There is a Balm in Chicago

Rebecca Anderson grew up Evangelical, but as a young adult, she didn’t consider herself a religious person.

That didn’t mean she didn’t dip her toes in the waters of different communities of faith.

And then she attended a local church in Boston at the suggestion of a fellow non-religious friend, which changed her life. In fact, she describes the experience as her day of Pentecost.

“It was this big lung full of bright, fresh air,” Rebecca recalls. “I hadn’t heard the gospel in the way that I heard it that day. I could finally understand what they were saying.”

This experience is what drives her ministry today, and it’s what inspired her in 2017 to launch Gilead Church Chicago, a joint congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, with her co-pastor Vince Amlin, who also pastors Bethany United Church of Christ alongside her.

“I try to create conditions where people who need a particular translation of the gospel can hear it,” Rebecca says. “I see on people’s faces, when the way we do church speaks to them, and I see it when it doesn’t.”

So, who does Gilead Church speak to? It’s with, for, and by people who’ve been told or made to feel that church isn’t for them.

“If these stories, traditions, practices, questions, and the person of Jesus are compelling or in any way meaningful to you, they are yours,” says Rebecca. “I’m not making seats at the table. It’s not my table, it’s yours. If you are drawn to this, God has prepared it for you. My call to ministry is to let people know that and then get out of the way.”

Worshipers at Gilead include members of the LGBTQ+ community, young adults, professional activists, and in Rebecca’s words “a disproportionately large number of women.” Several members of the lay and staff leadership are performers, as one of the faith community’s core practices, which were developed when Rebecca attended Leadership Academy in 2015, is telling true stories that save lives.

One of these stories is about a recent addition to Gilead, who returned to church after a 10-year absence due to severe spiritual trauma. To curtail their fears about and suspicion of Christian institutions, this person researched Gilead online and tentatively attended a worship service. Afterward, they made a list of what they wanted from church, including praise and worship music a la Hillsong and authoritative leadership, the kind that had the answers and knew their answers were right. Gilead didn’t have any of those requirements, so they told themselves they wouldn’t return. But as the week progressed, this person questioned what any item on their list had done but harm them. What they needed in their life was love, and they knew that Gilead had that. Ever since they’ve attended every service.

“It’s a miracle,” beams Rebecca. “They told the story at church this past Sunday and it was heartbreaking, good, and generous.”

One of Gilead’s other practices is making beautiful, creative worship. While its liturgy, order of worship, and communion are traditional, Gilead’s creativity is found in how it chooses to gather with its people. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they met at a bar, where they hung out and filled in story prompts. In the past, they’ve had worship on the subway and now they meet in a gym. Gilead also meets online, which Rebecca admits has been hard for her to do.

“Pre-pandemic, we were deeply analog because we didn’t want anything more on our phones, we were so done with it,” she remembers. “Gilead had always been this kind of doggedly in-person place. People tell personal stories that they consent to tell in a room to a specific group of people.”

COVID-19 also changed the way that the congregation threw parties, another one of their core practices. While throwing parties may seem like an odd practice for a church to embrace, for Gilead it’s about reclaiming a theology of joy, which has been absent from modern Christian tradition. Basing its practice on a Yale study that found joy was a marker of the life of faith in both Jewish and Christian scriptures, Gilead views Jesus as a party goer and God as a party thrower.

“Things are very serious,” Rebecca acknowledges, “but the antidote isn’t somberness, it’s joy.”

To that end, Gilead typically threw four large annual parties. It celebrated Easter with a dance party, complete with a DJ, communion, and a liturgical piñata. Every year, Rebecca’s co-pastor Vince insists that just hitting the pinata works, no one cares about the candy.

“We’ve got this one congregant who said, ‘we should get a pinata shaped like a gravestone,’ Rebecca laughs. “We thought it was so serious and on the nose. Couldn’t we just get a unicorn?”

These all stopped with the arrival of the novel coronavirus, but with creativity at its core, Gilead persevered. For Easter 2020, church leadership got people to contribute to its worship service, including award-winning poet Ada Limón, who kicked it off by reading her poem In the Country of Resurrection to the congregation. The following week, Rebecca and her colleagues purchased doughnuts from a local breakfast sandwich joint, fanned out around the city, and took doughnuts to congregants. Mindful of the health guidelines, staff members flung doughnuts through windows and placed them in containers lowered out of windows. They took communion to as many people as they could in the same way, adding a little table on the side of the street, which was used to do a socially distanced liturgy.

“We found ways to be together,” says Rebecca. “We had worship outside with everybody spread out. Only Vince and I were singing, and while I’m a big extrovert, I felt so exposed.”

This tension, one of curtailing your natural behavior for the safety of others, and what it does for your mental health, was explored in a 2020 sermon series Rebecca called Pity Parties. It featured true stories of the difficult times people were having during the pandemic, instead of glossing over them.

“There was that pandemic narrative where people would start off saying they were fine, continue on to a middle section of how they were really feeling, and then ending with them saying how lucky and privileged they were,” Rebecca explains. “We wanted to provide people with an opportunity to be honest.” 

Of course, honesty and vulnerability come hand in hand, so she is always careful to say that Gilead’s dynamic is about building intimacy from where people are at, appropriate for their context, and true to their DNA. Ultimately, the people of Gilead don’t want church that is sanitized of authentic experiences, even if they’re messy. This commitment to sharing what Rebecca calls “high emotions” is what makes the people of Gilead more than fellow worshipers, it makes them real friends, incidentally the last of the church’s core practices.

“Early on, we received a grant for a project with and for young adults, which in this case was people in their 20s, so we studied how people come into community,” says Rebecca. “We found that making adult friends is notoriously difficult so there’s this loneliness epidemic. As a result of that study, “’making real friends’ became one of our core practices.”

This practice comes from the close relationship that she and her co-pastor Vince share. They met in grad school and kept in touch over the years, communicating via text and getting together once a year. On a trip to St. Augustine, FL, they asked what it would look like if they started a church together. Not only did she and Vince share the same affinities and commitments, but Rebecca also didn’t think a solitary leadership model was ideal. They started talking about it then and soon they were texting every day. Rebecca shared what she learned at Leadership Academy about mission, vision, and values and they decided that Gilead would be a church for two pastors. Rebecca quit her job and that same week, she and Vince learned that Bethany was searching for one full-time pastor. They pitched their idea of splitting the job and co-pastoring not only Bethany, but Gilead too.

“This was a big risk for Bethany,” reveals Rebecca, “but thanks to some good DNA and interim work, they took a chance and hired us.”

The church had a small number of worshipers when Rebecca and Vince arrived, so they approached their new positions as leaders of a revitalization project. While Bethany was a 125-year-old neighborhood church, it was progressive and had a young membership. Now Bethany is vibrant and growing its numbers. 

Rebecca and Vince can juggle both positions because Gilead holds its worship services in the evenings. Each week, they’re both in leadership at one of the congregations, but one of them preaches and takes the lead on liturgy and the service. The following week, they switch positions and churches. Student pastors fill in their positions at their other congregation.

“I already know that working with Vince has been and will be one of the great and abiding joys of my entire life,” Rebecca reveals. “I’m just grateful.”

She’s also appreciative of the generous support from both the UCC and the Disciples of Christ, including the New Church/Ministries team of the Illinois-Wisconsin region, which has provided funding and just as importantly, encouragement.

“There’s mutual trust, so they’re not suspicious of our translation of the gospel and I’m not scared to ask anybody in the region anything,” says Rebecca. 

Rebecca and Vince also try to be available to folks who would find their experiences and knowledge useful, especially new church leaders. At its core, Gilead is viewed by its co-pastors as a ministry of their respective denominations.

“I’m doing this work to serve God and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which is the denomination where God found me,” Rebecca concludes. “I used to feel sheepish because I fell into this church, but it doesn’t matter. It is the place where God found me outside the empty tomb.”

To support emerging congregations like Gilead, make a gift to the Pentecost Offering, received in most congregations on June 5. 

Jose Martinez announced as transitional NCM leader

Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), which oversees New Church Ministry (NCM) on behalf of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), announces a transitional leader for the NCM Team.

Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez, Associate Minister of New Church Strategies, will join outgoing Minister of New Church Strategies Terrell McTyer in overlapping leadership until the end of January, when McTyer begins a new position with a global, ecumenical ministry and Martinez takes transitional leadership of NCM.

Martinez has planted churches, launched innovative ministries, and served in hospital and military chaplaincy. He joined the New Church Ministry Team in 2019.

“Jose brings a wealth of experience, an entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to both NCM and DCEF,” said Belinda King, DCEF President. “His grasp of the mission and vision of New Church Ministry provides the kind of continuity we need as we discern next steps with our church-wide partners.”

Martinez co-planted Multi Nation Christian Church, the largest and only Haitian Ministry in the Midwest for the Disciples of Christ. He also founded MissioKC, a micro-church based in Kansas City, Mo., focused on “helping make the world around us a spiritually healthier place.” 

Martinez sees the interim as a time to “ensure that the next Minister of New Church Strategies has a strong foundation to help Disciples live more fully into our identity as a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.”

“The watch word for this season is ‘continuity,’” he said. “We will double down on nurturing our churchwide partnerships, even as we continue the work of training new leaders, equipping the church, assisting regions, and multiplying disciples.”

Disciples Church Extension Fund inspires and empowers congregations to create Holy Places where people connect with God, each other, and the community.

NCM leader accepts new post; interim to serve transition

Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), which oversees New Church Ministry (NCM) on behalf of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), announces the leader of NCM will step down at the end of January.

Terrell McTyer

Terrell L. McTyer, Minister of New Church Strategies, has accepted a position as Executive Director of Global Marketing and Innovation at The Upper Room, an ecumenical ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual life of Christians around the world.

“I am excited about the future,” Terrell said, “but it’s bittersweet to accept a new post, given my passion for this work. I’m going to miss this calling very much.”

Terrell began his work with New Church Ministry in August 2016, as the church was already successfully nearing the 2020 Vision goal to form 1,000 new Disciples congregations. NCM continued the momentum of this achievement by convening the New Church Summit, which set new aspirations for the movement to “make one million new disciples by 2030.”

Pastor Terrell leaves the ministry “in a sustainable position precisely because it is not dependent on a small, centralized group of leaders,” he said. “It truly is the work of the whole church.”

Under his leadership, the New Church Leadership Cooperative was established to bring together the dedicated leaders and teams of regional new church work to share in the strengthening practices of emerging congregations.

“This ministry would not be what it is if it were not for the team making it happen – not just the folks on New Church staff, but the whole DCEF staff,” Terrell added. “All the regional and general leaders across the church have played a critical role in its success. This is what gives me confidence that this vision will continue and rise to a new level with new leadership. Plus, just consider how many people continue to pray for this work to prosper!”

With an emphasis on the spiritual grounding of the movement, Terrell oversaw the launch of Water the Plants — a weekly prayer initiative that has hosted multiple prayer summits.

“It’s no surprise Terrell has been called to yet another ministry that values his innovative spirit,” Rick Reisinger, DCEF President, said. “Disciples have certainly benefited from his many gifts.”

Belinda R. King, who assumes leadership as President of DCEF on January 1, 2022, understands the impact this opening has on the entire Church.

“I will ensure that an interim is named before Terrell’s departure, so that NCM stays consistent in serving congregations and the wider Church,” she stated. “We will work faithfully with our churchwide partners to plan steps for the long term.”

Leadership Academy 2021

Leadership Academy expands its reach but keeps God’s work as its focus

150 registrants. 16 workshop leaders. 15 vendors. Seven denominations. All coming together for three days!

Despite being held online for a second year running, this didn’t stop church planters, regional representatives, and lay leaders from taking part in New Church Ministry’s Leadership Academy. In fact, registration was almost double what it was in 2020, with attendees reflecting age and racial diversity.

Moreover, with the Multiply Track session—a new addition for 2021—program staff, boards, and clergy of established congregations were able to learn alongside their peers, too. This cohort, facilitated by Pastor Terrell L McTyer (Minister of New Church Strategies) and Christie Love (pastor and church planter of The Connecting Grounds in Springfield, MO), was the largest track with 60 registrants who explored vision and problem statements, as well as growth and fixed mindsets.

But what keeps past participants returning year after year? Not only is it other tracks for core teams at the same stage of the church launch process, but it’s also thought-provoking plenaries, interactive practical workshops, and dedicated time for fellowship.

Learning in their own contexts

During the Start Track, core teams who had not yet planted their communities of faith joined from as far away as Maryland and California. Led by New Church Ministry Associate Minister Rev. Dr. Jose Martinez and New Church Ministry coach Pastor Jorge “Joey” Cotto, core teams of emerging faith communities explored how church planting has changed since the pandemic and how tools such as a spiritual gifts inventory can help leaders identify their skills and talents.

Meanwhile, in the Sustain Track, Sandy Harvey (long-time Leadership Academy track facilitator and President and CEO of Exodus Consulting Group), Carla Leon (New Initiatives Manager for the United Church of Canada’s EDGE: A Network for Ministry Development), and Rev. Selena Reyes (chair of the Florida region’s New Church Ministry Commission and the event’s Spanish translator) discussed money and marketing/branding with core teams that had recently launched their places of worship.

“As a founder, you are your brand,” shared Carla, who has previously teamed up with New Church Ministry on an episode of New Church Hacks and the Hopeful Economics UnConference

Sharing wisdom and experiences

Leadership Academy’s plenaries, or DOCTalks, are joint sessions led by a thought leader who addresses missional transformation. This year, the thought leaders were first-timer Rev. Dr. Eun Strawser (co-vocational church planter and physician), who spoke about disciple-making; returning guest Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija (Founding Director of TryTank), who spoke about innovation; and Rev. Dr. Delesslyn Kennebrew (Minister for New and Transforming Churches in the Greater Kansas City region), who led the event’s Commissioning Service.

“Discipleship is meant for everyone and not just some,” Rev. Dr. Eun told those present. “It’s meant to imitate Jesus and to have concrete models around us in order to imitate Jesus.”

Learn.Explore.Actuate.Discover.Laboratories

Leadership Academy’s workshops, or LEADLabs, are designed to help leaders imagine, innovate, and implement sustainable concepts. While the workshop leaders, called Spiritual Scientists and Subject Matter Experts, discussed topics ranging from building management to financial independence, the topic of rest was a common one that resonated with participants.

“Leadership Academy saved me from overworking myself and reminded me to lead with God first,” recalled Queen of New Eyes Village Church in Fort Collins, CO, a Leadership Academy participant.

Building connections

Participants had time to get to know one another during Wednesday morning’s Breakout & Breakfast session, a staple of the last couple years that has proven to be popular with those in attendance.

“The Leadership Academy is empowering me to align myself with God’s call, knowing that I’m not alone,” wrote Rev. Kristin Aardema Faigh, a Leadership Academy participant, in her feedback for the event, “and that what I am called to do is important, and possible.”

Breakout rooms were also used during tracks to enable participants to collaborate in small groups.

The future of Leadership Academy

What enabled this potentially unwieldy undertaking to take place? The hard work and dedication of Project Coordinator Wesley King, who organized speakers, facilitated registration, and helped attendees navigate the event’s digital platforms such as Zoom, Teachable, and Whova, the latter of which was also a 2021 addition.

“This was my first Leadership Academy,” explained Wesley, “and it was amazing to see the way that God is moving and working in the lives and ministries of folks all over the United States and Canada!”

And next year? Well, next year, Leadership Academy will continue to be an exclusively digital gathering, and the Church can only imagine the various opportunities that God will provide us to see the Spirit moving.

Understanding God and the church at the Water the Plants Prayer Summit

In her teaching on the spiritual discipline of prayer at the recent Water the Plants Prayer Summit, Rev. Dr. Martha Brown, a member of the Board of Directors for Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), recounted the story of Jacob to both returning and first-time attendees of the Water the Plants initiative’s prayer-focused virtual event. As Rev. Dr. Martha told it, after stealing his brother’s birthright, this patriarch of the Israelites fled for the land of his mother’s brother, where he married and had children. For years, Jacob worked for his uncle, accumulating wealth and servants. Eventually, he decided to return home, sending his family, maids, and animals ahead of him. Along the way, Jacob found himself alone on the banks of the Jabbok, a tributary of the river Jordan. There he wrestled with a man until daybreak, when Jacob asked for a blessing, asked God for His name. This, Rev. Dr. Martha reminded those in attendance, was a moment of prayer.

“What we pray for shapes and expresses our understanding of who God is,” she explained. 

And it also reflects how the church sees itself and what it wants to be.

At the June Prayer Summit, a virtual event that convened supporters of emerging and affiliating congregations and their leaders, they prayed for the Office of the General Minister and President, general and regional ministries, church planters, and all the faithful connections across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. At the surface level, these were simple prayers for leadership. But in them, coaches, prayer call leaders, chaplains, and others acknowledged the sin of racism, the calls for reparations, and the hope that building the beloved community brings. More than one participant viewed new places of worship as fresh expressions of this beloved community.

Pastor John Powell

“We pray Lord that you will help us understand that you didn’t come to Earth and walk this planet for those days to rebuild a past temple,” said Pastor John Powell, a member of DCEF’s Board of Directors, “but you came to make something new.” 

Alongside the passion for new church were calls for older congregations to follow the example being set by their younger counterparts, who, in the eyes of more than one regional new church team member at the gathering, are often creative and innovative in their approaches to serving their neighborhoods.

“Christians need fires lit underneath them,” enthused Ramona Crawford, a lay member of University Christian Church in San Diego, CA. “New church is the fire that Jesus is lighting under the established church.”

Rev. Dr. Joi Robinson

The summer Summit was the second such online event for New Church Ministry’s church-wide initiative, bringing together Disciples from Kansas, Washington, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Minnesota. Like the inaugural event that took place on March 6, this Summit was hosted by Rev. Dr. Joi Robinson, Associate Minister of New Church Strategies, and included prayers for resources and relationships, testimony on the impact that prayer had on the development of a church plant, and a scripture shower. Unlike its predecessor, this event introduced a spoken word piece performed by Rev. Yvonne Gilmore, Interim Associate General Minister & Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation, called “Dangerously Reliable Tide.” In it, she echoed the feelings of those present, lamenting the limits of the church that she knows, but finding comfort and solace in prayer.

Rev. Yvonne Gilmore

“When you find yourself behind enemy lines

When trust is running away

When cumulus clouds look thirsty against the backdrop of a blues people

Water the plants

Access the portal within beyond the edge of yourself

Make dust speak

Post a help wanted sign in the window of your heart

Water outside the building

Saturate the soil

Practice talking to dry bones

Notice the budding before you

Delight in dialogue

Water the depths, pray without ceasing, you are inviting a dangerously reliable tide.”

Wesley King

How fitting then, that the Summit ended with the Lord’s Prayer (sung by Wesley King, New Church Ministry’s Program Coordinator), another reminder of the Christian faith’s humble origins, and of a yearning to connect with something larger than ourselves – and of our church.     

Register for New Church Ministry’s next Water the Plants Prayer Summit, which will take place on October 2 from 1:00 to 3:00 PM EST.

The image is a screenshot of nine participants in a Zoom meeting on providing communal care for deaf people. Five of them are making the American Sign Language sign for the phrase 'I love you.'

“We’ve got some work to do.” Increasing accessibility through ASL

For the past few years, New Church Ministry has worked hard to make its services accessible to Disciples across the United States and Canada.

It has provided Pentecost Offering resources in different languages, including Korean, Spanish, and French.

The ministry has recorded all of its New Church Hacks episodes so that people who can’t be present at the time can view the webinars at a later date.

Despite these developments, New Church Ministry hasn’t provided accommodations for those with hearing impairments or hearing loss.

“This year of social isolation has reminded me that there are people who feel isolated because they can’t hear the conversation that’s happening in the room,” shared Pastor Terrell L McTyer (Minister of New Church Strategies). “And we need to be more inclusive.”

That’s why he organized The New Wave Pentecost Series: Exploring American Sign Language (ASL) in Communal Care with My SupaNatural Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to making (w)holistic spiritual care accessible to those that need it the most, including those living with chronic conditions and their support systems. The virtual event featured art, videos, signing lessons, and interviews with panellists, who were all accompanied by an ASL interpreter on screen.

The image is a screenshot of nine participants in a Zoom meeting on providing communal care for deaf people. Five of them are making the American Sign Language sign for the word 'love.'
Pastor Terrell notes the similarities between the sign for the word ‘love’ and the symbol of “Wakanda forever” from the movie The Black Panther.

“600,000 people in the United States are deaf, and more than half are 65 years of age or older. Six million people in America report having a lot of trouble hearing,” reported Rev. YaNi Davis, My SupaNatural Life’s founder and someone who experiences hearing loss herself. “It felt timely to expand our education.”

There are 357,000 culturally Deaf Canadians and 3.21 million hard of hearing Canadians. ASL is the primary sign language used in Canada.

Participants of the event even learned how to sign the chorus from Kool and the Gang’s song “Celebration” from health educator Dr. Ashia James Ph.D.

Most importantly, the webinar provided an opportunity for people who use ASL or are deaf to share their experiences.

“It was powerful to hear the stories of those who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Wesley King, Program Coordinator. “These experiences gave you insight into their lives and compels you to find ways that you can be more empathetic and understanding.”

Gaining insight into deaf lives

The first time I saw Ashley, she walked into a party and started screaming,” remembers panelist Alyssa Lucchesi, a recent graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)’s ASL program. “I was ready to go to bed, so I thought, ‘who is this girl with all this sound right now?’ because deaf spaces are very loud. The music’s bumping because deaf people love to feel that bass.” 

Alyssa met her friend and fellow panellist Ashley M, who is deaf, in her first year at RIT. While they both worked as leaders at a camp for deaf youth called EYF (Explore Your Future), Ashley doesn’t consider herself a guide.

“When we’re talking about teamwork, I see myself as a peer,” clarifies Ashley. “It’s very important to be actively listening and actively watching.”

Panellist Sharon Meek was also exposed to ASL in an educational setting when she became a P.E. teacher at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. Her students’ experiences with hearing loss or deafness were emblematic of the ones shared by more than one panellist.

“There were kids that we taught that were deaf from birth or that had some sort of illness that caused them to lose their hearing,” recalls Sharon. “It went all the way down the continuum to those who were hard of hearing who could not function in a typical classroom.” 

Things we need to do next

Over the hour spent together, attendees from as far away as Arizona, Indiana, Virginia, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and Michigan were taught how to expand accessibility and care for deaf and hard-of-hearing folks in their communities.

  • Always include folks who are hard of hearing or deaf. Welcome them into the discussion.
  • Be mindful when making videos. Think about who’s around you and in your environment. When you’re posting it to social media, ask yourself, how can I make it more visual using captions or other tools? You can turn on closed captions for YouTube videos. Zoom also recently introduced a closed captioning feature, but if it cannot generate captions, there are third parties that can do so. Make sure that the letters are large enough for people to read.
  • Don’t be afraid or self-conscious about not knowing how to communicate with deaf people. Even waving, saying hello, or making eye contact are big things.
  • If you’re interested in becoming an ASL interpreter, meet some deaf people, become involved, and learn the language. See if it’s for you before you register for a tech program and make a career out of it. If you want to get certified, you need a four-year degree (RIT, the University of Arizona, and Tarrant County College are good places to start). Still, you don’t need a degree if you want to interpret. Please be aware that this can pose problems for deaf people as they are the ones that suffer from unqualified interpreters. Know the spaces you’re in.
  • If you really want to support the deaf community, learn about some deaf history. Meet some deaf friends and socialize. Pick up the language that way.

If you registered for our ASL event, then you’ve been automatically registered for future installments of The New Wave Pentecost Series, including our neurodiversity webinar on July 24 at 2:00 PM PST and our English as a Second Language webinar on October 23 at 2:00 PM PST. If you haven’t already signed up, you can do so here.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available!

Throwing out the agenda at the Hopeful Economics UnConference

With over a year of remote working experience, many homebound workers are wary of signing up for yet another online event due to “Zoom fatigue.” Passively sitting in front of a screen while a stranger shares information or fumbles with a poor Internet connection leads many of us to multi-task, largely ignoring what’s taking place in front of us. With that in mind, New Church Ministry and EDGE: A Network for Ministry Development organized their recent virtual gathering, the Hopeful Economics UnConference, so that both participants and featured guests could actively inform and lead the topics of discussion.

Using Whova, an event management software, attendees explored trends in the nonprofit sector, systemic change issues, and the relationship between faith and social enterprise. As they grappled with “hopeful economics,” or making the world’s assets and abundance work for everyone, Pastor Terrell L McTyer, Minister of New Church Strategies, kept up the energy as the Master of Ceremonies.

Getting into the right mindset

To prepare registrants for an agenda filled with deep discussions and challenging sessions, the first day was structured as a pre-conference. After an introduction from Pastor Terrell and Rev. Michael Blair, Executive Secretary of the United Church of Canada, speakers presented two different streams for folks in communities of faith and others in social purpose organizations. Those in the faith stream learned some social justice history and discussed economics, from conversations on the global economy as “God’s Economy” to the economic impact of churches. They also heard from Darnell Fennell of the National Benevolent Association, who shared what social enterprise has to do with faith, and Presbyterian Church USA, which shared some tips and tricks on creating partnerships.

Social purpose organizations focused on social enterprises and pitching for partnerships as well, with additional conversations on place-based innovation in rural settings and making equitable financial decisions that particularly affect BIPOC.

As participants waited for the second day of the UnConference, they were encouraged to visit the exhibitor booths online and engage with one another over discussion boards. According to Whova, the UnConference had more interactions than the average event on its website.

Creating new connections

The second day was full of opportunities for attendees to change their perspective on collaboration.

The two morning sessions were described as fishbowls, designed to bring people of faith and those in the social sector together to discuss the meaning of “hopeful economics.”

The afternoon session saw attendees play an interactive thinking game. Split into breakout rooms and given hypothetical resources, they were asked to address “attitudes to mental health.” The various groups found creative ways to make the “mission possible.”

Closing out the UnConference

As in the previous day, the final day of the Hopeful Economics UnConference ran morning and afternoon sessions, but this time, participants set the tone. Three breakout rooms were made available for them to join, each with their own specific discussion topic. Attendees were encouraged to drop into whichever group that appealed to them and move among groups as they wished. In total, 12 topics had been covered and attendees truly adhered to the UnConference ethos, keeping open minds and adapting to a sudden change in schedule.

Keeping the hopeful spirit alive

For three days, our ministry, together with EDGE, witnessed people across the United States and Canada form meaningful bonds and demonstrate thoughtful approaches to small discussion groups. We heard from incredible panelists and were uplifted by the enthusiasm of participants from various denominations. As many of us move into several more months of working from home, we continue to be inspired by those increasing their impact and addressing community needs.

Introducing the Water the Plants Prayer Summit

Since last summer, Disciples from across the life of the church have been praying for the new church movement.

New Church Ministry’s (NCM) church-wide Water the Plants (WtP) initiative has faithfully gathered together prayer intercessors every Tuesday morning and Thursday evening on the phone to prioritize the spiritual discipline of prayer and ask God to care for new congregations, as well as congregational, regional, and general ministers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. We are grateful for this dedicated team that supports new worship expressions.


Become a prayer intercessor with Water the Plants


NCM is excited to introduce our inaugural prayer-focused virtual event, the Water the Plants Prayer Summit, on Saturday, March 6th, 2021, from 1 pm to 3 pm EST

Attendees will pray for restoration, strength, transformation, creativity, rejuvenation, and connections. The gathering will include teaching, scripture, musical and spoken word performances, and so much more. Participants will experience testimony from various church planters on how prayer has influenced their emerging collectives’ development.

With NCM Associate Minister and WtP Coordinator, Joi Robinson hosting the event, our first ever Prayer Summit is a unique opportunity not to be missed. It is our hope that participants will leave feeling closer to their faith and one another, inspired to clarify their vision and mission, and with a renewed passion for experiencing a meaningful prayer life.

Schedule and guest list

5:00          Summit Introduction – Joi Robinson

30:00        Fellowship/Testimony – Nerleb Likisap, Francisco Ramos, Soriliz Rodriguez

5:00 Prayer – Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), OGMP, General Ministries – Lori Tapia

5:00          Prayer – Regions – Bill Rose Heim

5:00          Prayer – Leadership, Vision, Mission, Values – Syvoskia Bray Pope

5:00          Prayer – Resources, Finances, Stewardship – Rosario Ibarra

—–

5:00          Scripture Shower – Adria L. Patterson

5:00          Prayer – Creativity, Innovation, Training – Joey Ctto

5:00          Prayer – Coaching, Connections, and Relationships – Judy Cummings

5:00          Song – Dean Phelps 

20:00        Fellowship and Testimony – Luis Threat

5:00          Outro – Joi Robinson

Learn about the economic impact of churches

Join New Church Ministry and EDGE: A Network for Ministry Development from Wednesday, March 3, 2021 to Friday, March 5, 2021 at the Hopeful Economics UnConference! “Hopeful Economics” is a way of looking at the world of the assets and abundance that it has and making that work for everyone. And “UnConference” is when topics and discussions are informed by the people who show up. Attendees will be helping lead the direction of the conversations!  

With an incredible lineup of speakers, including Rev. Darnell Fennel (Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the National Benevolent Association), you will dive deep into the relationship between social enterprise and faith. You’ll also learn how to pitch your community of faith to form new partnerships. 

Participate in fun and interactive sessions that will challenge you to work with unsuspecting partners to increase your impact and address community needs.

New ideas and connections are guaranteed. All communities of faith are welcome!

For details (including a full agenda and registration), please visit: https://whova.com/web/virtu20_202012/.

In addition to being the Master of Ceremonies, Pastor Terrell L McTyer (Minister of New Church Strategies) will kick off the first day of the event:

Wednesday, March 3rd

Welcome – What to expect and how to be ready for this Unconference

10:00 am – 10:30 am EST

Description

Join us for a live introduction to Whova and how to get the most out of this Unconference!

– the schedule and an overview of the events
– Exhibitor section and how to set up a booth
– Interactivity – Gamification and discussion boards
– getting access to pitch coaches

Now you are ready to connect with people and get great ideas.

Our official hashtag for the event is #hopefuleconomics. Follow along on social media for more updates about our speakers and sessions!

New Church Ministry is proud to be both a sponsor and coordinator of this event.

Rick Reisinger Announces Retirement Plans

Indianapolis, Indiana – On Monday, January 11, 2021, Erick D. ‘Rick’ Reisinger, President of Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), shared his plans with the DCEF Board and staff to retire at year’s end –December 31, 2021. 

“This decision has been a long time in coming and is the result of a very personal discernment process,” Rick notes. “My wife and children have been after me for quite a while to spend more time with them and my grandchildren. I am thankful for the grace they’ve shown me as I’ve worked this out. I think the time to take this step is right, both for me and this ministry.”

Reisinger joined the Board of Church Extension, as it was then called, as an intern in the summer of 1975. Even as a teenager he knew he wanted to serve the church he had grown up in but not as a pastor as his father and both grandfathers had. Instead, following graduation from Culver-Stockton College with a major in business administration and economics, Rick joined the staff a year later in the areas of treasury, accounting and investments. In the 45 years since, he has worked in every aspect of the ministry in a variety of roles including, but not limited to, Assistant Treasurer (1977), Secretary and Assistant Treasurer (1988), Executive Vice President and Secretary (1995), Executive Vice President and Treasurer (2001) and President (2012).

“It has been my honor to serve congregations, regions, and other ministries and organizations by managing financial responsibilities to support their work and inspire and empower them to create Holy Places where people connect with God, each other and the community,” Rick explains. “I thank current and former staff, board members and church-wide leaders who made this possible, especially during the stressful times of economic crises we’ve experienced over the last 40 years.” 

Throughout his career, Rick has helped DCEF successfully navigate such challenges, including record high interest rates in the late 70s and early 80s; the Dotcom collapse of the late 90s; the 2007-08 recession when the real estate bubble burst and the stock market crashed; and, the current pandemic of 2020-21. Through DCEF, he lives out his faith and love for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by finding innovative ways to meet the financial needs of new and existing congregations and other ministries so they may thrive. Under Rick’s leadership DCEF remains focused, not on the past, but on the future of its ministry partners.

“Church Extension Fund was started in 1883 to help new congregations finance the construction of their Houses of Worship,” Rick notes. “It has been my privilege to serve this mission for nearly a third of the last 138 years. I will continue to do so, fully present, as I lead DCEF through this time of transition to the end of the year,” he pledges. “Disciples Church Extension Fund is a part of me. I will be forever grateful for this experience and supportive of this ministry.”