How do we reach our neighbors in the midst of ever-changing communities? How do we sustain compassionate ministry amid the complexities of the world in which we live? How do we discern where God is leading us while being inundated by the many other voices clamoring for our attention?
These are a few of the questions we find ourselves asking in the Church today. And the truth is that there are many ways for us to respond to the call of God; there are many ways for us to be faithful as God invites us to begin right where we are.
There is no shortage of opportunities to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ, the living hope that restores us from our brokenness and binds us all together. With the passage of two resolutions, the Southern Province Synod created new ways to provide recognition and resources for new ways to take advantage of those opportunities.
A diversity of gifts
As Moravian Christians we recognize and celebrate the diversity of gifts that God has given to the Church. Our many vocations and skills are the evidence that God calls each of us differently. Still, The Ground of the Unity makes clear that we are joined together in fellowship; we are members of a living Church.
It is in relationship with one another that we grow in our faithfulness to God—as we learn to cherish one another, forgive one another when we fall short of our shared values, and daily recommit ourselves as we journey and serve together. And just as every part of life is a part of our life with God, so too must we nurture and encourage the practice of hospitality among us, making room in every moment for the varied contributions that build up the household of faith.
In an effort to gain an ever clearer proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Moravian church has diligently worked to sustain ecumenical partnerships with sister churches. The congregations of the Southern Province have also been organized into Regional Conferences, seeking to promote shared vision and resources between Moravian communities of faith and the Board of Cooperative Ministries. Furthermore, individual congregations are increasingly cultivating meaningful relationships with para-ministry organizations across denominations. These experiences provide us with evidence that the landscape of ministry is changing and that not all of our ministry partnerships look the same.
New and emerging ministries
Growth in ministry partnerships is not limited to our congregations. We are discovering that there are new and emerging ministries in our communities that do not fit within the current models and categories that we have known. In addition to several new beginnings in the Northern Province, two communities have begun to reach out in Winston-Salem.
With PEC approval, staff members of the Board of World Mission, the Board of Christian Education, and the Board of Evangelism and Home Mission began a new outreach worship ministry in 2008. Now called Come and Worship, this unique worship experience for those interested in varied expressions of church beyond current customs and practices, has grown to the point that it averages a combined worship attendance of 60 for the two services it offers at Chelsee’s, a coffee shop in downtown Winston-Salem.
Anthony’s Plot is a Moravian intentional community of faith that combines residency, community development work, and a socially relevant and spiritually hopeful outreach to bring the good news of Jesus to visible reality. Anthony’s Plot works to bring about reconciliation among those of different classes, cultures and races by organizing neighborhood meals, worship and events, and advocating for and working with the homeless population in Winston-Salem.
These Moravian-led ministries are making a positive difference in the Winston-Salem community, reaching out to our neighbors to share the good news of Jesus Christ. They have also developed meaningful partnerships with local congregations and Regional Conferences within the Southern Province.
Thus, it became clear that while God is calling us to strengthen existing ministries, God may also be calling Moravians to develop new communities of faith and other ministries that join the Spirit’s transforming work in this ever-changing world, and carry out the vision that God is giving to our church. Still, these ministries and others like them cannot be easily identified in accordance with traditional models of ministry.
Last year, in preparation for the upcoming Southern Province synod, a number of people who were either participating in these new ministries or were encouraging of such ministries began to work together to provide official recognition for them, being careful that such recognition would not force them into existing categories that might limit the spirit and direction that they were taking.
In November this group began having more intentional conversations, both over the phone and in person, through multi-person email conversations, and by teleconferences in which we looked at the Southern Province Book of Order and at ways other denominations dealt with emerging ministries. During one of these teleconferences in March we hit upon the name of Manna Ministries.
Manna Ministries derives its name from Exodus 16, the Biblical passage where the Lord provides for the Israelites who are traveling through the desert by sending down a bread-like substance and quail. Exodus 16:31 tells us that the people of Israel called this bread “manna” which literally means “what is it?” We saw parallels between the ministries we wanted to support and the manna in the Exodus passage. Both were things not quite like anything the people had experienced before, provided by God to care for people in a time of transition.
When this Resolution was introduced to synod, it went through committee work, resulting in some editorial improvements before being approved by the full synod as Resolution 18. When coupled with the passage of Resolution 17, which authorized PEC “to establish policies and procedures and to use Cornerstone Campaign funds for such general financial support of new and emerging ministries,” these resolutions give the Southern Province much greater flexibility to provide resources and support to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, now and in the future.
Equating these ministries with manna is helpful in several ways. First, it recognizes their value here and now while also understanding the potential for God to provide through these ministries, even as those ministries continue to change over time. Eventually the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, and the Lord no longer provided them manna because they no longer needed it.
The thought that the Moravian Church would only exist as long as God wanted it to do God’s work in the world has been attributed to Count Zinzendorf. Our church has grown and changed dramatically since Zinzendorf said this, but we trust that we still exist because God is still working through us. Likewise we believe these Manna Ministries may grow and change and thrive as long as God is working through them.
Who knows what God may do through them, or through other modes of Manna Ministries that God is about to shower down to be a blessing to us and to others!
The full text of Resolution 18 Establishment of Manna Ministries is available on the Southern Province Website (http://mcsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2014-Synod-Resolutions.pdf).
Andrew Heil is pastor of Hope Moravian Church in Winston-Salem. Riddick Weber is assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and director of Supervised Ministry at Moravian Theological Seminary. Thanks to Anthony’s Plot and Come and Worship for these photos.