City Mission’s Urban Pastoral Ministry Program is a two year residency for recent seminary graduates who are called to ordained urban ministry. The residents are placed in one of the four Boston partner churches and have the opportunity to gain experience in worship, administration, outreach in an urban congregation, mentorship from experienced ministers, and opportunities for leadership.
Meet Debbie Duval, our UPMP Pastoral Resident at Fourth Presbyterian Church, South Boston.
Q: Tell us your call to pastoral ministry.
Debbie: Throughout my long career in property management, I had a deep involvement in both the UCC church and in Star Island Corp. (a religious education and retreat center that upholds both UCC and UU principles) and their ministries. During those years, I experienced a holy wrestling, or a whisper, that God was calling me to do something more in my vocational life. About five years ago, I finally began to listen more closely to that whisper and with the guidance of many pastors, the prayers of my church family, the love and support of my nuclear and extended family, and lots of discernment between God and me, I enrolled in classes at Andover Newton Theological School. It was there that I quickly confirmed that God was calling me to pastoral ministry.
Q: How is UPMP an important part of your journey?
Debbie: Though my path toward ordained ministry began fairly recently, I believe that I have been preparing for urban pastoral ministry for most of my adult life. My career in property management started as a Resident Manager in a small apartment building in downtown Framingham. Over the years I have worked with families with Section 8 housing certificates, WIC and other assistance programs. I did my field education in Worcester working as a Student Pastor at Worcester United, a diverse and small but mighty local urban church and also ministered to the unhoused population of Worcester through Worcester Fellowship. I believe that my time in the UPMP will continue to shape and sharpen my call to urban ministry, and am excited to see how God's light will shine through me and my fellow residents in these next two years.
Q: What is unique about the community you are serving at your resident church?
Debbie: I am really just beginning to learn about Fourth Presbyterian and all of its gifts and amazing ministries. Our website says that we are a "place and people that are committed to loving God through worship and service" and in the short time that I have been there, I know this to be true. Fourth Pres is a place that deeply cares about its members, its neighbors and the world as a whole. The Summer Meals Program offers both "food and fun" for six weeks to the children of the neighborhood, the Peace by Piece program offers post traumatic healing through the sharing of a meal, music and word. There is also a Food Pantry and so much more! There are weekly potlucks, lively worship services and lots of opportunity for music and praising God.
Q: What strengths and skills are you bringing to the community?
Debbie: I think I bring a sense of curiosity to my ministry. I am always eager to recognize how God is still speaking to us, and through us, each day and how that can inform who and what we are being called to be in the world. I have an adventurous spirit and love to learn new things. I am a good listener and have strong organizational skills. I am a lover and follower of Jesus and with that comes the joy (and sometimes sorrow) of being a justice seeking disciple.
Q: What issues face the urban communities you serve, and how do you hope to make a positive impact during your residency?
Debbie: Gentrification and cultural displacement are both issues in South Boston as they are in many major cities in the country. The importance of continuing to ensure affordable housing is very important and something I would like to be more involved in. Also, the continued need to grow and maintain a secure food community.
Q: What program at City Mission Boston is the most meaningful to you and how do you see it benefiting the community you are working with as a UPMP resident?
Debbie: I am interested in all of the programs that City Mission Boston offers so it is hard to choose! With that said, I am excited to work more closely with the "A Lift Up" Program and see how my knowledge as a former property management professional can be useful. I am also interested in learning more about the advocacy side of City Mission and how I can add my voice to the voice of others in helping to pass legislation that will prevent homelessness. I am also eager to participate in conversations that look at achieving racial reconciliation and examining system injustices. I am specifically interested in looking at the impact that pilgrimages such as the recent one to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice can have on our communities.