In the summer of 1996 I began attending a summer day camp called the Summer Meals Program. It was at this tiny little Not-catholic church in my neighborhood, Fourth Presbyterian Church. Prior to coming to this camp I didn’t really ever do church, it was something that simply wasn’t in my family’s life (I still believe it had something to do with the Boston priest sex scandals, but I digress). I came home from camp and told my Dad about everything that happens at camp and I told him about Pastor Burns. My Dad informed that I could not call a pastor by his first name. You’re supposed to call them “pastor so-and-so”, to which I promptly responded, “No, his name is Pastor Burns. That is what everyone calls him.” By the end of the summer, I got my father to come to church on a Sunday and he got to see all that I was talking about. He got to meet this amazing Pastor I was talking about.
My dad and I came back week after week and he eventually joined the church. We fell in love. Summer after Summer I went back to the Summer Meals Program. Someone once joked that I was the poster child for Fourth. I started coming through the SMP, which was set up so that kids from low income neighborhoods would have breakfast and lunch during the summer. One summer, a new program was started, an extended day program called Mazemakers and I was the first one there. I went from being a camper to a teen helper and then a Shepherd (counselor). I was in countless plays, took piano lessons, guitar lessons, painting classes, and was a part of the homework help program and an active member of the youth group. Anything that was offered, I participated. Church was the first place I felt at home and it was my safety net.
When I was in 8th and 9th grade my life was pretty much in shambles. I had returned to Massachusetts the day before school started, having fled to Ohio for the summer to live with my aunt’s family after my mom left, and I had nowhere to live. Pastor Burns (who had evolved into simply Burns) and his family welcomed me into their home and I stayed there for months. The following year was difficult because of an intervention and my Dad subsequently going to rehab. Burns, his family, and my church family were there for me every step of the way.
Fourth Presbyterian Church is an amazing church. It is a medium sized church (of a little over 100 members) from all kinds of backgrounds. The members represent many different cultures and age groups. It is located in a low income neighborhood (with a lot of unfortunate problems like violence).The church is actively involved in all kinds of social justice work. This is the kind of church I want to work in when I’m done with seminary. Burns was one of the huge reasons why I decided to go to Seminary in the first place. After spending years of watching how he changed and grew the church and how he led them is a great inspiration. Burns is an amazing Pastor, Leader and Teacher. He recently celebrated twenty years of Pastoring Fourth and has touched so many lives over those twenty years.