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James Armes

Memphis Internship '09

The Turner Center for Church Leadership partners with both the Tennessee Conference and the Memphis Conference in seeking to provide opportunities for leadership training and support for clergy and lay leaders. Since its inception in 2007, Dr. Meeks, Cal Turner and others have been in conversation with leaders in Memphis to explore ways to establish a new program that focuses on leadership in the urban context of the city of Memphis. These conversations bore new fruit this summer with the establishment of the first Memphis Urban Immersion for Turner Leadership Scholars. This seven week intensive experience has offered seminary students the opportunity to learn about "asset-focused servant leadership" in specific communities in Memphis. The immersion experience has been guided by leaders from the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System and its Congregational Health Network along with pastors and lay leaders involved with the Memphis School of Servant Leadership and the Shalom Communities Initiative.

The following account comes from James Armes, one of the students participating in the immersion, who will enter Vanderbilt Divinity School in August as a first year Turner Leadership Scholar.

After speaking to Dr. Meeks on the phone regarding a servant leader internship that was brought to fruition in just a few short weeks, my skepticism came to the forefront. However, this Servant Leader Internship, that has been made possible by the Turner Center for Leadership, has far exceeded my expectations. As I have often heard, Memphis is a city interwoven with hopelessness, despair, and iniquity. However, I have seen God’s Grace being implemented throughout this city by amazingly wonderful individuals and organizations. These agents of hope are truly walking in the path that Jesus Christ created for us to follow. They are battling poverty, homelessness, lack of healthcare, and many other horrible problems with great success.

Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” These amazing individuals and organizations are not just stepping up and serving, but they are also personifying the Body of Christ with an unequivocal spirit of giving. These groups are creating a significant difference throughout Memphis by committing their lives to service over self. In addition, they are focusing on assets, not problems, in communities and facilitating positive growth within these communities by using these assets.

This Servant Leader Internship has afforded me the opportunity to participate in many wonderful organizations and witness the operating structure from the inside out, which has permitted me to gain an improved understanding of the meaning of servant leadership. Furthermore, through this internship, I have been given many valuable gifts and resources that will benefit my future ministry. Most importantly, the internship has reaffirmed my belief that servant leadership is not sacrificing your life to serve people, but making your life about serving people, and the rewards of that life are immeasurable.

James Armes