FPC. At the end of this pilot year, each student will have earned a Certificate in Urban Ministry to complement their current degree program in the School of Divinity.

"There are always challenges in new ministry, but we're making connections and it's been awesome," said Wells. "We're all doing different projects, but it's all the same ministry."

Each student has a different area of focus and serves different outreach programs of the church. They also receive personal one-on-one mentorship with FPC's pastor, Jim Wood. "The students are already jumping in and getting involved," said Wood. "We're not trying to get them to just do our bidding but to help equip them for their own ministry callings."

In addition to the residency program, FPC also hosts an urban church plant twice a month on Saturday nights called Circle of Grace Fellowship, more endearingly by those who attend, "Circle Church." YURC initiated the plant in March. Its congregation comes from throughout Norfolk, including the Union Mission and Crisis Pregnancy Center. Regent students also attend and participate in worship, preaching and prayer ministry.

Between the church plant and the residency program, YURC and FPC have big plans for the urban community in Norfolk.

"It's a laboratory for students to get hands-on experience in ministry and in the process, effectuate change in our community," said Harris.

Wood agreed. "We think this partnership has the potential to be something really substantial for the church and the Norfolk community."

Learn more about YURC.


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