WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LIVING CLASSROOM
In October AMiA sponsored Living Classroom, a three-day teaching event to equip clergy and lay leaders for the front lines. Living Classroom offered workshops and classes to give participants tools to address questions like “What are other churches doing to grow and flourish?” “How do we set a new course for our church?” “How do we identify and develop leaders in our church?” and “What does it look like to be a disciple-growing church?”
We’ve asked several participants to share with us what they taught or what they learned at Living Classroom. Below is one such summary.
Living Classroom: Joyous Fellowship
By Wayne+ Wimbish
“What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.”
– Elisha A. Hoffman, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
I pastor a small congregation called New Hope Mission Church in the suburban Saint Louis, Missouri metro area. At 125 members we are smaller than many AMiA congregations, but larger than the national average for congregation size. We have a unique congregational model however, as our mission is to bring the Church to the people who cannot get out to go to church on their own. We are distributed among seven senior centers in our area; and rather than the members meeting in a central location, a few volunteers and I travel to where they are, and we worship in their facilities. While we consider ourselves to be one congregation, our services are spread out across the week from Sunday through Friday with everyone worshiping weekly and several locations enjoying the fellowship of Bible study as well. It’s a case of 19th century circuit preaching meeting the 21st century, with my “horse” seeing about 200 miles of travel each week.
With the uniqueness of our ministry model compared to the focus of AMiA, coupled with the geographical separation of all the churches within AMiA, it becomes quite easy for a person, a pastor or a congregation to fall into a feeling of isolation from our brothers and sisters in the Mission. When we come together for Winter Conference, Clergy Retreats and Living Classroom events, fellowship is restored, isolation is dissolved, spirits are lifted and hearts are rewarmed.
This year’s Living Classroom was that type of reuniting event for me. I had not seen anyone in the Mission for 18 months, but in the fellowship of worshiping our Lord Sunday morning and evening, the months and the distances all melted away. I knew I was home again with my family. I knew that I was once again where the Lord meant for me to be.
In addition to the joy of reunification, the Living Classroom event offered great opportunity to see and hear how worship is facilitated in other congregations, All Saints Dallas in this case. As I observed how All Saints did things, I made notes of comparison to how others I had worshiped with on previous retreats—Saint Andrew’s in Little Rock, The Abbey at Pawley’s Island and Christ Church Nashville—and how I could use those ideas back in my home parish.
In each of the previous retreats, and especially at this Living Classroom event, there were always elements of the worship and teaching situations that I could take home with me and incorporate into the New Hope Mission worship environment. With this event, the powerful music expression of Ryan Flanigan was my key treasure to take home to my folks. Veni Sancte Spiritus struck me to the core and we are now using it to frame our Eucharist. The Gloria will be the next liturgical piece to be introduced. As we do not have anything other than piano accompaniment in our setting, Ryan’s recorded CDs are invaluable when live musicians are not available.
My final takeaway was the theological activity that was conducted offsite at a local pub on Monday evening. Not that I see myself teaching theology at the pub, but rather it gave me some insights that I can use in teaching my own Bible studies, as to how I can frame various theological topics and use the Scriptures to explore those topics with our members.
This Living Classroom event was worth its weight in gold for the lessons that it taught and the fellowship that it brought. It was worth every minute of our time to be there. Praise the Lord!
Wayne+ Wimbish is the pastor of New Hope Mission Church in Saint Peters, Missouri. Wayne was ordained to the priesthood at Christ Church Anglican in O’Fallon, Missouri in 2012, and since that time New Hope Mission has grown from one senior center with 20 communicants to seven locations, currently serving over 125 communicants. Wayne has been married to Beverly for 42 years, and they have two daughters, Becky and Kathy, and two grandchildren, Cora and Timothy. His other interests are flying remote-controlled model sailplanes and occasionally a few home repairs. Wayne obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri in 2003, and his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2008.