When is the New Worship Starting?
In the past ten months, I’ve heard this question countless times from many curious and excited people. Frequently, the question pops up in spaces when I don’t quite have the time to give as detailed of an answer as I would like. So, to follow up on all that excitement and curiosity, let me give a small snap-shot of where we have been, where we are, and where God is leading us…
When I first arrived in July 2017, FUMC Decatur had already been years in the process of building a strong foundation upon which to anchor a new faith community. This congregation poured hearts, dollars, and energy into building the foundation upon which I landed — a vibrant congregation, beautiful new space in the MAC, and financial support for the launching of this “new thing.” So, when I joined this journey, I was given the freedom to focus on what I love most — people. My first months in Decatur were spent reaching out to young couples, families, and others loosely connected to the church, in addition to putting down roots in the Decatur community at large. I began having one-on-one conversations about the strengths and needs of the community and asked people to dream about what God-sized vision we might strive towards in building a new faith community anchored in First Methodist. In December, I invited a small group of dreamers to spend three evenings together around my dinner table to dream & collaborate about this “new thing” God was doing in our midst.
Out of these Advent conversations was born a “Launch Team” — a motley crew of a dozen folks committed to bringing this “new thing” to life. In January, we resumed meeting together over food to continue our collaborations. Each month, we’ve been taking Sunday morning “field trips” to other new church starts across North Texas, learning from our neighbors about what has worked well in planting, what they learned along the way, and what advice they would give in hindsight. The first green sprout of life came to bud on Easter morning, when 130+ people from across Decatur gathered on the Downtown Square at 7:00 a.m. for the first annual Community Easter Sunrise Worship hosted by Pecan Street Mission. Easter morning was an even greater sign of resurrection than any of us anticipated! It was indeed confirmation that God is at work in our efforts to reach new people with the Good News of God’s love!
In a few weeks, we will host our second community worship gathering on Mother’s Day — gathering on the playground here at the church for a morning of worship, communion, and celebration of mothers in our lives. Much like Easter Sunrise, we hope this will serve as a time for those in our neighborhood unconnected with a faith community to explore faith with one another through Pecan Street Mission. This summer, we will put our hands and feet to work for God in Community Service Days each month in addition to gathering weekly for experiments in “Dinner Church” — building Christian community in a family friendly worship environment built around shared meals. Then, in August, we will begin monthly “Preview Worship” in the MAC — a “soft launch” of sorts as we build greater momentum for this new community God is knitting together.
My continual prayer for our labor is that God will use this movement of the Spirit to bring new people into a deep awareness of the love of God at work in their lives. For the 35,000 “un-churched” people across Wise County — and the countless more “de-churched” persons who have been burned and broken by the church — I pray God will work in and through our efforts to heal, restore, reconcile, and redeem. I pray this will be so much more than just a new offering of worship in a different style — I pray God will build a (w)holistic community of persons seeking to dedicate their lives to walking together in the footsteps of Jesus, a community learning to love deeply in order to live differently. By the grace of God, may it be so.