Six leaders from Isaiah’s Table: Grace, Hope, Food for All attended the Presbyterian Church USA’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities Conference held in St. Pete Beach Florida in August. Nancy Wind, Coordinator at Isaiah’s Table, was privileged to serve on the Conference Planning Team for a second year.
This Conference included over 450 leaders from new worshiping communities and some leaders who are wondering if their Presbytery or congregation might be called to start one. There were separate “mini conferences” for leaders from Hispanic/Brazilian communities and Korean communities, although we all came together for worship and plenaries. It was a great mix of cultures and perspectives, all gathered under the theme “Pursued by Grace”.
The theme of “pursued by grace” was apparent in each and every gathering, whether in daily worship or plenary session. Each worship gathering was amazing. Uplifting/dynamic music, inspiring sermons, beautiful liturgy, and meaningful prayers were present at each worship gathering. We began and closed the conference with communion services. The worship team for the conference was truly a gift to all. Conference pastors, including Isaiah’s Table’s Coach, Chris Brown, led daily devotions and prayed for the conference before and during the event. They were visible and available to anyone with pastoral care needs.
We were constantly reminded of God’s abundant and unwavering grace in the work we do and in communities we serve. Rhashell D. Hunter, director of Racial Ehtnic & Women’s Ministries for the PMA, reminded us that growth in numbers is the by product, not the goal of our ministries. Karl Vaters, author of the book The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us reminded the conference of the unique gifts of small churches. Rodger Nishioka, professor of CE at Columbia Theological Seminary, presented gleanings from recent research on young adults, reminding us that they are seeking relationships in faith communities, not specific programs or worship styles.
A highlight of the conference for those from Isaiah’s Table was the three-day workshop we took with Charles Wiley, the coordinator for Theology and Worship in the PMA. The workshop, titled Theology and Practice, focused on the order of worship and the reformed theology basis for each piece. This was especially helpful in our context, as ruling elders who plan all the worship services for our community. Charles was engaging and passionate about the topic and we were grateful for the opportunity to plunge deeply into such a topic.
Overall, the conference was affirming and empowering. We enjoyed sharing about Isaiah’s Table and hearing about all the new expressions of church God is forming all around the denomination. A new thing is truly happening in the PCUSA through the 1001 movement. We are grateful to be a part of it and are grateful to have a place to gather each year with others who truly understand the unique nature of starting a new worshiping community.