August | 1001 Worshiping Communities
A partnership between seminaries in Atlanta is helping create a new faith community.
By Sara Hayden
Graduates of two Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminaries—Columbia and Johnson C. Smith—located in one of North America’s most diverse cities have teamed up with church planters to create a new multicultural worshiping community in Atlanta. They are calling it “Pulse.”
Discernment for Pulse began in the summer of 2012. A group of lay leaders and recent seminary graduates—in their 20s and 30s—began meeting weekly to envision the church of their dreams: a relevant and inclusive community shaping a new generation of leaders. This church wouldn’t have all the answers, but it would listen.
“They wanted to grow as disciples of Jesus,” says Neema Cyrus-Franklin, who helped lead these young adults in prayer and discernment. “They wanted to be molded by the all-engaging love of God, so that they could live out their spiritual values.”
They named those values communal connectedness, authentic and holistic worship, radical generosity, and contagious hospitality. “We were praying for this new faith community to be engaged in mission,” adds Billy Honor, pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church and coleader of the Pulse team. “Seminaries helped us to think not only about how we grow churches well but how we grow and save our communities.”
The partnership with the two seminaries—and their arsenal of innovative thinking—just made sense. “What an opportunity for us to model how institutions like ours can come alongside projects like this,” says Monica Wedlock, director of admissions and recruitment at Columbia Theological Seminary. “As new and wonderful things happen in these kinds of emerging faith communities, new and wonderful things also happen in our education system.”
“The church is changing, and God is doing something thrilling among us,” adds Paul J. Roberts, president of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary. “People are being drawn to Pulse because they are beginning to see that Presbyterianism doesn’t have to look a certain way.”
But they’re not sure yet what Pulse is going to look like. To figure that out, they are following a model recommended by many church planters: secure and invest in strong and visionary leadership—a core team that will mold the church into who God is calling it to become.
“What makes me most excited about Pulse is the presence of the Holy Spirit,” says elder Toni Griffin-Fields. Even though they don’t have a building, pastor, or small group yet, people praying for Pulse Church sense God moving them to create this new worshiping community in Atlanta’s West Midtown. It is a diverse city within a city, an enclave of artists and entrepreneurs.
There Pulse hopes to participate in the creative center of the city by putting Christ-inspired creativity and diversity on display. They hope to see the city of Atlanta live out the gospel of Christ by connecting to the pulse of God and to the pulse of the community. After all, it is in the city’s welfare that God’s people find their shalom.
Sara Hayden is the executive director of the New Church Development Commission, based in Atlanta. You can connect to the NCDC and learn more about church planting by visiting tpncdc.org or facebook.com/tpncdc.
Watch video stories on how Presbyterian seminaries prepare transformative leaders, at youtube.com/pcusaseminaries.
If you are part of a new worshiping community or know of one in your area, please make sure it is registered at OneThousandOne.org. This website is a great place for innovative people to connect with and support each other. Who knows how your story may inspire someone else to try a new thing. Registering is simple—just click “Register” at the top of the screen. Once there, be sure to check out other stories, videos, and resources.