Engagement in Church and Community

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By John Wilkinson

At our staff meetings each week, we begin with going around the circle and asking people to share “one good thing” from the previous Sunday. It’s a great prelude for all that follows, not a magic corporate strategy but a lovely litany of faith and reminder of the ministry to which we are called.

I am not sure that anything is saving my ministry right now, other than Jesus! But I do know that many, many good things are giving my ministry energy and fueling my passion, for which I am very grateful. Here’s a list…

  • Worship. Worship. Worship.
  • A call to make a difference in public education in Rochester, New York and Monroe County, where concentrated poverty and inequitable access holds children back. Fortunately, through the Great Schools for All movement, we are making a difference in our community. It’s the good and hard work of organizing and coalition building, all very Presbyterian.
  • A transforming trip to Kenya in October, where five of us visited our partner congregation just outside Nairobi. We experienced extraordinary hospitality and learned so much about what it means to be the church. Plus, the sights and sounds of Kenya are indescribable.
  • Challenging and important conversations on race and racism that we are attending in our community and hosting in our congregation, led primarily by Facing Race, Embracing Equity (FR=EE) a local community organization.
  • Our Book of Order, yes, our Book of Order. We utilized a new provision in the Form of Government to transition an interim associate pastor to an associate pastor. We worked closely and cooperatively with our Committee on Ministry, who engaged this new process with great thought. Cheers to a new sense of adaptability for mission purposes!
  • Stewardship, yes stewardship. We are having creative conversations about faith and money and seeking ways to make Stewardship Sunday feel different than it traditionally has.
  • A Vision and Strategy team on which I am privileged to serve in our presbytery. We are working on what many presbyteries are working on, the difficult task of change in a fluid environment. We are putting a heavy emphasis on relationships and also reminding ourselves that a presbytery’s health is closely linked to congregational health and pastoral leader’s health.
  • The East Avenue Grocery Run. What began as a way to reframe a hunger walk and to raise money for our various hunger programs at Third Church has turned into an epic event with over 1300 runners and walkers and thousands and thousands of dollars raised for our hungry neighbors. A wonderful leadership team makes it all happen, meeting rarely. We’ve also involved local businesses and other community groups who normally wouldn’t connect with a faith group, but do for this. It’s been fabulous!

I know that all of the above are very contextual and personal, but if there are common denominators and transportable values, they reside in collegiality and collaboration, openness to innovate, and a heavy reliance on prayer. I am grateful indeed!


john wJohn Wilkinson is Pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY. He has been active on the presbytery and national levels, including on the Strategy Team for NEXT Church, and loves our connectional culture and confessional legacy.

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