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Vital Congregations Quarterly Newsletter

 

Inside this Issue

The Initiative | Vital Reflections | Vital Conversations |Show Your Marks | Community Connections

The Initiative

Vital Congregations Initiative 4th Wave, January 2022

The Office of Vital Congregations has officially begun taking applications for the 4th Wave of the Vital Congregations Initiative!
Applications will be accepted from presbyteries and individual churches for a virtual
through November 15, 2021.

4th Wave Application

The Office of Vital Congregations will prayerfully discern a cohort of 10 PRESBYTERIES and 10 CHURCHES (which will form one “virtual” presbytery) to begin this journey in January of 2022. This maximum number of presbyteries and churches ensures that we are able to honor intentional covenantal relationships and the needs of each particular presbytery and church.

The Preparation and Vision Sharing Year is set to begin in the Spring of 2022!

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Vital Reflections

Reflection from Mission Specialist, Marla Edwards
Essential workers have become the rave over the last fifteen months. And for good reason! How would we have survived during the pandemic? What would we have done without these committed and caring individuals who provided service to the rest of us even at the risk of their own lives? I dare to say that our communities would not have survived without them. I ask again, what would we have done without doctors and nurses, bus drivers, grocery store cashiers and stock clerks, the order taker at the drive-thru window at fast-food restaurants? What about the coroner who zipped countless body bags of those who succumbed to the virus or any front-line worker who sacrificed their safety and perhaps the safety of loved ones using gloves, masks, and bottles of hand sanitizer to avoid any traces of the coronavirus? What would we have done?

This pandemic has certainly put into perspective the definition of an essential worker. According to the U.S Department of Homeland Security, essential workers are those workers who engage in a wide range of operations and services integral to maintaining critical infrastructure like food and healthcare. But didn’t you find in the middle of this crisis that you needed more than an essential worker? More than even what was necessary for your survival. At times, you needed a friend.

Although I may have overlooked it, I have not seen “friend” on any of the “essential” lists. Yet, friends may have been most important to our survival – the ultimate essential worker – filling in the empty places in our hearts with hope, laughter, tears, and joy when we needed it most.

Last week, I finally got to meet face-to-face with a friend that I had not physically “seen” for two years. I could not help my enthusiasm! I literally threw my belongings on the restaurant table to embrace her. We cried “ugly tears” at our initial contact and then sat for hours just catching up. We rejoiced in amazement for the miracles God had provided during our time apart and shed tears for friends and family we had lost to the virus. Although we found ways to connect by phone, text, emails, and FaceTime, being together certainly exceeded our expectations. Physical distance kept the virus at bay but finding ways to stay connected to friends helped us maintain our emotional and spiritual health.

The things we need come in all forms and our essential workers have provided them, haven’t they? Food, medical care, educational experiences…. A hug, a note of encouragement, a socially distanced smile, a phone call, a trip to the grocery store, homemade meals left on our front porches.

“…there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24, KJV)

Essential workers have embraced Jesus’ vision of feeding those in need whether they were hungry in body or spirit; building community no matter the race, color, or creed; and embracing the need for vitality in every area of our lives. If you are an essential worker, thank you. I pray that we all become friends like you.

Vital Conversations On Facebook Live

Join us each week for our live panel discussion series that we’ve named Vital Conversations! This year, we are excited to do our weekly Vital Conversations in partnership with 1001 New Worshipping Communities!
For 8 weeks, beginning Wednesday, July 28th at 2:00PM EST, we will engage leaders from around the country in conversations about how our legacy congregations and our new worshipping communities have embraced the 7 Marks of Vitality. We will begin with the mark of Spirit-Inspired Worship and share with you in a time of online reflection, lament and celebration. Other planned topics include Caring for Mental Health for Church Leaders and Evangelism in the Online and Hybrid World.

Please use the following link to meet us in worship on Wednesday, July 28th at 2:00PM EST.

Like us on Facebook to receive updates. We look forward to seeing you in worship!

Show Your Marks

Thank you to Rev. John Murphy and Mission Woods Church of Olympia Presbytery for sharing this photo taken during Lent and “showing your marks.” Rev. Murphy said, “This is our communion table…. Still there even after COVID.” The Seven Marks were used as a sermon series and each candle was lit along the way offering light and hope in an unprecedented time.

Community Connections

Urban Presbytery Network

The Urban Presbytery Network is looking forward to meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina during the summer of 2022.

A cohort of over 30 “urban-centric” presbyteries, the goal of the Urban Presbytery Network is to sustain, inspire, and empower leaders of Christ’s Church, called to meet the needs in urban contexts. We hope to glean and learn from one another; to prayerfully see the needs and offer ourselves in service more and more to God’s mission. Through monthly meetings and in-person gatherings we hope to contribute to the growth of each presbytery and its leadership according to God’s will for them.

For in-person gatherings, such as the one we will attend next summer, we will bring in speakers from civic organizations, religious leaders, and secular community leaders to help give voice, history, and context to the ministry being done in the selected urban area. The gatherings will also include open panel dialogue, mission site visits, fellowship, and more.   We are so exited!!!  Charlotte, here we come!!!

Look for details on the 2022 Gathering in the coming months. For more information about joining the Urban Presbytery Network, email us at vitalcongregations@pcusa.org.