Transforming church is something that has always intrigued me. I want to create spaces for people that don’t necessarily exist already – simply because no one thought of it.
What does it mean for the church to really minister to the homeless? Or to create an apartment complex ministry? How can the church offer safe spaces to women?
The community around a church has changed. What would it mean for the church to truly connect and serve that community?
Those questions have been on my mind and are part of what I’m studying now at seminary. They’re also why I decided to apply to become a church-planting intern for the Texas Conference.
Music was my mission in life until I got a whole different type of calling. My mentor Tom Teekell, executive director of the Wesley Foundation at Stephen F. Austin, where I received my undergraduate degree in music education, used to compare me to Jonah, the prophet who runs away from his call from God. I totally understand how he felt.
I finally decided to stop running – and I’m so glad that I did. When I realized that all of the ministers that I look up to went to Duke Seminary, I decided to follow in their footsteps. I remember telling my sorority sisters that if the Astros won the World Series, I would go to Duke. I guess it was time to get packing.
Along with my Master of Divinity, I’m also earning a certificate from Duke in missional innovation, which is all about contextual evangelism, church planting and new ways to minister.
I’m the type of person who is sitting in church, or working for a congregation, and wondering about how it could be even more effective and impactful. When I learned about the church planting internship, I knew this could be a way for me dive even deeper into having an innovative mindset.
Still, I was a little nervous when I headed to Central United Methodist Church this summer with the Rev. Michael Ginger in Galveston. I wasn’t sure that I would meet his expectations. It turned out to be the best experience. He is tremendous pastor. He knows how to build relationships with the members of his congregation.
We always talk about how ministry ‘should’ look like and I can say that Central United Methodist reflects so much of what I think embodies the Kingdom of God. The most defining part of Central is this idea of stories.
I believe, as Christians, we are storytellers of the greatest story of all time – and stories are the heartbeat of Central. Central reflects this theological claim that every person is created by God for the glorification of God—it’s beautiful.
Seldom do you see most churches slow down and take time to let people just be people, yet that is exactly what Galveston Central is doing. Taking time to allow people tell their stories is how we, as Christians, got here. The universal church is the people.
Pastor Michael has taken a church that was in despair, where five people worshiped on a Sunday, to reaching 140 individuals in a sermon. He’s been in Galveston for five years now.
On any given Sunday, he’ll have a homeless man sitting next to a millionaire. People aren’t thinking about their differences. They’re thinking about how to worship God together and how to love each other. That’s what church is all about to me.
And I love how poetry is a part of Central. Every Sunday, before worship, a meal is cooked and served to those in need. Sometimes, Pastor Michael will move a family from the streets to an apartment. On my first week here, the church mentioned someone needed a bike. So, we built it.
Often, we start our days at MOD Coffeehouse. Michael talks about finding centers where people are gathering and showing up there. MOD is a diverse, fun place.
Central has gone from nothing to something on this island in no time. Michael works to make church inclusive, a place where all friends can come and be both literally and spiritually fed. Central is an island on an island – and it’s the most inviting island on the island, the most open.
Every day for me at Central has been so different, and it’s never dull. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is teaching a four-week Bible study about four women in the Old Testament who were overseen or portrayed in a negative light. It was so amazing to see people talk and really grapple with these ideas.
This internship really taught me that you can create spaces – holy spaces at that. It’s also made me aware of the power of listening to stories and to register each individual’s impact in the world. All of the awesome things I’ve learned in school, they do no good if we don’t stop and listen.
Michael has explained to me that there’s no itemized way to plant a church. There’s no step-by-step guide. Everything is different. You have to be an open person.
And that’s true whether you plant a church or create more space in an existing space for those individuals who have been marginalized or overlooked.
You never want to be stagnate or complacent. You want to be innovative and see what can be created in a church. There’s always something better you can do.
This has not just been a learning experience from the standpoint of wanting to be a church planter but has also taught me what it looks like to minister to those who are completely different in general. Central showcases how God is shining through so many people in various walks of life.
I’m learning that church is messier than meets the eye. We don’t need the perfect sanctuary, the fancy lights, the state-of-the-art youth facility (not that these things are bad)—all we need for church are people’s stories and a willingness to just be present.
I’m planning to return to Duke in the fall and work at another church next year. I graduate in 2021 and then will be on track to be commissioned that year.
For now, I’m just soaking in the last days of my internship. It’s been such an adventure, and I’m so grateful for this experience.
Jordan Czichos is a Texas Annual Conference Church Planting Intern at Central United Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas.
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