When the Rev. Jimmy Weaver arrived in Durham two years ago as the new preacher at Bethany UMC on Guess Road, he inherited a congregation that was dealing with a very strategic issue in its life: To move or not to move. That was the question.
An inner-city congregation, the church was entertaining the idea of moving from Guess Road to a suburban location, but a search committee had not located a suitable site.
That may have been providential, however, because after the church and the pastor had coaching from Peg Aldridge of Passion in Partnership, the congregation made a sea change in its thinking.
With the help of their coach, the congregation began to see how the location of the church coupled with the talents of its membership could play into an ongoing ministry in the city. The church decided to stay in its present location and to buy an adjoining 2.5 acres and convert the building on the new property into additional worship and fellowship space.
“We needed additional space and more access to the present church property,” Weaver said. “This would allow us to begin new ministries and to expand some ministries with a larger kitchen and fellowship space. “Hospitality and food ministry is a large part of this church’s DNA,” he said.
The church is already known for its barbecues and fellowship dinners and for its practice of what Methodists call “radical hospitality, meeting and greeting.”
“We are now thinking that our place is right here on Guess Road,” Weaver said. “With the added space, we have a vision of becoming a spiritual oasis in the city. We are talking about a place for gardens and walking trails on our church grounds.”
But congregational coaching was not the only benefit Weaver gained in the coaching process. He was part of a pilot project to explore coaching for clergy when they face new appointments.
He worked with Aldridge before making the move from Snow Hill to Durham. They talked through such questions as how to assess where the church was and how to broach the transition.
“Moving is a highly stressful situation,” he said. “It was helpful to have an emotional support system in a time in our system that is very stressful. It was helpful in confirming my own strengths and to articulate that more clearly, helpful in strategizing how I might personally want to live my life or be about my work.”
By Flo Johnston. Flo is a Durham-based religion writer who has a weekly column called “Faith in Focus” in The Durham News and The Chapel Hill News, community newspapers of The News&Observer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-489-7251.