Bring all voices to the table
A young single woman is recently divorced and has been kicked out of her husband’s community, the boundary in Cherokee, N.C. She has no home, no job, and no food for herself and her son. She turns to the local food pantry that happens to be at Living Waters Lutheran Church, one of seven mission congregations in the NC Synod. At the food pantry this young woman meets Lisa Russell who runs the food pantry. Like a mother hen, Lisa gathers the young woman under her wings and the woman becomes a part of that community…first at the food pantry to get food, then at a women’s group at Living Waters, and finally for worship. She now serves as the church treasurer.
The food pantry at Living Waters averages about 1500 clients a month and serves four surrounding counties. In May, the food pantry served 2400 people thanks to contributions from individuals and mission partners. Likewise, Christ’s Beloved Community, a joint Lutheran/Episcopal mission community in South Winston-Salem led by Pastor Chantal McKinney is also serving the “least of these” through its food pantry. While Living Waters, Cherokee, led by Pastor Jack Russell, has been a part of the synod for many years, Christ’s Beloved Community (CBC) is one of two new mission starts with our Latino neighbors along with Arbol de Vida (Tree of Life) in North Durham led by German Santana.
Earlier this month at synod assembly, Pastor Alfredo Oviedo, one of the pastors serving Grace, Hendersonville, and a former mission-developer himself, shared wisdom as the synod grows Latino congregations like Arbol de Vida and CBC as well as advice for existing congregations for walking alongside their Latino sisters and brothers, “We (Latinos) are children of God, just like you are. In the kingdom of God there is no ‘we’ and ‘they.’ We are just one family of God, one body of Christ. Please come to us, come to our neighborhoods. Meet us, know who we are from your own experience. Respect us in the same way we respect and love you. When you see us, remember the Golden Rule before you close your hearts and the door of your church buildings to anybody. It’s never too late to be a little more like Jesus.”
When Bishop Tim Smith announced the new vision for the NC Synod at the assembly, he shared, “We’re proclaiming the witness of Jesus which is not that you get what you deserve but that each has what he/she needs … We’ve got to continue to bring all voices to the table.” Our current mission congregations are seeking to do just that: bring all voices to the table.
Emmaus in West Charlotte, led by Dr. Shanitria Cuthbertson, is our newest mission congregation—they began worshipping in May 2018—and is a fulfillment of a long-time dream of many on the synod’s African-Descent Strategy Team. Emmaus and Joy of Discovery in Raleigh (another African-descent mission congregation), led by Pastor Tim Poston, are both working closely with local schools to provide community care and outreach. Christ-South is reaching out to young families and young adults in South Charlotte under the leadership of Pastor Matt Simpkins. Deacon Deb Johnson leads worship each Wednesday evening in Gastonia, for Agape. Agape seeks to be a safe place where all people can experience Jesus and unconditional love; Agape has intentional ministry to our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.
Epictetus, a Greek Stoic philosopher, offers advice that these mission congregations embody: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Our synod mission developers ask us to come and listen to these voices—meet them, walk with them, and make ministry happen.
Covenant to be a mission partner with one of these mission congregations! Let your congregation see that their giving extends beyond their walls and that as a church we are better together. Learn more about what it means to be a mission partner.
In 2018, the NC Synod and the ELCA churchwide organization will invest $150,000 (NC) and $257,500 (ELCA) of your mission support dollars to help these ministries happen. The impact of your congregational ministry is extending to Cherokee and Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, and is bringing all voices to the table. Together we are proclaiming the Gospel to a world in desperate need of hearing it.