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United Theological Seminary Launches Urban Ministry Initiative

Dayton, OH (PRWEB) April 29, 2013

United Theological Seminary (United) President Wendy Deichmann announced new plans for an initiative that will help to renew, rehabilitate and redevelop communities through urban ministry education.

The project includes a partnership with the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC). The Conference and Dayton First UMC congregation have gifted to the seminary the property at 1516 Salem Ave. that belonged previously to First UMC. The First UMC congregation has dwindled in size and is sharing space with another church, but wanted to see the massive building continue to serve the purposes of ministry in the DaytonView area.

The gift is of historic significance in that the seminary was founded in 1871 by Bishop Milton Wright, the father of Wilbur, Orville and Katharine Wright, all active members of the congregation that later became known as First UMC. Though its ownership is being transferred, the historic property is “staying in the family,” said Rev. Chris Heckaman, UMC Miami Valley District Superintendent.

The old First UMC building and several neighboring houses will be renovated to provide apartments for approximately 30 seminary students, as well as larger gathering areas and meeting rooms. The sanctuaries will be refurbished and used for worship and other events. United will invest up to $3.5 million in the DaytonView initiative over the next 3-5 years. While much of the cost will be related to student housing, the United’s Center for Urban Ministry and several other offices will also be housed in the DaytonView church building.

“As a result of United’s growth in recent years, the need for more space became apparent. This gift of property and partnership with the Conference is perfectly timed,” said President Deichmann. “Our growth has also made it possible for United to invest deeply in the community. We look forward to seeing our students learn about urban ministry in association with other churches in the community, throughout Dayton and beyond.”

United is committed to preparing its students to become church leaders who will serve not only as pastors, but also as constructive change agents for renewal and community development. The DaytonView initiative will provide students with an urban laboratory in which they can live, learn and serve in association with other residents and with local church and community leaders.

In addition to the church building, several nearby houses will be remodeled for student housing. The seminary’s Contextual Education and Urban Ministry programs will provide the organizational structure for the students’ work.

The Center for Urban Ministry will also function as a resource for neighboring ministries, according to Dr. Felicia LaBoy, the Center’s director.

“It is our hope and prayer that both the community and the seminary will benefit from this educational partnership,” she stated.

“The City of Dayton is thrilled to have United Theological Seminary committed to the Dayton View neighborhood. The United Methodist Church is very active in this area of the city, and the new efforts from United will help to further revitalize the neighborhood,” said Max Fuller, the President’s Assistant for the DaytonView initiative.

“This is a special calling,” explained President Deichmann. “At United Theological Seminary our mission is to recruit and educate faithful leaders for the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. What better way to accomplish this mission than to place students who will be the next generation of church leaders into communities like DaytonView, in ministries where they will help to bring both spiritual and practical renewal? The students in the DaytonView community will be well-educated in both theology and practice, learning from both world-class professors and other faithful leaders who are already serving as constructive change agents in the community.”

The transfer of the DaytonView First UMC properties began in November and is in process. Last fall, volunteers from Faith UMC in Xenia, Ohio, began refurbishing one of the properties that will house students, and architectural drawings are being completed for renovations to the church building. Fundraising for the project is part of a larger Capital Campaign that the seminary will announce in the summer. The seminary’s goal is to have students occupying its DaytonView housing in fall 2014. See for more information.

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United Theological Seminary, now in its 142nd year, is one of the fastest growing theological schools in the United States. United offers accredited, innovative graduate and non-degree education programs for both clergy and laity.

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