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What does JOY mean to you?

A Matthew 25 new worshiping community focuses on environmental justice

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

The JOY Community, a new worshiping community in Heartland Presbytery that’s accepted the Matthew 25 invitation, held a Go Green St. Joe! Planet Party in July 2021. (Photo by Diane Waddell)

LOUISVILLE — New worshiping communities in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) take on new and varied forms of church in a changing culture. Primarily they are seeking to make and form new disciples of Jesus Christ in order to transform the world. How they put that into practice often involves creativity and out-of-the-box approaches.

The JOY Community in St. Joseph, Missouri, part of  Heartland Presbytery, gathers in a beautiful sacred space that offers solace and restoration for body and soul. Its origin comes from a Laudato Si understanding of seeking equity through both social and environmental justice.

JOY — Justice, Outreach and Yoga — made the commitment to join the Matthew 25 journey in May 2021. Last year before the pandemic resurge, JOY hosted a gathering as part of honoring its Matthew 25 call for eco-justice and honoring God’s gift of Creation.

The Go Green St. Joe! Planet Party was sponsored by JOY and organized by new worshiping community leaders Natalie Ward, Jan Storts, Emily Fite and Diane Waddell. Collaborating with several other local organizations, they offered music, TED-type talks, yoga demonstrations and informational booths on local food sources, climate change, etc.

“We are enjoying celebrating and worshiping in creative, diverse ways,” said Waddell, NWC Matthew 25 contact leader for JOY. “And we are now officially receiving offerings for the four PC(USA) special offerings.”

Recognizing the connection of systemic poverty to food sourcing, climate change and environmental challenges, JOY also hosted a Citizens’ Climate Lobby with the Missouri Western State University Biology Department, where virtually all the faculty are doing research related to climate change and the environment.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s invitation to become a Matthew 25 church was issued in April 2019. As of Friday, there are more than 1,060 congregations, groups and mid councils who have accepted that invitation and helping the denomination become a more relevant presence in the world.

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