Mission First!

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Capital Area assembly reports on Mission Gathering


by Rev. Allen Harris, regional minister

2016ccca-mgofferingThe rich diversity of the Christian Church Capital Area and the energy of new life and purpose was evident at the Mission Gathering that was a central part of that Region’s Assembly  Oct. 14 and 15, in Shepherdstown, WV.  Representing Haitian immigrants, Hispanic church leaders, young adults and seasoned church members, African Americans, conservative, moderate, and progressive viewpoints, Asian Americans, LGBTQ persons, persons of European descent, charismatic Pentecostals, rural, suburban, and urban congregations over 200 people participated in the Capital Area Regional Assembly.  All who gathered eagerly shared their stories of faithful mission in their local congregations, their hopes and dreams for the future of the church, and their newfound excitement for a Region seeking to make Mission First! a reality for guiding the direction of the staff, board, and volunteers of the Capital Area.

2016ccca-mgtablesThe Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter was host for the Assembly in the Mission Gathering, assisted by the Rev. Ciara Simonson.  It was especially fitting that Rev. Carpenter lead the two-hour session as she was present at the very beginning when Mission First! was initially imagined.  Both she and the Regional Minister, the Rev. Allen V. Harris, have been chosen to be on the Mission Council which will take all of the data from Mission Gatherings around the life of the Church and help to focus them as they guide the direction of our denomination.  The Mission Council will be meeting in Dallas in early December.

2016ccca-mgreportCommon themes from the reporting session included the need to do more mission outside of our comfortable church buildings, the urgency for more partnerships with other churches and even non-church-related entities, the challenge to rethink how we treat and talk about those with whom we are doing mission, and the firm belief that the mission to which Christ calls us will be the very thing that brings us back together as a church.  A particularly poignant moment during the plenary session from one of the table groups came when Nancy Solomon, member of North Chevy Chase Christian Church, Chevy Chase, MD, and treasurer of the Region, and Ramona Crawford, member of University Christian Church, Hyattsville, MD and member of the personnel committee, shared Ramona’s drawing inspired by the conversation in her group.  The drawing is of a “fragmented world,” and in the midst of the brokenness is the bread and chalice.  Dynamic lines pointing inward show that, “The chalice is knitting/mending the world back together community by community.”

May it be so.

Mission gatherings foster deepening connections

“’Enthusiastic’ is the most common word I think I’ve heard in regard to people’s sharing about the congregation’s work (in answer to the first discussion question of the gathering).” Mission First! Project Coordinator Kenetha Stanton is hearing a lot of enthusiasm as she talks with hosts for the 56 Mission Gatherings that have occurred.

More than 2,000 Disciples have taken part in gatherings ranging in size from six to several hundred people. Disciples Women, youth, regional assemblies, special area gatherings and ethnic communities have all provided venues for talking about what matters most – God’s call on our lives. In the region of Georgia, more than 250 youth at camp participated, but also folks with 90 years of experience participated in the process.

“The conversations and sharing that took place in small groups during our NAPAD Convocation allowed people to speak about their hopes for the Church. People had the opportunity to convey what the needs are in their local communities and how the Church can be prophetic in its response,” shares Rev. April Lewton, National Benevolent Association Vice President for Development and Marketing who led the NAPAD gathering. “There was often a lot of shared laughter. Groups stopped to join in prayer over something, and people came away encouraged through their connections together.”

“We had the wonderful opportunity to host 11 Mission Gatherings throughout the state of Georgia.,” says Georgia Regional Minister Denise Bell, a member of the Mission First! Implementation Team. “I was never quite sure of what to expect except that each one would be different. Attendance ranged from 15 to 250 and we experienced the joy of sharing current mission stories and activities and dreaming about what courageous actions God has in mind for us in our general and regional church.”

Bell continues, “I heard comments like, ‘I wish all of our members were able to participate,’ and ‘This was a wonderful exercise, I did not know that all of this stuff was going on in our congregations. We care about our communities.’”

She reports that one gathering has already started a conversation between two racially different congregations to join ministry efforts in their community. “Every person left the gathering with a renewed hope about the church. Our dreams will discern a shared community day where every church at the same time will make a service investment in their community. We are already working on a shared mission project and ways to celebrate every congregations mission projects.”

More Mission Gatherings will be hosted across Disciples regions in the coming months with all the results poured into a report to the Mission Council meeting the first weekend in December. The report will be a combination of computer and human analysis of all the information received from all the mission gatherings. The Council will discern one or more themes for the Church to help focus our work together. In addition, the General Board, meeting in February, will discuss whether to formalize the governance changes piloted these past two years and present them to the 2017 General Assembly.



Feb. 26 Call to Prayer

By Timothy James

Isaiah 55: 8-9 New International Version

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

When Isaiah came to know who God really is, he recognized God as high and lifted up. This Lenten season would give many of us an Isaiah moment to realize the presence of the Lord along with our unworthiness or uncleanness. The thoughts and ways of God are wonderfully awesome in that they actually transcend ours. We historically and habitually place so many limitations and perimeters on our view of others and issues of life that it is hard to experience true community and equality. When Jesus said, “Whosoever believeth in me shall not perish…” He meant any and every one who believes.

Prayer: “As grain on scattered hillsides, when gathered, make one bread,
God gather all your people as one in Christ our head.
We come from many places and we are not the same,
Yet your strong love has called us to meet in Jesus name.”

(As Grain on Scattered Hillsides, by Ruth Duck)

Mission Council named

Meeting by conference call on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the General Board of the Christian Church approved the individuals nominated to the Mission Council for the Mission First! pilot project. They will meet in December 2016 to receive the information from the Mission Gatherings and discern one or more key mission areas. They are as follows:

Tony Rodriguez 50-59, Hispanic/Latino, Male, Layperson, FL
Tom Perring 50-59, Caucasian, Male, Layperson, PSW
Mary Lou Kegler 60-69, African American, Clergy, GKC
Sue Morris 50-59, Caucasian, Female, Layperson, NE
Congregational members
Jonathan (Jon) Blackwood 50-59, Caucasian, Male, Layperson, GA
Shanell Bowden 23-29, African American, Female, Layperson, IL/WI
Delores Carpenter 60+, African American, Female, Clergy, CCCA
Hope Casey-Allen 18-22, Multi-racial, Female, Layperson, IN
Peggy Chandler 60+, Caucasian, Female, Layperson, GKC
Jeremy DeWitt 30-39, African American, Male, Layperson, TN
Aura Yolanda Estrada 40-49, Hispanic/Latino, Female, Layperson, SW
Nestor Gomez Morales 40-49, Hispanic/Latino, Male, Clergy, CRM
Steven Gower 30-39, Caucasian, Male, Clergy, OH
Arnold Hayes 60+, African American, Male, Layperson, TN
Jennie S. Huang 40-49, Asian, Female, Clergy, SW
Matthew Hudman 30-39, Caucasian, Male, Layperson, SW
Delesslyn Kennebrew 30-39, African American, Female, Clergy,
Mayon Marcelino 30-39, Filipino, Male, Layperson, CAN
Carolyn McLemore 60+, American Indian/First Nations, Female, Layperson, OK
Jaclyn Oden-Peace 18-22, Mixed, Female, Layperson, SW
Sarah Page Jones 18-22, Caucasian, Female, Layperson,
Dawn Robinette 50-59, Caucasian, Female, Layperson, FL
Regional representatives
Greg Alexander 60+, Caucasian, Male, Clergy, KY
Thad Allen 40-49, Caucasian, Male, Clergy, WV/PA
Denise Bell 50-59, African American, Female, Clergy, GA
Nadine Burton 50-59, African American, Female, Clergy, GRR
LaTaunya Bynum 60+, African American, Female, Clergy, NCA/NV
Teresa Dulyea-Parker 50-59, Caucasian, Female, Clergy, IL/WI
Allen Harris 50-59, Caucasian, Male, Clergy, CCCA
Sotello Long 50-59, African American, Male, Clergy, SC
Bill Spangler-Dunning 40-49, Caucasian, Male, Clergy UMW
Cathy Myers Wirt 50-59, Caucasian, Female, Clergy, OR/SID
Higher education
Jon Berquist 50-59, Caucasian, Male, Clergy, PSW
Kelly Thompson 50-59, Caucasian, Female, Layperson, MidAm
General ministries (including Disciples Women and Disciples Men)
Gilberto Collazo 50-59, Hispanic/Latino, Male, Clergy, IN
Ron Degges 60+, Caucasian, Male, Clergy, IN
Chris Dorsey 40-49, African American, Male, Clergy, MI
Rebecca Hale 50-59, Caucasian, Female, Clergy, TN
Julia Brown Karimu 60+, African American, Female, Clergy, IN
Seung Un (Paul) Tche 40-49, Asian, Male, Clergy, IN
Denise Turner 40-49, Caucasian, Female, Clergy, NCA/NV
Brian Burton 30-39, African American, Male, Layperson, OH
Racial/Ethnic ministry representatives
Hector Velazquez 60+, Hispanic/Latino, Male, Clergy, SW
Geunhee Yu 60+, Asian, Male, Clergy, NCA/NV
Timothy James 60+, African American, Male, Clergy, IN
General Minister and President
Sharon Watkins 60+, Caucasian, Female, Clergy, IN

By the numbers

22 Males; 24 Females

3 are 18-22; 1 is 23-29; 6 are 30-39; 8 are 40-49; 16 are 50-59; 12 are 60+

14 are African American; 1 is American Indian/First Nations; 4 are Asian; 20 are Caucasian; 5 are Hispanic/Latino; 2 are Multi-racial

18 Lay; 28 Clergy

Regional composition

1 Canada 2 Northern Calif./Nevada
2 Capital Area 1 Nebraska
1 Cent. Rocky Mtn. 2 Ohio
2 Florida 1 Oklahoma
3 Georgia 1 Oregon/S. Idaho
1 Great River 2 Pacific Southwest
2 Greater Kansas City 1 South Carolina
2 Illinois/Wisconsin 5 Southwest
8 Indiana 3 Tennessee
1 Kentucky 1 Upper Midwest
1 MidAmerica 1 Virginia
1 Michigan 1 West Virg./Pennsylvania


At the 2015 General Board Meeting, GB-15-0934 Report of the Mission Council Task Force was approved. This approval included receipt of the actual task force report, approval of the Mission First! concept and authorization of the pilot of the Mission First! process in 2016.

In the Mission Council Task Force Report, Appendix 2, the membership of the Mission Council for the pilot is defined as follows:

The Mission Council will be composed of forty-six (46) members:

appointed by the College of Regional Ministers;


A short history – and future – of Mission First!

updated 12/18/15

2013: The Cabinet of general ministry presidents realized two things: the work required of the General Board was very broad including both visioning and administration and that Disciples needed to revisit our sense of calling and mission since it had been some time since the 20/20 vision was introduced. They took a proposal to the General Board asking for some thought to be given to a modified governance structure that would allow for corporate visioning and a way to reorganize ourselves to support that vision.

2014: The General Board appointed a Mission Council Task Force to imagine how that might work. A key recommendation was for a widely consultative process. In order to involve congregations in the visioning, the Mission Gathering concept was born.

2015: The General Board accepted the recommendations and authorized a two year pilot program. Called Mission First, the program calls for a Mission Council for the ministry of vision and focus and a governing board for the ministry of administration.

To experience the model and to fund the pilot, the board suspended their regular 2016 meeting. The Administrative Committee is functioning as the governing board during the pilot period. The pilot is to last until 2017.

At the summer 2015 General Assembly, the pilot was launched with the Administrative Committee meeting as a governing board in the fall. Meanwhile, the implementation team ramped up for Mission Gatherings, inviting regions and other ministries to host them across the U.S. and Canada.

2016: Mission Gatherings will occur across the U.S. and Canada in regional assemblies and other places Disciples gather.

Around the first week of December 2016 a Mission Council of over 40 people will meet to discern God’s call for Disciples.

2017: Disciples from all expressions of the Church will collaborate to implement God’s call to share in mission together.

The General Board will review the successes of the pilot and recommend any permanent changes to the General Assembly.


Oct. 30 Call to prayer

By Cherilyn Williams

Luke 1: 21-22 New Revised Standard Version

“Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak.”

Boy, do I know that feeling! Being prodded by God to deliver a message but not being able to articulate it. This time of waiting before our Mission Gatherings begin feels a little like that – we are waiting for God to lead and help us articulate God’s vision for how Disciples can make an impact in the world through putting mission first. And yet, a time of waiting on the Lord can be a time of preparation to receive the message God wants to deliver.

  • While we are waiting, take a few moments this week to articulate some of your dreams for mission whether you write it on paper, type it into a computer or make notes in your head. What is God calling us to do that the world might hear of God’s love?

Prayer: Lord, we are not very good at waiting. Cultivate an open spirit among us so we are ready to hear your call on us.