Training confirms call to ministry of reconciliation
by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – Since 2009, Anna Hackett has been discerning a call to serve women who are recovering from sex trafficking and prostitution. It’s a call that seems obvious to everyone else, she says; yet it’s one she’s questioned, prayed about and tried to accomplish in her own strength for the past seven years.
Hackett started Candela Recovery and Diversion, a movement to get prostitutes in Daytona Beach off the street by giving them choices. The movement includes a 12-step Prostitutes Anonymous support group, a 24/7 help hotline and, though it isn’t a reality yet, a diversion program that would allow criminal charges to be dropped if prostitutes complete a recovery program. Candela means “candle” or “light” in Italian.
Hackett has worked as a college strength coach, training athletes off the field; as a staffer on Capitol Hill; a publicist for the auto racing industry; and as a forensic psychology consultant. Wherever she’s lived—Arizona, Washington, D.C., Florida and elsewhere—the idea to help those recovering from sexual exploitation has resurfaced, like a raging fire that refuses to be extinguished.
“I guess I can own this call,” she says. “Though, it’s a leap of faith to even say ‘yes’ to that.”
The Rev. Calvin Gittner of Port Orange Presbyterian Church is one of Hackett’s mentors. He says he often counsels people who are discerning their call and vocation. Over the years, he’s learned that purpose in the world can be found when great passion meets great need.
“That is certainly the case with Anna in her call to work with those caught in the web of prostitution and sex trafficking,” he says, explaining that he is impressed with her compassion, professionalism and the way she is working hard to build trust among the women she’s trying to help.
“When we first met in a leadership group, Anna shared what God had put on her heart—compassion and concern for those who were being victimized by these crimes. At the time, she had no idea how to address the issues, just that God had placed this burden on her heart,” Gittner says. “By contacting local organizations, law enforcement, local congregations and, most importantly, talking with those involved in prostitution and sex trafficking, she is finding ways to match her passions with some practical steps to address these issues. My hope is that Anna will be able to join forces with us and others to help bring healing and wholeness to broken lives.”
Hackett now lives in Daytona Beach with her two teenage sons. She has asked God, “All these people are doing all these things to create solutions, why do you need me?”
A few months ago Hackett was ready to shelve the whole idea when she had coffee and conversation with the Rev. Katy Steinberg, a previous 1001 apprentice and pastor of the Missing Peace, a 1001 New Worshiping Community on the move in Ormond Beach, Florida. This faith community literally takes its Missing Peace sign and moves—from field to labyrinth to play space for kids, to meeting rooms, homeless shelters, a yoga studio and other locations. The absence of a building has not stopped Missing Peace from growing; in fact, the nomadic nature of its members is key to living out its call “to Love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love neighbor as self.”
“I was ready to quit,” Hackett says. “By the end of coffee with Katy she convinced me to apply for the 1001 training.”
The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s annual 1001 New Worshiping Communities National Apprenticeship Program training took place in Atlanta June 24-27. The four-day intensive gathering for 25 apprentices and residents provided ways to build community with other leaders, drawing on the talents, personalities and experience of themselves and others. It was a face-to-face introduction to the leader and group they will join for support and accountability throughout their apprenticeships and residencies.
The 1001 Apprenticeships and Residencies Program is headed up by the Rev. Sara Hayden, who lives in Atlanta and serves as the southeastern associate for the movement; Nick Warnes executive director of Cyclical LA on the west coast; Andy Greenhow of Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia; and Colin Kerr of the Journey, a worshiping community for college students in Charleston, South Carolina, are the other mentors and collaborators in building the program.
“I was blown away by the diversity and giftedness of participants,” says the Rev. Nancy Graham Ogne, pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church at Lake Nona, Florida, who served as an additional on-the-ground mentor during the training. “Though our time together wasn’t nearly so dramatic as Acts 2, the gathering reminded me a bit of the faithful who poured into Jerusalem before Pentecost,” she says. “It was a group of men and women from a fairly wide spectrum of ages, ethnicities, languages, locations and backgrounds, together in one place to experience this new thing God is doing—equipping them as part of a new birth in the church.
“I feel so excited about what God is doing in the church … so excited about these men and women and their hunger to honor God in this movement, even when it is mildly terrifying,” Ogne says. “Their faithfulness, authenticity, humility, intelligence, humor and openness definitely left me with the feeling that God is placing the church in good hands.”
Steinberg says she doesn’t think Missing Peace would have launched had it not been for the one-on-one coaching component of the 1001 Apprenticeship Training. “It’s the most quintessential component of the program,” she says. “The training also introduced me to other people living in the strange place of being called to something new. It’s this hard to describe thrilling and terrifying place—maybe like skydiving! And to know you are not alone in it is invaluable.”
Hackett can relate to the terrifying feeling of being called to something new. Yet, after the intense weekend of 1001 Apprenticeship Training she says it connected her with people who won’t let her stay in that fearful place.
“I trust my future with God,” Hackett says. Since she completed the training, she’s been connecting with others at the Salvation Army and the YMCA who are involved in the tough work of creating solutions for people experiencing homelessness, drug addiction and sexual exploitation, like a woman she met recently.
“Within days of the 1001 orientation,” Hackett says, “I found myself in the exact location to meet a homeless woman who’d been sexually violated while living on the streets. She was sad and angry because of the trauma she’d been through. It wasn’t an easy conversation at all, but being present for her reinforced my call, which was a blessing for me.”
While many factors play into recovery, Hackett’s experience has shown her, time and time again, recovery is only possible with God.
That’s where Hackett plans to start. Beginning in early August, she will be leading a weekly study at the YMCA, using author Liz Curtis Higgs’ book, “Bad Girls of the Bible,” which features 10 bad girls who were willing to change and be changed.
Where this leads is up to God, she says.
The 1001 New Worshiping Communities apprenticeship program is designed to identify, recruit and equip leaders to inaugurate fresh expressions of church. The program is open to people at any stage of life beyond high school. Past participants have included college students, seminarians, seminary grads, pastors and other professionals. Five training streams from 10 weeks to one year are available through an application and interview process. All apprentices and residents selected for the program take part in the four-day intensive national training.
To apply or to nominate leaders for future apprenticeship/residency cohorts, email email@example.com.
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Categories: Faith & Worship, Worshiping Communities
Tags: 1001 new worshiping communities, 1001 NWC, apprentices, Apprenticeship, national training, new worshiping communities, Residency, residents, theology formation and evangelism
Ministries: 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Special Offerings, Theology, Formation & Evangelism