A group of women gather within the walls of a state penitentiary to move through prayer stations, sing about hope, and hear a bit of good news.
A lively choir of African immigrants celebrate the joy of community and worship in their native tongue as they dance their offerings to the offering box.
Young skateboarders hurl their bodies down the ramps of an indoor skate park, built by a long-established congregation as a way to provide shelter and friendship in the face of neglect and poverty. These young people often bring their parents into the fellowship, and whole families are baptized into the faith.
Women and men often excluded from the fellowship of Christian community because of their sexual identity find welcome in a worshiping community that bears witness to the expansive goodness and grace of God.
Presbyterians launch the first Reformed witness in a global virtual reality space through the creative use of new technology ... and exceed their platform’s capacity due to overwhelming response at their first gathering.
Retirees, suburbanites, social activists, recent immigrants, fitness enthusiasts, the hungry, the tired, the curious, the doubtful, parents with young children, youth and young adults — all of these people and others are making their way to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Since the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement was established in 2012, Presbyterians have supported the launch and growth of more than 650 new gatherings of disciples through grants, training, coaching, and other programs intended to encourage the flourishing of new followers of Jesus Christ.
In the past eight years, we have learned that these communities have the best chance of reaching a sustainable witness when they are in partnership with established congregations. At the same time, the congregations and mid councils who engage with new worshiping communities report new life and growth in their own ministries. We hear of deepened prayer, a willingness to take new risks, and joyful friendships never anticipated.
Many of these communities are founded and led by ruling elders, whose formation as disciples and leaders grounded in an understanding of the Great Ends of the Church has prompted them to gather new disciples in their local neighborhoods. Their hopeful risk-taking has resulted in a future for the church that is younger and more diverse than the PC(USA) has ever been. From these new communities, we stand to learn new ways of worship and witness, new hope for the transformation of the world, and new stories of how the Spirit of God works in and through neighbors we have yet to meet.
Those involved in this effort are eager to meet leaders who love the church and want to follow Jesus into the world. As one of these leaders, use these questions to engage individually and with your colleagues in ministry:
- Are there new worshiping communities at work in our community or presbytery? How can we learn more about their ministry?
- Who in our neighborhood is not attending church on Sunday morning? Where are they instead? How can we be present with them?
- Do our adult children and grandchildren attend a church? What do we know about why they do or do not? What can we learn from those closest to us about how they experience God in their lives outside a church community?
- Where are the places in our city/town where there is pain? How is God calling us to respond?
The Reverend Nikki Collins began serving as the coordinator for 1001 New Worshiping Communities in June 2018. She previously served Cherokee Presbytery as stated clerk and mission oordinator and was the founder of Bare Bulb Coffee, a rich brew of full-service coffee shop, music and arts venue, and home to a diverse group of disciples committed to shedding light in the world. She graduated with a degree in psychology and religion from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and earned her MDiv at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.