Evan Harrison says God is doing ‘amazing things’ in churches
August 3, 2017
The Rev. Evan Harrison of Sunnyside Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, had an idea. He says the idea was given to him by God while watching Presbyterian Mission Agency 1001 New Worshiping Community videos — and from what he saw happening in churches throughout the Coastal Carolina Presbytery.
“I’m taking a sabbatical,” he wrote in an email to Presbyterian News Service, “and [I’ll] use my time to capture stories of what God is doing in our presbytery, much as you all have so well captured the stories of churches in the 1001 worshiping community videos.”
Harrison was looking for some tips on inexpensive lighting equipment and techniques for covering people in a variety of scenes in a professional manner.
“God picked this as a special time in the life of our presbytery,” Harrison said, “for God’s own reasoning. I can see God is doing something amazing; I want other people to see it too.”
One of at least 15 stories he hopes to tell involves the Rev. Deck Guess at Old Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church in Laurinburg, North Carolina.
“Guess was telling me an amazing story of a student at a local school who was going to be homeless during the winter break [and] how his congregation welcomed this individual into their personal homes,” Harrison said.
Old Laurel Hill helped the young man continue his education. And when he is on break or wants to go “home,” he goes to one of the families from Old Laurel Hill, which is like family to him.
As Harrison was putting his camera away, Guess said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you about the Old Laurel Hillbillies church band.”
So they started recording again, with Guess talking about the amazing bluegrass band that started in his congregation and how the congregation lights up with smiles when they occasionally praise God this way in worship.
Then Guess started describing a 2,000-plate annual barbecue fundraiser and how people love it so much that even non-church folks volunteer to help put it on. He said that people who moved away come back not only to eat the barbecue but also because it is such a treasured experience.
“He also told me about how one time the church did oil changes for single moms in the region [and] how some of them were moved to tears, realizing the church would change their oil for free, because they didn’t have the money to do this for themselves,” Harrison said.
As Harrison put the camera away for a second time, Guess looked at Harrison and said, “Wow, when you stop to talk about the ministry that is happening, it makes you realize God is doing a whole lot of things here.”
And that’s the point of Harrison’s sabbatical project. It’s so easy, he said, to just go along with regular life, hearing these kinds of stories and shrugging them off, only to go back to “the whole church is dying and we have no hope” narrative.
“I’ve never seen churches reaching out to each other and working together more,” Harrison said. “God is doing something amazing in our midst. If people just hear these stories, they will be inspired by them — just like the 1001 stories.”
Harrison and Guess have been through an intensive two-year transformation process with their congregations in which they learned about adaptive change and how to discern new vision together. The “Communities of Practice” training was led by coaches George and Beverly Thompson, who have been working with the Coastal Carolina Presbytery on transformation since 2013. So far, eight churches in the presbytery have been through the “Communities of Practice” process.
The Thompsons also trained facilitators to work with churches in half-day listening sessions throughout the presbytery. Out of Coastal Carolina’s 180 churches, 109 have participated. The questions used at each session elicited hundreds of stories.
Harrison’s plan is to approach many of these churches to flesh out, record and share a select number of these stories. “That way,” George Thompson said, “their shelf life will be extended, their power to inspire spread around.”
Paul Seebeck, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Coastal Carolina Presbytery
Let us join in prayer for:
Coastal Carolina Presbytery Staff
Laura L. Lupton, mission coordinator, west community
Nancy Gladden, mission coordinator, east community
Clarence G. Page, mission coordinator, central community
Eduardo Moreno, Hispanic evangelist
Erin Wehrmeister, associate for youth ministries
Gayle Boykin, treasurer/business manager
Jan Krause, administrative/financial assistant
De Scott, receptionist/database manager
George Thompson, transformation coach
Beverly Thompson, transformation coach
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have provided for us. Allow our lives to reflect the service and love you call us to share. In Christ’s name. Amen.