Taste & See redefines possibilities of church
October 17, 2017
By Melissa Lauber
On his way to the Taste & See event at American University on Sept. 24, the Rev. Rodney Smothers found himself wondering about the purpose, “the why,” of the event. But his thoughts were soon sidetracked by his GPS, which insisted he go a strange, more indirect path.
The route didn’t make sense, but his GPS insisted the new “off-the-beaten-path” was preferable
Smothers, the Congregational Development Resource Specialist for the Baltimore-Washington Conference, complied. Then he smiled.
His drive to the event, he noted, was a metaphor for the event itself. “The why” was the importance of Church taking new roads, traveling different, and sometimes uncomfortable, paths to arrive at a new distinctive discipleship destination.
Taste & See was an innovative, interactive training event designed to enable participants to better understand and begin to practice “missional entrepreneurship.”
It provided a new
Its purpose, said Christie Latona, the conference Director of Connectional Ministries, was to “launch a missional innovation revolution in the BWC so that more people, more diverse people
Following the day of learning, the more than 60 participants were invited to apply for grants and partnerships that would allow them to put their inventions and innovations into action.
The event was a collaborative effort of Wesley Seminary, Inspire DC, and the BWC’s Connectional Ministries and Congregational Development areas. It featured the Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton University and founder of Ministry Incubators, and Shannon Hopkins, founder of Matryoshka Haus, an incubator of new social justice initiatives in London that provides resources for innovation.
Creasy Dean explained how mission entrepreneurship has the potential to re-define the church.
The word entrepreneur, she said, comes from the French words “between” and “undertake.”
“An entrepreneur creates undertakings between what is already there,” she said. Missional entrepreneurship “embodies Christ to solve a community problem in a way that is aligned spiritually, relationally and financially.”
However, Creasy Dean stressed, “entrepreneurship doesn’t fund ministry; entrepreneurship is
Statistics indicate that “worship is no longer the way most people enter into Christian community in the United States,” Creasy Dean said. Rather, people encounter God and the faith community through mission and creative outreach in the community in what social commentators are calling “whole life evangelism.”
To illustrate missional entrepreneurship, Creasy Dean shared the stories of more than 18 ministries. She lifted up the dramatic outreach of the Rev. Gregory Boyle, a Catholic priest who opened a bakery to address a lack of hope among gang members in Los Angeles. Today, Homeboy Industries provides services to 15,000 men and women. His story is told in the best-selling book: “Tattoos of the Heart:
Creasy Dean also shared how the Rev. Richard Joyner in Conetoe, N.C. was “literally exhausted from officiating at so many funerals and was asking God, ‘What are we going to do?’ He heard a voice saying, ‘Look around you.’ Joyner looked up and saw nothing but land. “
As a former sharecropper, he didn’t want to farm ever again
Today, more than 80 young people help Joyner plant and harvest nearly 50,000 pounds of fresh food, which they give to local residents and sell to area businesses and restaurants. The youth also learn to cook the healthy food and funds raised from the crops also pay for school supplies and scholarships.
Entrepreneurial ministry takes away the offering plate, which churches so often depend upon, and offers new models for funding. Sometimes the entrepreneurial work even funds a church’s more traditional ministries, but that is never the reason to start the work, Creasy Dean said. “Love is.”
“The days of money coming through the offering plate alone are behind us,” said Smothers. “We probably also don’t need to build any more brick and mortar churches. There are new models.”
To help participants discover some of these new models, Hopkins led them through a game called Mission Possible, which simulated the start of outreach for a cause, using creative resources and partnerships to create good.
Director of Connectional Ministries, Christie Latona, right, introduces Maria Rose Belding, a college student who founded and manages MEANS, a company that connects restaurants’ extra food with area feeding programs.
She also shared a hands-on demonstration of Good Brunches, an approach to bring diverse people together to build community and create social change.
“When we see a gap between what is and what there could be, there is a moment where we can choose action or apathy, boldness or blame,” Hopkins said. “The key that unlocks the move to action instead of reverting to apathy is imagination, the ability to see and perceive a different future.”
She encouraged all those present to build upon the “blueprint within them that seeks beauty, justice, community
Within the BWC, Latona is hopeful that more people will begin to recognize the possibilities of how we can be “building deep relationships with people in the community, who wouldn’t be and aren’t in church, in ways that help us discover what God is calling us to invent.”
Addressing the participants, Latona stressed that they are “change-makers, called by God to create, discover, connect and imagine.”
As such, the possibilities of the day continued as the change-makers, most of whom were young adults from area college and seminary campuses, were invited to apply for grants that would bring their ideas to life, including a pathway that would include time in London learning with Hopkins and her cohort.
“Design thinking is an iterative process, yet we as the church sometimes think in terms of events, instead of process,” Latona said. “From the first moment we talked about this event, the team had next steps in mind. We want to take someone who wants to have a bigger impact
“Taste & See,” said Smothers, “allows us to look at the church with new eyes.”
Taste & See was made possible, in part, by the Young Clergy Initiative Grant from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
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