Rev. Esta Jarrett
Pastor, Canton Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC
Macedonian Ministry Asheville, NC Cohort Member
“Macedonian Ministry has changed my life. The group of faith leaders in our cohort have become my closest friends. We worship together, encourage each other, challenge each other, mourn and celebrate with each other. Most of all, we *hear* each other. The biggest gift of this program has been providing a space where we can be completely ourselves without judgment – indeed, where we can be met with understanding and love.
In the past 3 years I’ve watched our group move from being neighbors who are slightly wary of each other, to being a ministry team. Each of us have, at some point, been involved in transformative ways in each other’s ministry. We’ve preached, arranged funding, volunteered, helped birth and helped close missional projects together in our various communities. We show up for each other. We know that we are doing this good and faithful work *together*.
And our communities have benefited from it. I’ve witnessed it in others, and know it to be true for myself. Our cohort has encouraged and inspired me to lead my congregation through tough and meaningful conversations around marriage equality, racism, Islam, and civility in public discourse. These conversations are helping my congregation re-imagine themselves and look to the future with hope and energy. I haven’t heard anyone express fear about money in the past year. What I hear every week is, “What can we do together?”
Finally, our cohort has erased the sense of loneliness and isolation so many faith leaders experience. When we’re not actually together as a group, we text constantly, or meet for lunch, or share curriculum, or drop by each other’s offices to talk through some thorny question, and on and on. We’ve kept each other sane. (Even those who have moved away. Once in the cohort, always in the cohort.) I know my colleagues would say the same. We plan to continue to meet after the official end of the program.
This doesn’t even take into account the Israel/Palestine trip, which…well, you know.
These words are a pale representation of the vibrant, living thing that is our cohort. An incalculable factor in all this has been Denise Thorpe. We wouldn’t be without her. I’ll forever be grateful and humbled by all she’s done for us.
Thank you, and thanks to all who are responsible for providing us with this most amazing and generous and life-giving gift.”