Virtual New Wilmington Mission Conference to be held July 17–19

Participants sought for ‘Living By My Faith’ worship music video

By Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

Although there are things Rob Bradford will miss about not gathering together in person, he is looking forward to the virtual New Wilmington Mission Conference. There are people who will be able to attend virtually who have not been able to attend in years, he said. Photo contributed

LOUISVILLE — The world’s oldest and sole-surviving mission conference, which began in 1906, is preparing to hold its annual gathering — virtually — July 17–19.

There is no cost to attend the virtual 115th New Wilmington Mission Conference (NWMC). Attendees will hear words of encouragement, learn of mission opportunities and listen to updates from mission co-workers and global partners serving around the world.

“In the midst of a global pandemic that has reached every country and culture, this one thing is certain: We need to be the church together,” said the Rev. Virginia “Ginny” Teitt, director of the NWMC since 2016. “The possibilities seem limitless as the brick-and-mortar stage has now become internet platforms, and long hours of costly travel are not necessary,” Teitt said.

A few weeks ago, Teitt’s husband urged her to find the place where the church, presbytery and denomination she serves intersect with the NWMC.

As she reflected on sermons, since in-person services were replaced by Zoom worship, she realized the church has walked through Lent, Easter, the 40 days of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and Jesus’ ascension, which included the charge to “be witnesses” and “make disciples.” And, finally to Pentecost, as a Holy-Spirit-filled Apostle Peter launched the first missionary movement.

“Just as Peter and the new ignited disciples began a venture that was precipitated by something outside their control and beyond anything they could have planned when the New Testament church was birthed in Jerusalem,” Teitt said, “so we in local churches and this historic mission gathering are transitioning to new ways to do ministry and to participate in the mission of God.”

When her parents and many Presbyterian fore-parents served as missionaries in the global South, the message of the love of God was embraced in spite of sometimes questionable practices and often flawed people. Teitt said, comparing it to the African saying, “God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.”

“At this time in history, we in the global North must look closely and listen intently to the move of God where we are no longer the center,” Teitt said. “And now in this time-out season, we are compelled to listen in new ways.”

A new worship song written especially for the 2020 NWMC, “Living By My Faith,” with music and lyrics by Broadway actor and musical artist Ben Chavez, will be shared as a music video during the virtual conference.

“I wrote the song this past week,” said Chavez, who recently toured the country with the Broadway show “Disney’s Aladdin.” “I was looking for a way to get the community’s singing voices involved, even though we won’t be able to be in the same room together this year.”

Chavez said the song is inspired by this year’s conference theme: “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7), as well as reflections on this time in our socially distanced world. He recently worked on a music video with his “Aladdin” castmates and thought the music video idea would also work well for NWMC.

“I wanted to paint a picture of how even the setbacks we may be facing in our lives right now cannot set us apart from God’s plan for us,” he said.

There are still a few days left to take part in the virtual music video, review the instructions and submit your video by Sunday, July 12.

Keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Francesca Nuzzolese; the Rev. Charles and Delicia George; the Rev. Saleem Ghubril.

This year’s keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Francesca Nuzzolese, led an adult mission study at NWMC last year. She is a pastoral theologian, psychotherapist, trauma care consultant and speaker known worldwide. Her work and experience span a variety of cultural, geographic and denominational contexts with critical competencies in cross-cultural teaching, training and psychotherapeutic practice. She is committed to creating educational and therapeutic spaces, where individuals and communities can experience growth and fulfillment, healing and wholeness. She has two decades of experience teaching in higher education, training and consulting with nongovernmental organizations on trauma care and counseling individuals and communities in vulnerable predicaments. Meet Nuzzolese in a short video.

Other speakers include the Rev. Charles and Delecia George, who pastor a church of about 250 members in Delft, the largest township in South Africa. Through their leadership and mentoring since 1993, other pastors have engaged with them to minister to the homeless and needy of their community through Community Health Evangelism (CHE). They partner with Christians in medicine, business, government and education. Once a month they take over the local day hospital supplying qualified doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical students to do door-to-door visits, reaching more than 500 homes using the CHE program to share the gospel.

The Rev. Saleem Ghubril is volunteer pastor of Mosaic Community Church in Pittsburgh and leader of The Pittsburgh Promise, an initiative committed to transforming the quality of life in the city by making higher education a reality for all of Pittsburgh’s urban youth. Ghubril, an ordained Presbyterian minister, has devoted his life to serving the people of his community through outreach and education programs. From 1985 to 2008, he founded and led The Pittsburgh Project, a community development organization that annually provides free home renovations to hundreds of vulnerable seniors, and mentors, educates and deploys thousands of volunteer youth in meaningful community service initiatives.

“I wish we could be together, but that’s not the situation,” said author and speaker Shane Bennett, who lives to help people who love Jesus connect with people who have never heard of him. Bennett will be sharing five to 10 things that every Christian should know about Muslims. “I’m super thrilled and so appreciative of the hours and crazy work that so many people have put into making this thing work virtually,” Bennett said.

The Rev. Jennifer “Jen” Haddox, of Jerome, Idaho, who previously served as the associate director of the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Seminary, said she’s excited about the virtual conference. “My family wasn’t going to be able to make the 2,000-mile trek across the country this summer to join on the campus at Westminster College,” Haddox said. “But virtually we can hop on and see and hear and participate in what God is doing through the New Wilmington Mission Conference.” She said she’s noticed God doing new things during this time of pandemic isolation.

“I’ve really noticed, maybe for the first time in the history of American mission, is that we have a shared crisis experience with the whole world,” Haddox said. “The pandemic experience here in our lives and communities is a shared experience with people all around the world, and particularly with the church around the world. We’ve experienced this crisis in public health, the economic fallout from that and the real challenge that it’s been for churches — not just in North America but all around the world to figure out how to do Christian community in virtual spaces.”

“I’m encouraged to keep looking for where God is at work in the world and how I’m called to be part of that,” Haddox said.

Learn more about the virtual 2020 NWMC and register online.


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