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 …
Ashley Goff is Minister for Spiritual Formation at Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA) and ordained in the United Church of Christ. Ashley graduated from Union Theological Seminary in NYC where she fell in love with the art of liturgy. She lives with deep gratitude for several communities which have formed her along the way: Denison University, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, the Open Door Community, and Rikers Island NYC Jail. Ashley also finds life in Springsteen music, beekeeping, urban farming, vinyasa yoga, and her three kids and loveable spouse.
1.Tell us about your ministry context
I am Minister for Spiritual Formation at Church of the Pilgrims, a More Light, urban, progressive, “we-drink-beer-during-Bible-study-at-the-bar-across-the-street” PCUSA congregation in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. I have been at Pilgrims 14 years and ordained in the United Church of Christ. When I arrived at Pilgrims in 1999, right out of Union Seminary in NYC, the congregation was at rock bottom in every way possible. Now, we have transformed ourselves into a lively, mutli-age/gender/race/denominational-history congregation. We thrive on innovative worship, community organizing, urban gardening, Biblical stories, and sharing food with hungry people.
2. Where have you seen glimpses of “the church that is becoming”?
At Pilgrims, I experience a community that is and becoming an innovative, creative, collective body when we worship together, particularly when we take ancient practices and make them new to us. We are becoming when we roast marshmallows before a winter solstice service, walk in meditation before communion, learn new songs together, anoint each other after sharing the bread, and baptize with a thunderous voice that peace and justice are the Ways of God. We are becoming when I experience liturgy at Pilgrims and realize someone could see what we did in two ways: “what you did was profoundly Christian or barely Christian.” When we risk and take ourselves to an edge for the sake of Jesus we are becoming.
3. What are your passions in ministry? (And/or what keeps you up at night?)
My passion is this creative edge for liturgy that creates space for us to experience the transformative nature of the Spirit. I have been most influenced by the ancient liturgical expressions of the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia, James Chapel at Union Seminary in NYC, and St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. These communities transformed me through their improvisational, liturgical ways, opening us space for God to be known to me. I’m passionate about carrying the methods of these communities into my work. I’m passionate how the revolutionary methods of the arts hold the most power for me in planning liturgy. I’m passionate about the intersection of urban gardening, liturgy, sharing food and how an Earth-Honoring faith pushes Pilgrims to tether itself to God whose unrelenting imperative is justice.
4. What is one thing you are looking forward to at the NEXT Gathering?
I’m looking forward to sharing Pilgrims story of liturgy and being with people, especially Laura Cunningham, who is a dear friend and whom I don’t get to see very often.
5. Describe NEXT in seven words or less.
Collective. Imagination. Newness. Imperative. Must. Yes. Innovation.