From Vicar Amanda’s Desk – March 2013

We Are Not Alone: The Ministry of Collaboration
By Amanda Highben

When my husband, Zeb, and I first moved here I was amazed at the number and variety of churches in downtown Zanesville. And I was delighted when I learned from Pastor Mark that many of these churches have close relationships with each other, partnering together in worship, education and service to the community. After Pastor Mark shared this, I knew that St. John’s would be a good fit for me, for in my previous ministry contexts I’ve experienced just how fruitful and life-giving it can be when churches work side-by-side to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. I’m still learning about the unique nature of collaborative ministry that St. John’s pursues in Zanesville, but here are just two examples that I’ve experienced thus far…

Although you may often hear Pastor Mark or myself announce in worship that a DCYF event is scheduled that afternoon, you may not yet know what DCYF is all about (especially since it’s still in its early years). DCYF (or Downtown Churches Youth Fellowship) is a cooperative youth ministry effort that gathers twice per month: once for Bible study (which is our faith formation time) and once for a social/fellowship event (such as bowling or Frisbee golf). We typically average about 25-30 youth (6th – 12th grade), which allows our youth to build friendship between churches (although several of the students already know one another from school). The youth likewise are able to learn from and connect with other faithful Christian adults because our pastors and youth directors take turns leading. Also, we celebrate the fact that DCYF is an ecumenical group, meaning it consists of a variety of Christian denominations; as a result, we hope our youth learn that all Christians (regardless of their church tradition) are beloved children of God with much in common!

Of course, the youth alone can’t have all the fun, so the downtown clergy also meet on a monthly basis. While we may not go bowling, we still enjoy the time we have for fellowship, dialogue, the sharing of ideas, and supporting one another in our diverse settings. If you were able to attend the Thanksgiving worship service at St. James Episcopal, then you witnessed the clergy together in action as we shared worship leadership roles that night, and we will do so once again this Palm Sunday. We’re also looking forward to another “Traveling Without A Map” workshop at one of our churches by RN Becky Joseph, the public relations specialist with Genesis Hospice and Palliative Care. Becky spoke with knowledge and compassion about advanced care planning and care options at her first presentation last November at Pleasant Grove United Methodist. (Stay posted for details about the next presentation.)

The Christian life is not one lived in isolation. We learn this from Christ himself when he says in the Gospel of Matthew, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” You may have heard someone say (or have even said yourself) that God is encountered in solitude during a walk in the woods, for example, or while peering alone at the stars on a clear night. This is certainly true, as our God promises to be with us always. But only in and through community can we be disciples of love, service, and compassion. Only in and through relationships can we be instruments of reconciliation and justice. When we engage in collaborative ministry with our fellow churches we remember (as we confess in the Nicene Creed) that we are all members of God’s “one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” We are not alone, sister and brothers; we are never alone.

God’s Peace,
Vicar Amanda