Thursday, October 27, 2016

Skylines and Silhouettes Part 5 | Worcester, MA and Richmond, VA

Worcester, MA Skyline by Media Surge

Being Blessed and Sent for the Sake of the City

Skylines and Silhouettes is a continuing series with Emmaus City. If you would like to read previous entries, click on the links below.

Worcester, MA and Richmond, VA: Abiding in Christ, by the grace of God, trying to seek first God's Kingdom

This past summer, I had the privilege of visiting with Pastor Doug Paul and worshiping with East End Fellowship in Richmond, Virginia. I had first heard of them from a couple with Emmaus City because a friend of theirs had helped start the church. Then I met David Bailey, East End's worship director, founder of Urban Doxology, and executive director of Arrabon, at a Missio Alliance conference in Philadelphia this past May. All of these bread crumbs, along with the fact that East End is a multicultural and missional community-based church, led me to reach out and spend some time with them.

The visit and service of worship with them was everything I hoped for and more. I have much to learn from these sisters and brothers who have been serving Richmond for 10+ years now and are doing an incredible work. Their 5-Year Vision goals for 2016-2021 are built around 6 themes: (1) Whole/Gospel Neighborhood, (2) Discipleship, (3) Artistic Movement, (4), Holy Spirit Power, (5), Sending Diverse Leaders, and (6) Evangelism. Each theme is represented in the icons below.

East End Fellowship Five-Year Vision Icons + Link to Details

But how did they begin and then get to this moment?

The answer was provided in wonderful detail in one of my top books of 2016, The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance, which I just finished this week. God continues to bring East End to my attention again and again.
 My hope is that it is because they will continue to help and inform what we are doing in Worcester based on what they have seen God do in Richmond. And my prayer is that we will see God bring together a similar group of visionaries and practitioners who wish to see glimpses of the Kingdom coming to Worcester like God has done in Richmond through where they live, work, and love others.

Richmond, VA

"A group of friends from an array of ethnic backgrounds took a spring break trip to John Perkins's Voice of Calvary Ministry in Jackson, Mississippi. Here they caught God's vision for racial and Christian community development. After graduation they married, discerned God's paid callings upon their lives, and pursued graduate school to prepare for those callings. Mary Kay completed her master's degree in education. Romesh and Danny went to medical school. Sarah pursued nursing, while her husband, Corey, went to seminary to prepare for ministry. Matt became a financial adviser. Then they returned to the dream they believed God had formed in them during their college years  to be faithfully present in a specific neighborhood and in their respective callings for the long haul.

"As they found themselves able to move to the Richmond area, they began to discern where specifically they should live. It was important to them that they be invited into a neighborhood rather than imposing themselves upon it. They deeply believed that they would not be the ones to bring God into the neighborhood to which they moved. Instead, they would join Jesus's ongoing kingdom mission as they connected with others from that neighborhood who were already faithfully engaging in God's kingdom work.

"God opened doors to a specific neighborhood through a community member who invited them to move onto her street and a local pastor, Don Coleman, who sensed that God was sending them to the very neighborhood in which he had been born, raised, and continued to minister. Don began his life in one of the public housing developments in the Church Hill neighborhood in the East End of Richmond. Through a foster care program, he and all four of his siblings were eventually removed from the home of their biological parents and welcomed into the home of a godly family in the community. After attending college in a nearby part of Richmond, Don returned to the neighborhood. He and his wife, Florence, have been laboring faithfully in Church Hill their entire marriage. Don continues to serve the neighborhood through his involvement as one of a lead pastor (now with East End) while also serving the larger city as the chair of the Richmond School Board.

"Based on his reputation as a respected pastor who was active in the community, Don was sought out by a couple members of this group of friends. They learned from Don that he had been praying for years for a movement of God's people in his neighborhood. His prayers were for a movement focused on racial reconciliation and Christian community development. Just like this group of friends, Don had been influenced by John Perkins and his vision for Christians to commit to living and investing in underresourced neighborhoods. Don believed that this group was a direct answer to the prayers that he and others had been offering. When he invited them to move into the neighborhood, they prayerfully accepted the invitation. He has been a faithful and significant mentor since these friends moved into Church Hill, as their hearts have become increasingly troubled by issues that had long been burdening many of those who lived there long before they arrived.

"After moving into the neighborhood, Mary Kay taught in the local elementary school before having children and serving the neighborhood by nurturing her family and regularly opening their home to house and feed people in the community. Her husband, Danny, is a pediatrician with a master's degree in public health who works as Richmond's deputy director of public health, helping to improve the medical options available to low-income residents. In conversation and discernment with others, Corey and Don eventually began East End Fellowship in the neighborhood that draws people to worship together from all walks of life. As they raise their children, Corey and his wife, Sarah, also regularly open their home to welcome and house others in need.

"Catherine and Matt seek the flourishing of God's children through their commitment to the local public schools, which involves both relational and institutional engagement. Romesh is a pediatrician at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studies holistic health care for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, access to quality health care for Spanish-speaking patients, and childhood obesity (a problem that disproportionately impacts urban children. His wife, Lawson, began a nonprofit committed to helping urban youth experience the outdoors through year-round outdoor educational activities and summer camp scholarships, including a range of partnerships with inner-city schools, community organizations, churches, and tutoring groups.

"As this group of friends is continually drawn by the Holy Spirit into God's kingdom mission, they have found that they must live in dependent trust on God. During a recent visit, one of them shared with me that she has learned more than anything else that she alone can't change a thing, but that she can rely on God, who is always at work. Another shared that for every small need that they've seen met during their time in this neighborhood, they have become aware of hundreds that have gone unmet. He and his wife have learned that to persevere in hope, they have to depend on the help of their friends and neighbors and the grace of God.

"While they face daily struggles and hard decisions, and they navigate the expectations and hopes of their parents (who pictured very different lives for their children and grandchildren), the Holy Spirit is with them in the journey, strengthening and leading them further into their identity as God's saints. With gratitude for God's grace, they offer their lives, their time, their money, their relationships, and their callings to God. They use the power and privilege that have been given to them in their callings as neighbors, mothers, fathers, friends, doctors, social entrepreneurs, and pastors to seek personal and structural justice, righteousness, and shalom for others. They worship together, and they confess together. Abiding in Christ, by the grace of God they are trying to seek first God's kingdom, justice, and righteousness with hope that their lives are bearing kingdom fruit in word and deed, although that fruit can sometimes be hard to see in the short term." + The Justice Calling, pgs. 159-162

Next post: Why We Get to Love Jesus' Church | Because Jesus Calls Us to Embody His Justice and Righteousness Together

– Sully

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