There is no such thing as “urban ministry. There is only the Holy Ministry— that is, the ministry of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
What is the Ministry? It is the greatly-commissioned work of Our Lord’s sent and ordained ministers of the Gospel, among those who have been drawn by the Holy Ghost to the bosom of Mother Church, and among the children of this world who do not yet know Christ. Whether they be within the Church or without her, they are red, yellow, black, and white, and they are precious in His sight. Some are young; some are old. Some are rich; some are poor. Some live in large, comfortable homes that they own on spacious properties out in the countryside; some live in Section-8 housing provided by the government in big cities. Some live in the jungle. Some live in the marsh-prairies. Some are homeless. Some are educated and well-read; others don’t know how to read at all. You are one of them, and so am I.
When my vicarage-supervisor, the Rev’d Charles McClean, ministers to his congregation at Our Saviour Church— standing at the altar and offering prayer, preaching the Word to them, baptizing, giving them the Blessed Sacrament, visiting the homebound, etc.— he is not doing “black ministry”, even though his congregation is mostly black. When my former pastor and dear friend, the Rev’d Christopher Esget down at Immanuel Church in Alexandria, VA, does the same for his congregation every Lord’s Day, he is not doing “white ministry.” When the Rev’d Charles Wildner— one of my heroes here in Baltimore— brought broken souls through the doors of Concordia House, shepherding them out of the darkness of drugs and crime and into the light of Christ, teaching them the Catechism and the liturgy, he was not doing “urban ministry.” When the Rev’d Heath Curtis serves his dual parish out in Worden and Carpenter, IL, stewarding the tradition of Lutheran piety to his people which is familiar, worn, yet ever fresh, he is not doing “rural ministry.”
I’m being a bit hucksterish, of course. All the same, I think that it’s important for us to bear in mind that the relative rurality/urbanity, ethnic makeup, etc., of the setting of a pastor’s ministry does not represent an essential difference between it and that which transpires by God’s grace elsewhere. Pastors must of course pay mind to the uniquenesses and exigencies of their station. So, too, they must recognize that they have different strengths and weaknesses which suit them better to some stations than to others. But the vocation of the pastor is one— that is, it is singular. A pastor is called (and sent) into the one Office of the Holy Ministry. He is not called into the Office of White or Black Ministry, nor is he called into the Office of Urban or Rural Ministry.
There is no vocation to be an “urban minister”, to “urban ministry”, etc. If you are engaged in the work of ministry in an urban setting, your vocation is, presumably, to the Holy Ministry. (NB: If you’re not a minister, then it isn’t ministry— the presumption here is that one is a man who has been duly and legitimately ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry.)
In fine, categorization in the area of ministry is helpful only to a point. But when mere categories ossify into bureaus, departments, task-forces, and commissions, there may be cause for concern. Or so it seems to me.