What Experiences in Ministry Are Nurturing Hope in You or Your Congregation?

Blog Series:  Your Perspective, Insights, and Witness Make a Difference

Dear friends, TMC thrives on listening to and learning from you – ministry leaders, TMC cohort facilitators, and other conversation partners across the country – who continually provide deep insights, alternative perspectives, and imagination that helps us discern where the Spirit is blowing and how the TMC network can faithfully respond. Your collective feedback is a powerful witness to what God is doing in the world. So, as always, we want to hear from you! Each post in this blog series is a question directed to you, accompanied by short reflections about why we’re drawn to these questions, and a simple way for you to respond. We hope these questions resonate with you and others in your ministry context.

Over the last several weeks, my colleagues and I have been reflecting on a series of questions on topics ranging from tensions in our ministry contexts, the need for simplicity, faith formation and discipleship, and most recently a reflection on Scriptures that are grounding us in these seasons.

In this week’s article, I want to share with you something that I witnessed just recently.

The Zion Spring Baptist Church and the Abbey Episcopal Church have a relationship that started years ago. The parish priest at the Abbey and I met through a Ministry Collaborative cohort – and we have been friends ever since. Just before the pandemic, we began talking about sharing space since the Abbey had been displaced and was looking for a place to gather.

Fast forward to this past year, and our conversation became a reality. The Abbey and Zion Spring are sharing space, sharing consumption of resources, sharing our love for our neighbors in the community, and sharing our lives with one another in the most encouraging ways. There have been challenges and learnings, but our deep love for Christ and one another makes even the obstacles opportunities for us to encounter the unpredictable movement of the Spirit when Christ is centered. It is astounding and it is encouraging.

Against the backdrop of the myriad challenges confronting small churches in poor communities, life is forcing her way through the cracks in the pavement and blossoming in small but significant ways.

Let me tell you what I mean…

The Abbey has a new chaplain. She’s settling in, learning the ropes, and while we’ve spent some time together getting to know one another, sharing experiences, and breaking bread – many of the members of Zion Spring haven’t met her yet. So, in one of our many group chats, it came up that she was encountering some medical issues.

This past weekend there were some folks from Zion Spring doing some chores, while a few folks from Abbey were down at the church arranging some furniture – the new chaplain was among them, and when she introduced herself, a member replied, “Oh, you’re the one we’ve been praying for!”

This is the message I received.

While it may seem trite to some, after 30 years in ministry, and 23 in this same place – these rays of light – these subtle displays of the Spirit – this is the stuff that makes me get up and keep coming back. These are the road signs that remind me that we are leaning in the right direction.

These are the experiences that are nurturing hope in me and in the people I am privileged to serve.

And guess what else?

These things happen in my absence – away from my influence – away from my meddling hands – away from my anxious gaze – God shows up – I am grateful.

Stories like this have marked my many years of pastoring. I admit that I haven’t paid as much attention to these types of things as I should. They don’t fit anywhere on a financial report or strategic plan (which are infinitely less encouraging – by the way). But these are the only signs that God says will identify us as disciples of Jesus, and that’s just fine by me!

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

John 13:34-34


What experiences in ministry are nurturing hope in you or your congregation?

Click here to respond. We’d love to hear from you.

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