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‘Ready, set, shift!’

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina, hosts opening worship for #GivingTuesday

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — #GivingTuesday, a day Presbyterians share their faith, love and finances with a world desperately in need of those and more, opened at noon Eastern Time on Nov. 30 with worship at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina, which also offered up a fun film that employs a church catchphrase: “Ready, Set, Shift!”

The theme for the PC(USA)’s #GivingTuesday is “We are the Church together,” and that was readily apparent, with live broadcasts from western North Carolina; Minneapolis; the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, Texas; and Los Angeles.

A national audience watching on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Facebook page through 8 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday were blessed by a brief opening worship service, which included a reading of Psalm 100 and words by Grace Covenant’s Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, who poured out water to remind the scattered community “of our belovedness.”

The Rev. Marcia Mount Shoop

“I don’t know about you, but these words of hope and promise are so reassuring,” Kyremes-Parks said, adding it’s “so easy to be caught up the hustle and bustle” during the holidays.

The film featured the church’s pastor and head of staff, the Rev. Marcia Mount Shoop, and other church staff, including the Rev. Richard Coble, the church’s associate pastor, and Kyremes-Parks, Director of Formation for Children, Youth, and Their Families.

“You never know when God is going to say, ‘shift,’ and things are going to change,” Coble tells Mount Shoop in the film. The two are situated on a large lawn the church has transformed over the years into a community garden that has produced tens of thousands of pounds of food that’s been used to feed the Asheville community.

Kyremes-Parks joins the two pastors from a post in the compost pile. She named community partners, including Asheville Housing Authority and the YWCA of Asheville, which help to deliver the tons of food produced there.

The church and its many partners had a dream 11 years ago that the lawn, together with land owned by an Asheville farmer, could be used to help feed the community. Coble said relationships and the ensuing sense of community have grown just as the vegetables have grown.

“Shifts keep on happening,” Kyremes-Parks said to conclude the short clip. “We need to be ready for how God is going to shift us next.”

Artisan Church

Twelve weeks into leading Artisan Church, one of the newest of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities located in Lincolnton, North Carolina, organizing pastor Reed Conley told 1001 NWC coordinator the Rev. Nikki Collins that the worshiping community exists because of events like #GivingTuesday and partnerships with a nearby church, Unity Presbyterian Church in Denver, North Carolina, and the Presbytery of Western North Carolina.

The Rev. Nikki Collins, coordinator of 1001 New Worshiping Communities, speaks with Reed Conley, organizing pastor of Artisan Church in Lincolnton, North Carolina. (Screenshot)

Artisan Church, with a worship space that includes an art gallery, is located in a former wholesale grocery space. “It allows us,” said Conley, a singer and songwriter, “to connect with the local art community.”

“At some point in my faith journey, the church and I stopped connecting,” Conley told Collins. “I found my way back to faith through experiencing the Divine in Creation and participating in being creative … When I heard about starting a new worshiping community in a storefront, I got pretty excited about that. We aim to build community and worship and encounter God in a way that is safe for those hurt or left out of the church in the past.” Supporting local artists and giving them space to work “gets us into another circle of friends outside the traditional church circle,” he said.

How, Collins wondered, can the church pray for Artisan Church?

“Just pray for us to continue the way the Spirit leads,” Conley said, “for the creativity of the Holy Spirit. And thank you for your support.”

BeLoved Asheville

Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for National Hunger Concerns for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, spoke with two of the co-directors of BeLoved Asheville, Ponkho Bermejo and the Rev. Amy Cantrell. BeLoved Asheville works on, among other things, housing and racial healing in Asheville. In 2017, it provided the nation’s first street medics team. Coble, the associate pastor at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, a longtime partner of BeLoved Asheville, joined the conversation.

Andrew Kang Bartlett, top left, speaks with, clockwise, the Rev. Richard Coble, the Rev. Amy Cantrell and Ponkho Bermejo. (Screenshot)

“We talk about ‘the power of we,’” Cantrell said. “We build home, health, equity and opportunity for all … We go right to the ground where people are. We listen and we begin to dream and hope together.”

In 2020, BeLoved Asheville delivered four million pounds of food to the community, according to Bermejo said. But what makes the organization go is the selflessness of volunteers. “People were ready to expose themselves [to the coronavirus] to take care of the community,” Bermejo said. “We’re not the heroes. We believe the community is the hero of the community, not us.”

In 2020, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church took the “significant step,” Coble said, to deepen its relationships with organizations like BeLoved Asheville that are led by impacted people, especially people of color. “Before that, we had a formal process” of approving written grant applications and requiring an accounting of how the money was spent, Coble said. “Through years of antiracism work and continued engagement with our partners, we realized this way was patronizing and went against the whole idea of relationships and partnerships,” Coble said. “BeLoved Asheville and GCPC are taking a learning posture. We ask what people need and try to support them in what they are already doing.”

“At Grace Covenant, we love BeLoved Asheville,” Coble said. “We are thankful to God for this ongoing partnership and we are grateful for everything that Beloved Asheville is doing in the community.”

Through 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, #GivingTuesday can be viewed here.

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