Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

More than two centuries of giving back to the community

As Hopewell Presbyterian Church in East Tennessee celebrates its 236th year in ministry, its pastor marvels at members’ commitment to giving

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Brad Napier

LOUISVILLE — Next month, Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Dandridge, Tennessee, will celebrate its 236th year in ministry. While that’s a history to be proud of — Hopewell is one of the oldest churches in the Volunteer State — the church’s pastor, the Rev. Brad Napier, told Between Two Pulpits hosts Bryce Wiebe and Lauren Rogers on Monday that the congregation of 88 members also takes pride in its consistent history of giving, especially through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Special Offerings and even during the long pandemic, when the church actually saw increased giving and membership growth.

“The need is very great,” Napier said, “and we want to do our part as God’s people in the community at this time.”

“We have tried to anticipate the needs that are out there,” Napier said. “It’s the narrative of the body of Christ and the people around the world and close to home.” The deadly weekend flooding in Middle Tennessee did not affect Dandridge, which is about 30 miles east of Knoxville, “but it hit kind of close to home,” said Napier, who has led the Hopewell church for about 2½ years.

Giving to funds including One Great Hour of Sharing to support ministry in earthquake-stricken Haiti “are opportunities for extraordinary and timely giving. I think a number of people [at Hopewell] will respond to that,” Napier said. “It makes us feel like we are part of that even though we can’t be physically present in Port-au-Prince.”

Given this Sunday’s lectionary options, including Psalm 45:1-2 and 6-9 and Mark 7:1-9, 14-15 and 21-23, Napier said he plans to focus his sermon on the epistle reading, James 1:17-27, which has a wealth to teach us about giving and living faithfully.

“It talks about generosity and giving from above, being quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger,” Napier said. “I think those are very timely things in our national conversations on racial issues and political and economic discussions. There’s a lot there,” he said, including “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” and this definition of religion: “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

The world’s problems may seem far away, “but they aren’t,” Napier said. “These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.” Weather and flooding may well be impacting churches in Middle Tennessee and in the nation’s northeastern states, as well as “the communities being devastated” in Afghanistan, Haiti and by the fires burning in the American West, he said.

“We need to be attentive and mindful of people’s lives being impacted so much,” Napier said.

While we’re certainly living in chaotic times, “we don’t have to be scared during the chaos,” said Wiebe, the director of Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. “We are invited to activate our best selves and see each other clearly.”

Napier said he looks forward to the next special offering, the Peace & Global Witness Offering collected in the fall. That Special Offering seeks to empower individuals and congregations to become peacemakers, promoting reconciliation both around the corner and around the world.

Hopewell Presbyterian Church is in Dandridge, Tennessee. (Contributed photo)

“It always seems so necessary and significant. This year it feels even more so,” Napier said. “There is so much trauma, turmoil and pain in our nation and in our world. I am hopeful at Hopewell, as I should be, to do the best we can for Jesus and for our brothers and sisters around the world.” It might well be Hopewell’s decision to direct the portion of the offering that churches retain to fellow churches affected by the weekend flooding in Middle Tennessee.

Rogers, project manager for digital fundraising for both Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, asked Napier her traditional final question: What’s your hope for the future of the church?

Aside from a request for new graphics for one of the Special Offerings, Napier said he hopes the PC(USA) will continue its Matthew 25 ministry so that churches, including Hopewell, can keep working on racial reconciliation.

“I use the Confession of Belhar and The Confession of 1967 a lot,” Napier said. “I tell people of this church it’s all about relationships. I can’t say that enough, and it’s the same thing for the PC(USA). It’s about finding as much common ground as possible in times of disagreement and being faithful and loving one another.”

“Relationships are important, O God,” Wiebe prayed to close out this week’s edition of Between Two Pulpits. “We know that because you seek relationships with us. You came as a child who grew into a person who became a preacher, a prophet, a sacrifice and our salvation. We are grateful for the relationships you call us into as the church, and we’re grateful to learn from our partners, people who are as near and dear to us as our own family. Bind us as one body, one church, in our life together. Amen.”

Between Two Pulpits airs via Facebook Live at 1 p.m. Eastern Time each Monday. Find it here.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.