5 Questions with Jessica Tate

We are launching a new series this month that highlights participants at the national gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 4 – 5th, 2013. Presenters, preachers, teachers, and leaders were asked the same five questions and their thoughtful responses may be found here every week. The goal is to introduce you to people you’ll hear from in Charlotte and prime the pump for our time together. Hopefully, something here will spark an idea, thought, or question for you. We encourage you to reach out and initiate conversations that you can later continue in person. So without further ado … 
Jessica Tate11. Tell us about your ministry context.

After five great years as an associate pastor in Northern Virginia, I’m excited to be the Director of NEXT Church, building relationships with Presbyterians across the country who are doing exciting, creative, Christ-led ministry. I’m fortunate to live in Washington, DC and be part of National Capital Presbytery, which is doing some good strategic thinking about the church that is becoming.

2. Where have you seen glimpses of “the church that is becoming”?

In more places than I expected! Discovering these places has been one of the gifts of NEXT Church. All the leadership for the NEXT Gathering in Charlotte are glimpses of the church that is becoming…like the generative ministry at Broad Street Ministries and Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia…improvisational worship at Church of the Pilgrims in DC…Community organizing ventures across the country (Patrick Daymond, Andrew Foster Connors and Andy Imparato will highlight their experiences in testimony and a workshop)…highly contextual ministry like that of Caldwell Presbyterian in Charlotte…1001 New Worshipping Communities and New Beginnings ministries within the PCUSA…the Ecclesia Project in Mid-Kentucky Presbytery. I’m excited to catch other glimpses of good news at the gathering in March.

3. What are your passions in ministry? (And/or what keeps you up at night?)

Our culture is changing rapidly. Perhaps this has always been so, but it is nonetheless changing and with it, the place of the church changes too. But the call of the church remains what it has been through the ages: How do we experience the redemptive presence of God in our lives? And how do we communicate that presence to others so that we embody God’s love, grace, and justice in the world?  How do we do that today?

Like the women who show up at the tomb, stubbornly insisting on hope when death and despair rule the day, I am passionate about ministry that helps us tap into the resurrection hope that is God’s redemptive presence in our lives. When we tap into that hope–individually and collectively–we are free to be born again ourselves, to be born again as institutions and communities, and, I believe, to bear hope and light in a world where people desperately need community, desperately need hope, desperately need God-in-Christ.

4. What is one thing you are looking forward to at the NEXT Gathering?

It’s hard to name just one thing! Of all the great things, I am most looking forward to the connections I make at NEXT gatherings (through what happens “up-front” and informally) that spark my imagination and help me grow as a leader in our church.

5. Describe NEXT in seven words or less.

Relational. Hopeful. Creative. Resurrection.

4 replies
  1. Jim Caraher
    Jim Caraher says:

    You folks have to be kidding me. The theme of the March, 2013 conference is “Born Again?!” Back in the 1970’s-1980’s I was an active member of a large, flagship PC(USA) church. The term “born again” was getting a lot of play in mainstream media because Jimmy Carter running for president in 1976 declared quite openly, “I am a born again Christian.” A few months before that Charles Colson, one of the most notorious of the Watergate criminals, declared that he was “born again.” Back then I was doing what Presbyterians do, I was sitting in a committee meeting (!) and one of the pillars of that huge, prominent PC(USA) church interrupted the meeting, didn’t have anything to do with the subject being discussed in the meeting, and he declared quite vehemently, “I don’t know what all this born again nonsense is all about, I was born a Christian.” So I doubt that all you NEXT Presbyterians have the faintest idea what born again is.

    • Jessica Tate
      Jessica Tate says:

      Jim, here’s a little bit more about what we’re thinking in terms of the theme: Born Again.
      NEXT Church has been engaging an important conversation within the church asking the question: What’s next? Within that simple two word question, we have also been asking God, ourselves, and each other many more questions like: “What’s next for our denomination?” “What’s next for my congregation?” “Is what’s next better than what’s now or what was?” “Does what happens next include me?”

      There is no doubt that we are facing a crisis in the PCUSA, but more specifically, an identity crisis. As church leaders, we have exhausted our time, energy and hopes on diagnoses and prescriptions and forgetting who we are we and what we have been called to be.

      In John 3:4, Nicodemus asks Jesus, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

      As we strive to answer the question of “what’s next?”, we must first remember why we are even here to begin with. We have spent too much time being scared of what we don’t know rather than claiming and proclaiming what we do know: 1) The Gospel, 2) Our call to spread the Gospel.

      As Jesus said, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So for the 2013 Conference, we will focus on what was born from the Spirit. We want to reclaim our calls to ministry. We want to lift up the magnitude of the message versus the shortcomings of the institution. And it’s not that those things don’t matter, but we have to go back to the beginning with what the Spirit has done and is doing before we can even surmise what the Spirit will do. As Jesus says, we have to be born again.

  2. Mark Diehl
    Mark Diehl says:

    Jessica, thanks for a straight-forward clarification to the question asked. Your response was articulate, winsome, informative, non-pejorative ~ all of which reflects the counter-cultural embrace of Jesus Christ and his Gospel so needed in our world (and in the church) today.

    May I suggest that “next church” take your response and place it somewhere prominent that explains both this conference in Charlotte and the movement itself?

    • Jessica Tate
      Jessica Tate says:

      Thank Mark! We’ll probably take that response and post it in our next round of publicity! Hope to see you in Charlotte.


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