July | 1001 Worshiping Communities
Ignoring the naysayers
Despite warnings, congregation thrives by serving the dechurched.
By Paul Seebeck
Imagine that you feel a call to create space devoted to reconciling relationships. Now imagine that you feel a call to accomplish that in one of the biggest cities in the nation.
That’s where Nick Warnes, an ordained teaching elder, and his wife, Whitney Warnes, found themselves as members of Glendale Presbyterian Church, just north of Los Angeles. In seeking God’s will for their lives, they sensed that God was calling them to create space for reconciling relationships in northeastern Los Angeles.
They certainly had their work cut out for them. The neighborhood was composed primarily of dechurched people. Many people told them they would not be welcome there.
But God had other ideas.
The Holy Spirit led them to get involved in the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement as the best way to accomplish their mission. From the beginning, their parent church and the Presbytery of San Fernando supported that mission, and coaches from the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s 1001 movement provided training.
That groundwork paid off in 2010, when they opened their doors as Northland Village Church, one of 40 congregations the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) started that year.
From the beginning, they realized that many people in the neighborhood were concerned about justice. One issue, for instance, was inequitable funding for schools in the neighborhood. So they created a mechanism where computers and money could be donated to the schools that were receiving inadequate funding.
Since then, with help that included a $25,000 Mission Program grant from Evangelism and Church Growth, Northland has launched or helped launch four other worshiping communities:
New Abbey began in a coffee shop in Pasadena and recently started another worshiping community, known as the Azusa Gathering, which meets near Azusa Pacific University in northern Los Angeles County.
Level Ground in Los Angeles is focusing on creating spaces of reconciliation and conversation at the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.
Remix, made up of a diverse group of artists from North Hollywood, focuses on sharing God’s story through the work they create.
And another new worshiping community in Oakland is launching its ministry from a historic theater.
Nothing excites Nick and Whitney Warnes more at Northland than this movement of God. All are welcomed into this ancient practice of starting new communities. Nick and Whitney Warnes are not, they say, experts in the field of church planting. They are simply everyday people who have made a commitment to the 1001 movement. Everyone can do this work.
Thus, the natural question is: When are you going to start your first new worshiping community?
Paul Seebeck is a communication strategist with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Presbyterians Today thanks Nick and Whitney Warnes for their contributions.
- Watch Northland’s video about starting worshiping communities: youtube.com/1001newworshiping (click on the 1001 NWC Video Contest Entries playlist and scroll to the 10th video, “NVC New Worshiping Communities”).
- Read Nick Warnes’s new book, Starting Missional Churches: Life with God in the Neighborhood, scheduled to be released this September.
- For more about the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement and to get involved: onethousandone.org
- To help support ministries like Northland’s: pcusa.org/donate (search for 1001)