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!

Ekklesia

Finding a path to God with Ekklesia Global

Michelle Beech lives and works in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In her words, that’s not where she’s from, but that’s where God has her now.

Due to her father’s career as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she’s lived all over the United States. So it’s fitting that her new community of faith, Ekklesia Global, has people joining their video calls from across the country and across the world. 

Michelle Beech (back row) visits a waterfall with members of her faith community.

Ekklesia launched in 2019, after Michelle had taken a break from church. Over the years she had filled almost every single position one could at a Disciples congregation and needed some time away. 

“I felt the Lord leading me to do something new,” Michelle says in a recent interview with New Church Ministry. “Was that digital church? But how do we use technology to create something beautiful, instead of trying to force what we know works in a building to fit the medium?”

So in March of that year, she hosted a listening retreat to hear what her friends’ spiritual needs were. It turns out that many of them had left church 30 to 40 years ago and others, five to ten years ago. Still others hadn’t found a place of worship that was right for them since moving to the area.

“Some people left church when they were young. They walked away from God and they haven’t been involved since,” Michelle tells us. “To some degree, they’re unchurched because they have that one early experience with their inherited faith, instead of their chosen faith.”

She led them through what she was thinking she wanted to do – to create an outreach ministry serving the new mission field of our own backyards – primarily for those who have left traditional church. After receiving feedback, Michelle came away with some helpful information. She then invited people interested in what she was doing to an Easter sunrise worship service, which was Ekklesia’s first official meeting. After that, they got together periodically and talked about God, read books, and learned about sacred dance. Because they didn’t have a fixed space, it freed them up to locate venues that would fit the particular service.

“We didn’t look at what we could do within the confines of four walls,” Michelle shares. “We are a church without walls.”

This structure made the transition to online gatherings easier for Ekklesia after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Participants meet on Zoom every week, where they bring the best of their own faith journeys. And yet Ekklesia is more than just a series of virtual gatherings. It’s an inclusive faith community, encouraging all to keep moving forward on their own path to God. Michelle believes that real spiritual growth happens in intimate settings, so Ekklesia is being developed as a collective of small groups.

“Some people like going into a new church that’s big, because they can disappear until they’re comfortable,” she says. “So this might be a little intimidating.”

Creating a safe space of radical hospitality has thus become an important aspect of Ekklesia for Michelle. She avoids using vocabulary that would alienate the de-churched and eschews membership. 

“We don’t teach a particular theology,” she adds. “We inspire people to keep exploring and discovering by exposing them to different theologies.”

To that end, Ekklesia features guest speakers such as the Rev. Hannah Fitch, a member of its theology team, who introduced participants to ecofeminist theology, and Rev. Ronnie C. Lister, a founder of The International Center for Labor, Social and Spiritual Activism, who discussed Black liberation theology the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day.

For Michelle, Ekklesia is about getting people to the Table.

“I’m not looking to convert anybody, but if I had a Muslim friend come be part of these conversations around faith, he could hear why Jesus works for me, and I could hear why his faith has led him down this path and kept him close to God,” she emphasizes. “Without the conversation, neither of us ever get there.”

Michelle adds that she’s under care of the North Carolina region and working toward being commissioned. Ordination may come down the road, but that’s not where she feels she’s being led. Michelle refers to herself as a shepherd, one who makes sure Ekklesia’s conversations stick to its tenets of loving unconditionally, celebrating differences, seeking joy, and being a catalyst for positive change.

That’s not to say that she doesn’t take her leadership role seriously. Last year, Michelle and her team attended Leadership Academy, an annual event hosted by New Church Ministry that empowers leaders, regardless of their denominational affiliation.

When we ask her what to expect at an Ekklesia meeting, she holds up a neon green notebook. Michelle explains that every new participant receives one, even if journaling isn’t their thing, because she wants to at least provide them with a resource, a holding place for their thoughts and feelings that they can turn to at another time. As she describes it, journaling can be a way to meditate – after all, the simple act of writing something with a pen and paper requires time and attention. 

“If nothing else, you’ll see it,” Michelle chuckles, “and be reminded of the circle of people who love you.”

Other than a brightly colored notebook, participants in an Ekklesia meeting can also anticipate thought-provoking discussions shaped and formed by other attendees. After her friend and chairman of the board, who left the Catholic Church when he was 13 years old, came to her asking about her thoughts on original sin, she decided to do a series on “big God questions.” Michelle admits that she began to interrogate what she was taught, where her beliefs came from, and if she still held them today. 

“I really started thinking harder about my answers,” she recalls. “And in doing that, I was then excited to share the Bible with the group because it’s been a wonderful source of inspiration, hope, and wisdom that I put on a pedestal.”

Michelle is careful to point out that she doesn’t bring in the Bible to teach others her way of practicing her faith, but to inform their own personal faith journeys. She knows that others have different interpretations of Scripture and all she can do is share what works for her and why.

“So they get a ton of my Jesus stories,” Michelle laughs, “and a ton of my Holy Spirit stories!”

Over the past couple years, she says that she’s learned to step back and be more sensitive and unassuming as she’s gotten Ekklesia off of the ground. Michelle advises other church planters to trust the spirit and allow themselves to be open so that God can work through them.

“Let me tell you, if I had done what I thought needed to be done,” she jokes, “I probably would have pushed some of these people away!”

While 80% to 90% of Ekklesia’s participants identify as Christian, others see themselves as spiritual instead. It’s not that they’ve abandoned Jesus Christ’s teachings, Michelle clarifies, they just got frustrated with the people and the politics and decided to walk away from organized religion.

“They still love God and believe in Jesus,” she says. “They think we could easily build the kingdom on earth, if we would all just do our part.”

When we ask Michelle how Disciples can do their part to support new faith communities like Ekklesia, she encourages them to contribute to the Pentecost Offering, which divides gifts between the Regions and New Church Ministry. New Church Ministry uses gifts from this Special Day Offering to develop and maintain programs such as coaching and New Church Hacks

“New Church Ministry’s resources and training help Disciples develop new ideas on how to do church,” she summarizes. “The biggest leap I made was the day I realized that just because I wasn’t specifically teaching a certain way, didn’t mean that I wasn’t doing important work to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples.”

The Pentecost Offering is collected in most congregations on May 16 and May 23. 

incarceration

What a congregation for those impacted by incarceration can teach the church about welcoming all

Rev. Dr. Louis Threatt never thought he’d be a pastor.  

But that changed when he became a prison chaplain in North Carolina, where he noticed a disconnect between church and prison.

In a recent video call with New Church Ministry, Rev. Dr. Louis tells us that there’s both a lack of prison ministries and congregations doing prison ministry well.

incarceration
Rev. Dr. Louis Threatt

“In Matthew 25, Jesus asks ‘did you visit me?’ Churches will use that text to check this box off, even if they do little more than stop by,” Rev. Louis says. “Others will come into the prison and preach fire and brimstone.”

Attitudes toward those who have been incarcerated are not much better after they’re released.

According to Rev. Louis, when someone is released from prison and enters into a church, a simple introduction can be very uncomfortable, as some struggle between revealing that they’ve been incarcerated and having their past exposed or waiting until somebody finds out and then being treated differently. 

So he asked himself, why not have a place of worship that welcomes everybody? 

In February 2020, after several discussions with God and confirmation through friends, Rev. Louis and others pressed forward with planting a faith community for those impacted by incarceration, including those that served time, are currently serving time, and their families, as well as those that work inside these institutions. The pastor counts himself as a part of this community, as one of his best friends and several of his immediate family members have been incarcerated. For example, his sister spent 17 years behind bars, but is out now and doing very well. 

“I know what it’s like writing to somebody who’s locked up, visiting them, talking to someone through a glass window, wondering when you can see them on the outside,” he says, “and I know what it is like beholding the joy when they’re released.” 

Rev. Louis’s prison coworkers would say that he was doing time just like the inmates, but he knew the difference was that he could leave when he wanted to. 

“I can never fully understand the experience of somebody who has been incarcerated,” he clarifies.

Being on the other side though hasn’t exactly been easy for Rev. Louis. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and it’s continuing to rise. The rates for African American males have gone from one in 12, to one in eight, to one in three.

“Seeing that increase, and witnessing the vast number of persons of color inside, especially as an African American man, has been challenging,” he admits. “So have the conversations with people that have served their time, have been released, and returned. Some of them informed me that they recommitted just to get back in for a peace of mind and less responsibility. Unfortunately, this is a challenge for many who do not receive the support that is needed, especially the kind that can come from the church.”

So in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rev. Louis and others started developing a community of faith focused on incarceration. He knew that he could wait until he had more funds and more planning, but that this need was too great and urgent. So in June 2020, Cities of Refuge Christian Church (DOC) was launched. 

“I have pastored other congregations and I’m not big on starting a church just for starting a church,” says Rev. Louis. “I feel called to this particular ministry, and in this particular fashion. Our mission is to share Jesus Christ’s goodness, words, and teachings. We are open to and for those that are left out, abandoned, and forgotten.”

When we inquire about his involvement with New Church Ministry, he gives high praise to Pastor Terrell L McTyer, Minister of New Church Strategies.

“Pastor Terrell has helped extend some of this vision that God has put on me,” remarks Rev. Louis, “and been able to help formulate some of my radical ideas.”

In addition, he is grateful for the spiritual guidance through others such as his pastor, Bishop William J. Barber II and NC Regional Minister Bishop Valerie Melvin. (Watch Cities of Refuge Church’s video that was shown at the recent Regional assembly.)

A virtual worship service

Participants gather on Zoom and there are plans to explore sites in the area between Durham and Hillsborough once COVID-19 restrictions ease. As for the name, Rev. Louis turned to the Old Testament, when the Israelites were crossing over the Jordan River. In Joshua 20, God tells Joshua to set up cities of refuge. Those that have committed a crime can flee to one of these cities and be received without judgement, and protected and loved.

“There’s a lot of cities of refuge that focus on refugees, those that have been pushed to the margins, those in the LGBTQ+ community,” Rev. Louis says. “But you rarely see any that particularly serve who the scripture talks about.”

People tend to point out that these cities of refuge are for those who have committed a crime unknowingly. Rev. Louis counters this argument with Matthew 5. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.” He goes on to say, “My father rains on the just and the unjust,” and to greet everybody even the least of these. Rev. Louis then presents the case of Barabbas, who was serving a life sentence for murder until he was released by Jesus.

“How can we pick and choose who we invite into the church?” Rev. Louis questions. “I don’t believe that’s the God we serve. That’s not Jesus. In fact, many forget that Jesus was an inmate.”

Rev. Dr. Louis and a volunteer

So Cities of Refuge Church’s congregants include people who have been incarcerated, those who have been impacted by incarceration, and others who are passionate about the work that is happening. Their worship services are like any other services – they have music, invocation, prayer, and scripture reading. Every Sunday, Rev. Louis intentionally sets time aside for testimony to hear celebrations. In our ministry’s interview with him, he offers two examples. One is of a worshiper who sang in a prison choir, was released, and now continues his passion for music with Cities of Refuge. He shared with the church that he was able to get his ankle bracelet removed and is no longer on curfew. Another is of a member who was serving a life sentence and was released after 29 years. This individual shared the joy of receiving his driver’s license and insurance.

“These brothers are putting everything on the table, keeping us on track with what they are doing,” explains Rev. Louis. “So we stopped and put our hands together to celebrate these wonderful accomplishments. Getting a driver’s license might seem like a small achievement to a lot of people, but this is huge for him and us.”

Rev. Louis tells us that for his brothers and sisters at Cities of Refuge (COR) and elsewhere across the country, finding somebody after they get out—other than a judge or a probation officer—to hold them accountable, to check on their spirit and peace of mind, and see how things are going and offer support, is essential. That’s why he and his associate ministers and other members build relationships with individuals before and when they come out. Rev. Louis believes that strong support systems, like families and religious groups such as his, will decrease the recidivism rate.

In addition to worship, COR visits homeless shelters and transitional homes at least four times a year, but supports them on a monthly basis. Rev. Louis shares with us an experience of a trip to one such transitional home that he and others at COR had previously been to. On their second visit, an employee there informed them that a neighbor was shot and killed the night before, so he and his staff were hesitant about letting COR return. In the end, they let them visit and serve.

incarceration
COR visits a transitional home

“I’m glad that they did,” divulges Rev. Louis. “We were setting up to do a fish fry and community give away, when a woman approached us and said that people living nearby were sad and heartbroken over the killing of the young man, but our congregation’s presence was bringing them life. So we prayed, gave out food, and blasted music. It was a great joy to help this transitional home and the neighborhood in the midst of pain.”

He and his colleagues anticipate making more consistent visits this year as well as providing educational and partnership opportunities to those who have been impacted by incarceration. Additionally, the congregation has a faith team with the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham and Rev. Louis is one of the facilitators that helps mitigate sentencing and reduce recidivism.

incarceration
COR visits another transitional home.

He hopes that COR can lead by example and change the narrative when it comes to the church supporting those impacted by incarceration. Helping them to reintegrate back into society without feeling ashamed, nor scrutinized but supported in every way. If other congregations can see that returning citizens and those who have been convicted of a crime have done their time, guilty or not, can further help strengthen the church as part of the body, then maybe they’ll consider forming a prison ministry, reevaluate the one that they have, and/or how they’re currently doing ministry as a whole.

“These people coming out are not just inmates,” he emphasizes, “they’re our brothers and sisters.”

To support churches like COR, make a gift to the Pentecost Offering, collected in most congregations on May 16 and 23. This Special Day Offering is divided between New Church Ministry and local Regions.

Navigating death, intimacy, and the palpable nature of online church with Rev. Orlando Scott

New Church Ministry’s interview with Rev. Orlando Scott started later than expected.

As a chaplain at Northside Hospital in Lawrenceville and Duluth, Ga., he had just spent time in comfort care with a dying patient and her boyfriend, who had been brought down from another floor. Rev. Orlando is busy turning on lamps in his office to improve the dull clinical lighting and apologizing for his tardiness when he joins our video call.

Even though we ask if he wants to reschedule, Rev. Orlando replies that it isn’t a problem, this is everyday life for him and his colleagues, including the intern who pops into the room to confirm his patient’s death.

As we get to know Rev. Orlando better throughout the afternoon, our ministry comes to understand that what he says rings true: journeying with people as God meets them where they are is part of his day-to-day life, whether it’s virtually gathering on Wednesday nights with members of his new congregation, Amplify Christian Church (DOC), or urging legislators at the Georgia state Senate to love the homeless as much as they love the homeowner, or even handing out food to local residents.

Before the pandemic, Rev. Orlando officiated the marriage of one of his co-workers.

“I just want to be a helping hand, a listening ear, a compassionate heart,” he tells us. “That’s the way I approach pastoral ministry.”

Before he launched Amplify Christian Church last year, Rev. Orlando was on the team to create mental health awareness and advocacy programming for pastoral leadership in his region as part of its mental health initiative. As a hospital chaplain, he regularly interacts with folks experiencing mental illness, so he went from asking himself, “how do I become aware?” to “how do I become a partner?”

This way of thinking has served him well, especially since he planted his faith community right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, he had several conversations with the former Regional Director of New Church & Church Development, Rev. Richard Williams, about the different sites that the Christian Church in Georgia was looking at developing, including Snellville, a city not 10 minutes away from where Rev. Orlando lives. He asked to look at the building and if anyone occupied it. It turns out no one was, so Rev. Orlando began to develop a ministry there. He brought relatives and others that live in or near the community to the site, and asked them what they envisioned for it. The plan was to open in March of 2020, which, for obvious reasons, did not go through. But what did end up happening was numerous calls with friends who were anxious about the state of the world. Rev. Orlando initially responded by organizing an online Bible study about anxiety, that has now moved on to studies about mutually supportive relationships. On Zoom meetings, he and his friends have explored the Book of Ruth, and how the three women in the story sustained each other over time through their crisis. Rev. Orlando has found that creating vital relationships during the past 13 months has been essential as people still need ways to communicate with each other. This last quarter, the topic of his weekly conversations has been how to love and grow in community, even in the midst of continued isolation.

The number of congregants has grown too, from six to 11, as family members and friends join. Rev. Orlando also welcomes those from different faith traditions and even those without a faith tradition.

“On a day-to-day basis, I meet people in all types of circumstances and spiritual or religious traditions,” he shares. “These exchanges undergird how I envision what church or a pastor should or could be.”

And yet, he’s wary of adding additional participants to his meetings at this time, as he doesn’t want to lose the dynamic he’s built with his fellow worshipers. Many of the people Rev. Orlando’s met through Amplify have experienced church trauma, but find his space one of fellowship, healing, and development – one where they can become the person they were called to be. As he discusses his faith community, it seems that the environment he’s cultivated is due to the way he does ministry.

“You’re the expert on who you are, and your spirituality,” says Rev. Orlando. “I’m not going to force you into some type of ideology. I don’t know your experience. In chaplaincy it’s called being an intimate stranger – we walk in this intimate space together, but I’m still a stranger.”

While he views his work at Amplify as meeting needs the way that most other churches are, Rev. Orlando describes his approach as non-traditional, something he picked up as the secretary of the National Benevolent Association (NBA)’s Board of Trustees. Seeing all of the NBA’s different health and social ministries across the United States helped him think outside the box.

Historically, the Church has wanted numbers, to open up the doors and find a way to get people in,” Rev. Orlando says. “For me, it’s about learning to build trust, so that people can feel that we are investing in them, not just extracting. As I invest, I want people to do the same, so that we have this mutual exchange.”

On that note, we ask the pastor/chaplain/church planter what it means to him for Disciples to contribute to the Pentecost Offering. Half of the gifts made to this Special Day Offering go to New Church Ministry to train, equip, assist and multiply leaders through programs like Leadership Academy, coachingNew Church Hacks, and Water the Plants. The other half stays in regions across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada to support local new church development.

“For me, to be able to receive those gifts… it’s doing the ministry of Jesus Christ, creating opportunities to meet particular needs of folks around us,” muses Rev. Orlando. “And to be able to share the love and compassion of Christ in a tangible way.”

Brother Stan, a member of the church, handles boxes for Amplify’s food distribution program

While “tangible” may not be the best way to describe a virtual faith community, Amplify has done some work on the ground. Since June of last year, it has partnered with the county once a month to give away 200 boxes of produce. It has a similar collaboration with a local high school, which lets students and families know that boxes of food are available to be picked up.

“Two people started out giving produce, then it grew to three, five people,” he recalls. “It doesn’t take much, just an idea that you want to give of yourself and provide a space to help others.”

Rev. Orlando sees food sustainability and serenity as future goals for Amplify. He hopes that through a community garden, he and others can provide organic food to their neighbors, helping people reorient the ways that they consume and produce food, as well as relate to the land around them. Along that vein, Rev. Orlando also looks forward to offering horticultural therapy to the community as a way of cultivating spirituality along with emotional wellness. Others in his circle may have other plans.

“People are still wanting to gather and meet each other, but we’re not going to do that,” he laughs. “We have talked about doing a retreat in 2022 for us to all get together, probably in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it’s not going to happen right now.”

As our hour together comes to a close, we ask Rev. Orlando for any parting words.

“In our worldview, we sometimes have a scarcity mentality, but each of us have talents and abilities,” he opines. “If we use that for mutual growth and development, there is no lack.”

You can support new faith communities like Rev. Orlando’s by making a gift to the Pentecost Offering, collected in most churches on May 16 and May 23. 

Water the Plants Prayer Summit

Water the Plants hears from new church movement supporters at inaugural Prayer Summit

The Water the Plants initiative was born out of New Church Ministry’s vision to support new church plants within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Because our ministry seeks to train, equip, assist, and multiply emerging and affiliating congregations and leaders, we understand that supporting them is essential. So, in July of last year, our team started Water the Plants. Based on 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I have planted, Apollo’s watered, but God gave the increase,” this initiative calls together 1,000 intercessors to pray for new worship expressions.

“Connecting with God and others that have the same passion for new churches,” says Bernice Rivera, Oregon and Southwest Idaho’s New Church Ministry Associate, “is a source of energy for me.” 

Every Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM EST and Thursday evening at 9:00 PM EST, participants gather on the phone.

“I have been so grateful during these past months to be able to be on the prayer line,” shares Rev. Dr. Joanne Bynum, the Associate Regional Minister in the Pacific Southwest Region.

But with only 11 minutes to pray for general and regional ministers, as well as new faith communities and their leaders, there’s little time for chitchat.

Recognizing a need for fellowship, Rev. Dr. Joi Robinson (Associate Minister of New Church Strategies and Water the Plants Coordinator) organized and hosted the first-ever virtual Water the Plants Prayer Summit on March 6th. Attendees included prayer intercessors, prayer call leaders, regional new church chairpersons, congregants across the United States and Canada, coaches, and others.

The event kicked off with introductions, where attendees displayed their prayerphenalia, including keychains and wristbands, over Zoom. “Panelist mode” came next, where a husband-and-wife team told the group how prayer influenced the development of their new church.

“Through prayer we can say that Gold helped us to prepare a place of worship,” testify Soriliz Rodriguez and Francisco Ramos (pastors of Iglesia Cristiana Casa de Refugio). “Through prayer our ministry flourished.”

After viewing a presentation on Soriliz and Francisco’s new congregation, various members of the wider church prayed for those affected by COVID-19, clear mission, vision and values, and strong resources, stewardship and finances.

The second half of the Summit followed a similar structure with prayers and testimony, in addition to a live musical performance. It also gave witness to how powerful and prevalent prayer is for both church planters and New Church Ministry itself.

“I knew clearly what God was telling me to do, but I wasn’t sure. I went to Leadership Academy seeking confirmation,” remarks Rev. D. Marie Tribble, who launched Restoration Community Christian Church. “After our week together, it was in that closing prayer that God began to affirm the work that had already begun.”

Pastor Terrell L McTyer (Minister of New Church Strategies) closed out the event, thanking those present and calling on them to join the next Water the Plants Prayer Summit, scheduled for Saturday, June 5th at 1:00 PM EST.