Let's Get Connected
Stories from the field
Abiding Presence was an early adopter of New Connections, starting their campaign in 2017 and ending in 2019. Senior Pastor Meredith Keseley noted in her final Campaign write up, “We are grateful for the support of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod through the New Connections Campaign that has helped us to live out our mission of Connecting People to Christ through Community. Without the synod’s support, we would not have been able to call Rev. Heidi Eickstadt as our Pastor for Discipleship. As both Pastor Eickstadt’s term call and our New Connections grant comes to an end, we want to give thanks for our partnership and share what the synod’s support has enabled us to do these past three years.”
So, how did it go?
Abiding Presence connected 187 new people who became members to the congregation in three years (64 in 2017, 76 in 2018 and 47 in 2019). Tracking "new connections" was more challenging than tracking those on a new member track. Kesely stated, “The first step for us was to define an ‘active non-member,’ which is what we consider ‘active participants in the life of the congregation.’ The church council defined an ‘active non-member’ as someone who is not a formal member of the church, but who falls into one of the following two categories 1) regularly worships or attends Sunday School, 2) regularly participates in one of our weekday church-based ministries and considers Abiding Presence to be their church home.”
Abiding Presence focused on making new connections by emphasizing a "community center" style of ministry that allowed them to make connections with people in their community who might not otherwise walk through the doors of the church. Ministries like Mainly Music and MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) were successful in this emphasis. Further, they built partnerships with community organizations using their space so that the church could become a place of resource. One of these resource areas was in mental health ministry where they hosted support groups and provided space to a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) family support partner. Then, Covid-19 happened.
When asked, "What ministry has happened as a result of Covid?" Pastor Keseley elaborated, “In the midst of COVID, like all congregations we've pivoted in many ways. One of the most exciting ways is that we have launched the Abiding Presence Summer Internship Program for our college students. We heard that many of our college students were having their planned summer jobs/internships canceled and were being left without plans.”
The congregation quickly pivoted to launch an 8-week internship program that is providing a stipend, resume building job experience and the opportunity for intentional vocational discernment grounded in faith, scripture and prayer. They have 11 interns (way more than they anticipated!) who are participating in the program and helping them to rethink ministry in this new age of the church. Interns are working remotely in areas such as food ministry, mental health ministry, communication, children's ministry, racial justice, church history and worship ministry. Check out the Intern page at: https://abidingpresence.net/summer-2020-interns for more information about the intern and the program.
Additionally, Pastor Keseley and her council president, Steve Lucky recently reached to parishioners to talk about ministry during Covid and what in-person will look like in the foreseeable future. Specifically,
"First and Foremost, We Have Never Stopped Being the Church!
A lot has changed in many aspects of life these past three months, but what hasn’t changed is our ability to be the church. We’ve focused on three priorities – worship, relationships and feeding people. While some ministries have paused, others have expanded or even been born out of the unexpected possibilities of this time. A few highlights:
Abiding Presence is keeping their facility closed and worship online for now. They are continuing to work with public health officials and members who are experts in the field to guide their re-opening process.
Thank you, Pastor Keseley and Abiding Presence for your partnership and for being a progressive, creative and passionate leader in our Synod in reaching out and drawing in new connections.
Christy Hartigan is the New Connections Director for the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She is passionate about spreading the Good News and WIDENING THE CIRCLE of faith...becoming the church outside the walls of the church.