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The Rev. Dr. Gregory Ellison, one of the keynoters for the 1001 New Worshiping Communities and Vital Congregations national gathering October, remembers how he felt in the midst of a media firestorm six years ago.
LOUISVILLE — Traci Canterbury has found a spiritual home and a willing and able partner in The Fellowship Place in Charlotte, N.C. The Fellowship Place is one of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities and recently accepted the Matthew 25 invitation.
For 15 years, Canterbury has managed the Southern Comfort Inn, an extended-stay residence for about 300 people, including 80 children. Residents are low-income or are on a fixed income.
“They have been doing a lot of work here for the past few years, but this year they have stepped it up. They’re such a blessing to the residents here,” Canterbury said of The Fellowship Place, which has about 70 members. “They are the most generous church I have seen. They are so loving that you feel right at home.”
The Fellowship Place is in fact so welcoming, she said, that she started worshiping there in April.
“There’s a reason we have that name,” said Patricia Franks, clerk of session at The Fellowship Place. The ministry’s logo features a lower-case “t” and “p” but a capital “f.”
“That’s intentional,” she said. “It’s the fellowship and the hospitality. That’s what people always say about us.”
The Fellowship Place was a ministry placed in Charlotte’s West Corridor. But it had to move when the building it was renting was no longer available, Franks said. Now The Fellowship Place nests in another church in what Franks called “a more affluent section” of the community, but “we come back to the west side again and again for mission work.”
The partnership began four years ago when members of The Fellowship Place delivered Thanksgiving meals to Southern Comfort Inn residents. That’s grown to include drives to collect food and personal care items and help navigating the school system as well as guidance with resume preparation and help styling the hair of Southern Comfort Inn’s younger residents. That final outreach is one of the most popular services offered.
“It’s things we don’t even think about,” Franks said, adding that church members partner with stylists to offer residents haircare services. “A hairdo is way down on people’s list.”
Soon church members plan on putting on a Bible study at the Southern Comfort Inn.
“We are big on not imposing what we think people need,” Franks said. “We’ve learned we have to ask people what their needs are.” Services that came out of that ask-first approach include resume writing and help navigating the local school system for people experiencing homelessness. The Fellowship Place is also scouting out a van to purchase to transport residents who want to worship over to the church.
The Bible study will be on “a subject of interest” to residents, Franks predicted.
“Where they take you, you have to go,” she said. “I imagine they will say, ‘You know, Lord, I worked hard. I had a little bad luck and look where it has landed me. Why me, God?”
Outreach efforts made to residents of the Southern Comfort Inn come about “because we are built that way,” says The Fellowship Place pastor the Rev. Dr. Michael Robinson.
“It’s mandated by Jesus Christ, and doing mission beyond the walls of the church excites people,” he said. “It brings together the church and the community, and it introduces people to something they couldn’t do without Jesus Christ.”
“We go out of our way to welcome strangers,” he added. “People come here and tell us they can’t believe the hospitality, from the parking lot to the pew. We sow the love of Christ no matter who you are or what you’ve done. We have found the sweet spot (at the Southern Comfort Inn) because we are all the Lord’s children. We embrace that.”
On The Way Church, a Spanish-speaking multicultural 1001 new worshiping community in Atlanta, is holding a “Pray for Venezuela” day on June 9 for those impacted by that country’s worsening economic and political crisis.
Beth McCaw didn’t know what she was getting into when she first heard God’s call to start a 1001 new worshiping community. As a social worker, she was a long way from the challenges she would face in launching a new faith community.
As the team tore down the last of the vines covering the garden gates, Young Adult Volunteer Regi Jones realized they had just helped to unwrap the gift of Okra Abbey for the Pigeon Town neighborhood in New Orleans.
Heritage Presbyterian Church in Muskego, Wis. has a resurrection story to tell.At the beginning it might sound familiar to many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations. The membership was graying and in decline. Of the 100 members on the rolls, between 30-40 came to worship.In 2015, the Rev. Michelle Henrichs joined them, providing pulpit supply for five months. Ordained, and trained as a new worshiping community leader, she began asking members of the congregation, “When were you were most energetic and excited about church?”Their most common answer: “When we were raising our children.”
The Presbyterian Mission Agency recently approved 12 mission programs grants on a diverse range of 1001 new worshiping communities.
New Creation Presbyterian Church, a 1001 New Worshiping Community in Hendersonville, Tenn. that became an official PC(USA) chartered congregation last year, has been a named as a winner of a $50,000 2019 Sam and Helen R. Walton award.
As an actively anti-racist church organizer of The Open Table KC, Nick Pickrell says it’s important for the 1001 new worship community he founded to bring in “more people of color than white folks” to speak during their twice-per -month Sunday night gatherings.
Members of the Moving Forward Implementation Commission learned Monday why they’d been selected by the women who picked them for service — the co-moderators of the 223rd General Assembly, Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann.