By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference
Photo right: Cynthia Graham, a lifelong member of Hopewell UMC, enjoys serving on a team that is leading the congregation to fruitfulness.
Photo below right: Neighbors and members of Hopewell UMC grouped for a photo following a community breakfast in a local park near the church. Outreach is one way they are attracting more people to service on Sunday.
The latest story in the series Living Out The POWER of We (also the Mississippi Conference United Methodist Church theme) comes from Hopewell United Methodist Church. A small group there is being coached on loving, learning, and leading together for the purpose of making disciples and church renewal.
Loving, Learning, and Leading at Hopewell UMC
Cynthia Graham has been taking piano lessons since late 2014 so that she can play music for the youth choir she directs at Hopewell United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi. She was motivated to learn following the passing of her sister, Eunice McKinney, who was the choir's pianist. Graham is also the youth leader at Hopewell, and her decision to pick up a new skill was not immediate. Her sister died in 2008 and for several years, the youth regularly sang acapella. Now Graham and the young people work closely to lead their small-membership church in song on youth Sunday.
"They (youth) tell me the songs they want to sing, and I just learn to play them. They (songs) may not always sound a certain way, but there is music," chuckled Graham whose own children are grown-ups.
Just like her commitment to young people, Graham is faithful to the church too. For this reason, she is serving on the ABIDE leadership team at her church. This group of eight consists of laity from Hopewell and its sister church Mt. Zion UMC. The pastor that both churches share is on the team too.
In April 2016, the ABIDE team began meeting weekly for two hours to honor their promise of time together for personal spiritual growth and development of the leadership team. They are also committed to retreat with vision teams from other small-membership United Methodist churches over the next year to 15 months.
The group is exploring the process loving, learning, and leading. The journey means to abide in Jesus and love one another, learn from studies and trainers and prayerfully discern the leading of the Holy Spirit for their congregation's future. The team uses resources through Spiritual Leadership Incorporated (SLI).
Close to six months into the project, Graham appreciates the loving phase that creates team bonding.
"I see these people all the time, but I didn't know how they are feeling. They have a smile on their face when I am in service with them, and that is it. I didn't have a personal relationship with them. There is one individual who has always been so sweet. I never knew that her faith was so strong. It is awesome," said Graham.
Pastoral transitions sometimes impact the success of a church's ministry. However, leadership teams that bear fruit will last. The Rev. Ada Clay is the pastor of Hopewell and Mt. Zion. The combined teams formed before her appointment. Currently, Clay serves on another team going through the loving, learning, and leading process, so she understands how to be supportive as the newcomer.
"I am involved in the discussions, but it is for the members and not for me to do the work. It is an opportunity for the congregation to take ownership and I am enjoying that because seeing them work motivates me. We (clergy) cannot be threatened by lay that has leadership capability. We have to develop them spiritually. I love it, and I am just excited about it," Clay explained.
Clay also pastors the United Methodist congregations Prairie Chapel and Stevens Chapel. All four churches make up the Philadelphia Parish.
Living Out The POWER of We in Mississippi means loving, learning, and leading that is rooted in Love Generosity, Justice, and Apprenticeship.
To read the previous loving, learning, and leading stories from the series, Living Out The POWER of We, click on the links below.
Living Out The POWER of We at Heritage UMC (#2)
Living Out The POWER of We at Forest UMC (#1)