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Vital Congregations initiative 2020 launch is underway


Over the next two weeks, leaders gather in Denver and Atlanta to pray, plan and worship

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill, coordinator for the Vital Congregations initiative, says that events this week and next are ways to let congregations and presbyteries know “we are in this together.” (Contributed photograph)

LOUISVILLE — Nearly 140 leaders including representation from presbyteries, pastors, clerks of session and the Presbyterian Mission Agency are meeting at Montview Presbyterian Church in Denver this week to pray, plan and worship together during the West Coast Vital Congregations gathering.

Leaders from the following presbyteries — who were among the 14 chosen to participate in the first wave of the 2020 Vital Congregations national launch — will receive training at the gathering, which is sponsored by Denver Presbytery: Cascades (Portland, Ore.), Mission (San Antonio), New Covenant (Houston), Northwest Coast (Everett, Wash.), Olympia (Tacoma, Wash.) and Riverside (San Bernardino, Calif.).

Presbytery of New York City is also sending some of its leaders to Denver, but the majority will be at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta for next week’s East Coast gathering, which runs May 13-16.

Participants at both gatherings will hear from Columbia Theological Seminary preaching professor Dr. Anna Carter Florence and Columbia’s professor of Old Testament, Dr. William P. Brown.  Florence will reflect on “The Gift of Scripture and Community Together.” Brown will speak on “Wonder and Church Vitality.”

Gathered leaders will also go deeper into the theory and theology of the Vital Congregations initiative and begin to envision and plan the two-year process for their presbyteries and churches. They also will participate in confession/lament and commitment/celebration worship services, put together by the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell in the PC(USA)’s Office of Theology & Worship.

“Through our praying, planning and worshiping we will know that we are in this together,” says the coordinator for the PC(USA)’s Vital Congregations initiative, the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill.

“By sharing our struggles and the hopes we have for our churches, we will know that together we can do this work. That can only be the Spirit moving.”

During the first year of the initiative’s revitalization efforts, presbyteries and churches work to build authentic faith relationships. Then they enter into a period of assessment by working together through seven marks of vital congregations (click here to read about each mark).

As congregations identify both their strengths and key growth areas in their study together, they enter into a period of discernment over what God is calling them to do next. The second year of the initiative, according to the Vital Congregations manual, is “about joining Christ in the new thing taking place, allowing the wonder of God to transform and faithfully living into change.”

Participating in next week’s East Coast gathering are mid council and church leaders from the following presbyteries chosen to chosen to participate in the 2020 launch —  Eastminster (Akron, Ohip), Genesee Valley (Rochester, N.Y.), Lake Michigan (Portage, Mich.), Mackinac (Petoskey, Mich.),  New Harmony (Florence, S.C.), West Jersey (Haddon Heights, N.J.) and Western Reserve (Cleveland).

“It is my hope and prayer that folks leave our time together trained, empowered, connected —and filled with the Spirit’s power to prepare for the Vital Congregations initiative in their particular church and presbytery,” Threadgill said.

The Office of Vital Congregations is part of the PC(USA)’s Theology, Formation & Evangelism ministry.




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