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California congregation launches four new worshiping communities

New communities reach diverse range of people within 12-mile radius of church

March 23, 2018

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister Jake Medcalf refuses to believe that the denomination should just go quietly into the night. “If we’re going to survive,” he says, “we have to trust God has more for us than Sunday morning worship and go make an impact in the neighborhood where we are.”

The church Medcalf serves, First Presbyterian Church of Hayward, California, has started four new worshiping communities. The communities are reaching a diverse range of people within a 12-mile radius of the 350-member church. The leaders of these new worshiping communities are all members of First’s staff.

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 The Fellowship is geared toward youth and young adults. Pastor John Smith sees many young people who feel as though church is not for them because it doesn’t talk about issues they’re facing.

“We have homeless kids, abused kids and those who face violence,” says Smith. “Sometimes it’s not time for a sermon. It’s just being there, walking with them, with their hurts and pains.”

Smalltown Society has created a place where advocates and artists can share their art and connect on a deeper level. They also create art together and work on initiatives that help their neighbor. As leader Paul Keim says, most people who hang out at Smalltown “want to be a part of something spiritually.”

“Even those who consider themselves atheist say, ‘I feel like I’m part of something bigger when I’m here,’” he says.

Safe House was started because people involved in community organizing and activism needed a safe place where they could hold one another accountable spiritually. “The truth is, a lot of churches aren’t safe places for people who do movement work,” says Safe House leader and chaplain Debra Avery. “They’re called to be out in the streets, using language and dressing in ways that contradict traditional church norms.”

At Safe House, Avery encourages those in the community to “engage in Scripture” and to “think about what it means to their work, as they confess their grief and sins, together.”

Come Be. Go Do. is a community for millennials led by Alex Largusa. He is working on ways to understand and communicate faith — the story of God — in new, noninstitutional ways.

“It’s for those who are like ‘I don’t want go to my parent’s church,’” says Medcalf.

“Together they’re learning how to do life together as they communicate the gospel and reframe for a new generation.”

Medcalf says starting these new worshiping communities has helped revitalize the spiritual life at First Presbyterian. Congregation members are praying for the new faith communities, which are part of the denomination’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative.

“The 1001 NWC movement has widened my perception of what God is doing in our community,” says Clerk of Session Phil Grebe. “When you step out and do something completely different, it’s like you’re a new Christian again. God is speaking and you’re going, ‘Oh, I see want you want.’”

Kirk Davis, pastor for families and community life at First Presbyterian, feels as if the congregation is at a point that they’re able to invite people into their space, allowing them to be authentically who they are while still wondering, “Who is this God? And who is this Jesus?”

“There’s a great line in the Book of Order,” says Medcalf. “Essentially it says, ‘The Church is called to take risks for the mission of God, even at the expense of its own life.’ That’s the heartbeat of what we’re trying to do.”

Paul Seebeck, Mission Communications Strategist, Video and Digital Asset Manager, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  1001 New Worshiping Communities

Let us join in prayer for:

First Presbyterian Church of Hayward Staff

Jake Medcalf, pastor/head of staff
Rich Williams, commissioned lay pastor
John Smith, The Fellowship community leader
Paul Keim, Smalltown Society community leader
Debra Avery, Safe House community leader
Alex Largusa, Come Be. Go Do. community leader
Kirk Davis, families and community life pastor
Ronald Rivas, bilingual pastor
Laurel Harris, office manager
Terri Biondi, children’s ministries director
Nick Largusa, student ministries director
Chizu Buckalew, Christian community development director
Kyle Biondi, associate accountant
Sally Cole-White, business manager
Aisea Taimani, music/creative director
Kandi Tasker-Dill, director of His Growing Grove Preschool and Child Care Center
Christian Bustos, communications director

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

David Heilman, BOP
Jean Hemphill, BOP

Let us pray:

God of love, help us to follow you and go out to the ends of the world to proclaim the gospel to the unreached, that your kingdom may come on this earth! We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 22; 148
First Reading Exodus 9:13-35
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Gospel Reading Mark 10:32-45
Evening Psalms 105; 130

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