Every morning over a million commuters make their way into the city of Boston to work, and before the end of the day this same number hurry to beat the traffic out of town. Since January 2002 the Gordon in Boston semester program in urban studies has led the way for Gordon College to make a permanent return to its roots in Boston.
One of my greatest joys as director of Gordon in Boston is developing the programs and relationships that define what it means to be in Boston. For over 20 years as an urban pastor in Boston, I have learned the importance of being present for the needs of people in our community. Gordon College has made a commitment to have a consistent presence in Boston by making a way for urban semester program students to live together in an intentional community; they are part of the urban ministries of the Salvation Army’s Jubilee House and the historic Second Church, both in Boston’s largest inner-city neighborhood of Dorchester.
Each of these students weekly volunteers among the outreach ministries of these churches as well as engages in their career path through professional internships throughout the city. Internships range from working at the Boston Ballet to Fidelity Investments, from the State Senate Chambers to Community Health Centers, and as advocates at Oxfam America to Boston Public Schools. In its first six years Gordon in Boston students have served over 14,000 hours in over 100 different internships. The lead instructor for the Gordon in Boston’s Urban Studies course is Professor Larry Mayes, chief of Health and Human Services for the City of Boston. Professor Mayes’ Boston City Hall office is next to Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Each semester he utilizes the urban semester students to develop community partners as they complete neighborhood analysis projects. One year their research discovered a grant that resulted in a million dollars for community youth programs!
Gordon is also in Boston through its annual sponsorship of the Urban Youth Leaders Institute’s RELOAD urban youth pastors’ conference. Last year this one day of training brought together over 200 youth leaders from urban centers throughout New England and New York. This effort has helped support the growth of the citywide urban youth network program NeXus, a partnership that gives Gordon the opportunity to share its commitment to urban youth through its Clarendon Scholars full-tuition scholarship program for urban students.
Another way Gordon encourages urban high school students is by bringing the National Christian College Fair to Boston. Some 35 Christian colleges sent their admissions counselors to the first fair of its kind in Boston, and for so many of these schools it was their first time in Boston. What a wonderful opportunity it was to share Gordon with many young people desiring to study at a Christian college.
Finally, Gordon in Boston has coordinated opportunities for Gordon’s Center for Christian Studies (CCS) to partner with the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston to minister to the hardworking urban pastors in Boston. In fall 2006 Dan Russ, director of CCS, invited a gathering of pastors to travel to Wenham to attend the opening lecture for the Race Matters conference with Dr. Cornel West. Next year the CCS will host several urban roundtable discussions with national speakers
The roots of Gordon College have not only been reconnected but are growing deep into the city of Boston.