1001 New Worshiping Community launches in rural Virginia

Outreach is housed in manse next to church that closed two years ago

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LUCKETTS, Va. – Lucketts is not a place that has diners or coffee shops. The one restaurant in this small town in the food and wine country of rural Virginia is closed on Mondays.

That gave Gary Mears, leader of a new worshiping community lauched by National Capital Presbytery, an idea.

“During the summer we started Food Truck Mondays,” said Mears, who is lead missionary for The Porch at Faith Chapel. “We hired a food truck to come out and park in the parking lot of the old church, which closed two years ago.”

People began to come for food, or because they wanted to meet the “new guy.” They stayed because they didn’t know each other.

“They’d find themselves sitting across the table from their neighbor, and you’d hear conversations,” Mears said, “like, ‘oh, you live down the street from me; it’s a shame we haven’t met.’ Food Truck Mondays were a pure hospitality ministry.”

As Mears developed relationships around the table, The Porch started Bible Study Thursdays. A group of about 10 people sit around the living room or on the front porch at the manse across from the closed church.

“So often we say to each other, ‘Hey I have questions, I have questions,’” Mears said. “They’re not currently church people, but they did grow up in the church.”

But usually, according to Mears, something happened that pushed them away, or in their experience, got stale, but they want it back. He finds there is a yearning for a return in the hearts of those in the Bible study.

“We’re in the middle of God’s creation,” Mears said. “The pace is slow enough, the evening are quiet enough, that we we can feel God’s presence.”

To Mears, sitting in a circle in the house or on the porch talking about such things and feeling things is as much worship as any worship experience in the most spectacular cathedral.

Eventually, The Porch might worship in the old church building, perhaps by Easter of 2018. But for now Mears will continue to develop relationships at the Bible study and with people in the community who have lived on family farms for generations and with those newly arriving to Lucketts.

“There’s a completely new development coming around Lucketts,” said the Rev. Edwin Andrade, co-pastor at Riverside Presbyterian Church, in Sterling, Virginia. “We think there’s a huge opportunity for us to partner with the presbytery to do ministry together.”

Riverside provides support to The Porch, along with Leesburg and Brambleton Presbyterian churches. Mears, a ruling elder, is now on staff at Riverside as lead missionary for The Porch.

“People are gathering to explore what it means to be in relationship with one another and also in a relationship with Jesus Christ,” says the Rev. Karen Chamis, director of congregational development and mission at National Capital Presbytery. “It’s so exciting, I wish I could clone it.”

“At The Porch,” Mears said, “we do feel God’s presence together.”

The Porch at Faith Chapel is part of the 1001 New Worshiping Community movement in the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.). At the 2012 General Assembly, PC(USA) leaders encouraged Presbyterians to launch 1,001 NWCs by 2022. Currently there are 402 active new worshiping communities across the country.

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