City Mission’s Urban Pastoral Ministry Program (UPMP) is a two year residency for recent seminary graduates who are called to ordained urban ministry. The residents are placed in one of 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 Jamie Mangiameli, UPMP resident at Bethel AME/New Roots AME.
Q: Tell us (briefly) your call to pastoral ministry.
Jamie: God’s call in my life has been persistent and unyielding, disruptive and unexpected. Though my experiences with church have not always been pleasant or encouraging, I am consistently drawn to the grounding peace of God - a metronome to the song of my heartbeat. This, I believe, is my calling: to be a beacon of Christ’s hope for the world. A world that is conditioned to hide, bury, build walls, armor up, rather than peel back, open up, bloom into the beautiful realities of our particularities. For this is where God’s fullness might be revealed, through each and everyone of us.
Unfortunately, that call feels incomplete in and of itself. The politically, economically and socially hostile environment perpetuated by a system stained with imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, etc.. creates physical and systemic barriers to human flourishing. Pastoral ministry must never be connected from the physical realities of this world. If I am called to a beacon of Christ’s hope in the world, it is not only to plan worship, write sermons and coordinate programs that communicate God’s love within the walls of the church. My calling is to dissolve even the church walls as a barrier between what is seen as sacred and profane, to complicate what and who is defined as the church, to embody hope in a way that transcends traditional conceptions of church, while honoring the power of the church as an institution with potential and promise.
Q: How is UPMP an important part of your journey?
Jamie: It is impossible to imagine the magnitude of influence the Urban Pastoral Ministry Program will have on my spiritual and professional formation. The model of mentorship and the posture of intentionality, creativity and exploration are already causing me to pause and wonder bigger about the potential of urban ministries. UPMP is an invitation to dig deep roots into our communities, to notice where our communities are flourishing, to engage in conversation and action surrounding the injustices pressing on our communities.This program allows me to live into my calling, to announce that the church is not hidden behind four walls. Finally, the four churches participating in UPMP demonstrates that ministry, even within the same city, is different in denomination, building, leadership style, service structure, theological convictions, etc.
Q: What is unique about the community you are serving at your resident church?
Jamie: New Roots AME is a unique church in many ways. Less than one year old, New Roots AME aims to rethink what church can be. Our weekly service takes place on Sundays at 2pm at The Epiphany School in Dorchester. The fact that we meet outside of a traditional church building is symbolic of the creative and question-asking way our congregation participates in worship. New Roots AME services include time for dialogue, creative expression, and a particular commitment to creating space for those of us who have not yet settled into a spiritual home, those of us who have been pushed out of our churches, those of us who have more questions than answers.
Q: What strengths and skills are you bringing to the community?
Jamie: Prior to moving to Boston for graduate school, I worked at two different music venues in the Chicagoland area. These professional adventures in particular have greatly influenced my understanding of hospitality and collective experiences, especially in relation to the church. Although I do not often classify myself as an artist, I do believe I move through the world as a creative. A creative posture is important in pastoral ministry because it allows one to not only challenge the way things have always been done, but it allows for flexibility and fluidity when dreaming new possibilities for the church. Beyond my professional experience and creative posture, I consider my identity as a queer person to be a strength in this work because my personal story and experiences with the church continually soften my heart and lead me to ask the questions: Who is the church pushing out? Who is not included in this conversation? Does what we are doing communicate that truly all are welcome here?
Q: What issues face the urban communities you serve, and how do you hope to make a positive impact during your residency?
Jamie: Although I have only been with New Roots AME for a short time, two particular issues have come up several times: Boston’s housing crisis and inadequate public transportation (specifically the Red Line). The lack of affordable housing in Boston is an issue facing communities all across the city, especially in neighborhoods experiencing the detrimental effects of gentrification, like Dorchester. Our church meets at The Epiphany School, which is right next to the Shawmut station on the Red Line to Ashmont. Just last week, one of our regular congregants was unable to make it to service because the Red Line was so massively delayed and Red Line service is so unreliable. Over the next two years I hope to continue to be in conversation with my New Roots, to listen deeply and to creatively and collectively mobilize where and when the community feels called.
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?
Jamie: I am impressed with the model and execution of City Mission Boston’s A Lift Up program. The emphasis on peer support, resource awareness and education/advocacy is crucial. The program highlights the strengths and capacity of the participants, which directly challenges structures that perpetuate false narratives. Although I am not sure that any of the members of New Roots AME will directly participate in this program, I believe this mindful model will deeply influence my ministerial posture over the next two years.