Growing Change in an Urban Garden

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BY LYDIAN BERNHARDT AVERITT |

When a professor at a Greensboro college set out in 2013 to help a struggling northeast Greensboro community improve its food choices, he planned to build an urban farm – the city’s first – as part of the project.

In doing so, he built a bridge.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

The neighborhood had lost its only full-service grocery store in the 1990s, in addition to other areas of decline, and was drifting into being a food desert. Neighbors formed a group, Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro, and approached the professor, who works in the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He agreed to share his expertise.

“Communities are naturally suspicious of university professors, because they know that we’re going to come in, do our project, collect our data and get our results, then write our papers and leave,” he said. “They are right; projects do end. They have to take it over. So, when I do this development work, I have to make them recognize that they are responsible for their own development.”

But the professor managed to not only help feed a hungry community, but coach its residents to adopt lifestyle changes and take responsibility for their own development. And, while the project itself is in no way religious, it does call to mind Biblical injunctions for feeding the poor and caring for others, and is a powerful reminder about each person’s call to use their skills to help another.

“Do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased,” says Hebrews 13:16.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ,” reminds Galatians 6:2.

His ambitious project included surveying neighborhood residents about their eating habits, training them in healthy shopping practices, working with community groups on the urban farm, identifying liaisons in the community to encourage members’ participation, and interacting with the members themselves.

The project seeks to address not just the problem of fresh food availability, but to understand the eating habits that drive people’s food choices and affect their overall health. These habits are based on values so ingrained that they are often not even recognized by the people who hold them.

“Values influence behavior, but it’s all implicit based on their experience,” he said. “We had to make it explicit so they could see clearly how their decisions were based, point out the disadvantages of acting that way, and attach fresh values to the new behavior.  Then, it’s easier to train people to make a different food choice.”

Photo by Lou Liebau on Unsplash

Through his efforts, the project has sunk deep roots into the neighborhood. A co-op grocery is selling the farm’s produce. The White Street area has fresh produce at an affordable price, through the community farm, and the community members have acquired the knowledge to make healthier dietary choices. They have also learned the skills to make healthy meals.

“Give, and it will be given to you,” says Luke 6:38. In supporting a needy community, the givers received a psychological reward themselves.

“It’s easy to put structures up,” the professor says, “It’s harder to marshal the human element. Reinforcement has to be continuous. When members of the community ask if I’m going to stay involved in it, I tell them yes. As long as I am here, I’ll be involved in it.”


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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Loving God, etc.

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

What do you believe?  When do you feel most faithful?

We church folks tend to focus on believing and acting in faith that God is working with us according to God’s will. It’s a good practice, to pay attention to what you believe as a Christian, to trust yourself and God in living your life by those beliefs.  Faithfulness over time creates a life well-lived, satisfying for you and those you serve in your way. Beliefs and faith in God are so incredibly important, aren’t they?

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

And yet, we are called, first and foremost, to love.

Marcus Borg, theologian and author of Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, reminded me of the two most important commandments with which God has entrusted each one of us who call ourselves Christians.  They are as familiar to you as they are to me, and I’d like to share them with you again here as Jesus shared them with his disciples:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Borg’s last chapter of Convictions focused so beautifully on what it means to love God, how we can do this every day. And, by natural extension, our expression of love for God becomes love in action for other people, and for ourselves.  

So, how do you love God?

First, ask yourself how you feel about God.  

A little obvious, I know, but love is a feeling, a tangible human feeling that makes you want to spend time with the object of your affection.  When you love someone, you may feel a little excited at the thought of unexpectedly seeing him, or you may catch yourself smiling as the thought of her crosses your mind.

So, how do you feel about God?  Do you feel happy, delighted knowing God’s presence in your life?  Do you light up inside at the thought of catching a glimpse of God in a place you don’t expect? Consider that for a few moments.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash   

Next, ask yourself what you like to do with God when you spend time together.  

When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, being together and doing what you enjoy.  Borg mentions devotional time, meditation, prayer, singing, reading scripture and retreats as ways we can spend time with God.  You may have participated in some or all of these activities with God over the years of your life.

But you may not have thought of them as expressions of your desire to share time with God because you love God and love being with God.  You may also have a few great ideas of your own to share about ways you and God spend time together.  When you spend time, consciously, with God, you get to know God better and better, which makes love grow.  

Last, Borg reminded me that loving God means loving what God loves.  

What do you believe God loves?  The second commandment tells us: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  God loves your neighbor and God loves you. In Jesus’ teaching, preaching, healing and mentoring of his disciples, God revealed what loving our neighbors, each other, looks like: compassion, freedom and courage, gratitude.  All of these are expressions of what God loves.

How do you feel about your neighbors?  Do you spend time with them, getting to know them better? Neighbors by another name are simply people with whom you share the planet.  People you live next door to, across town, the state, the country, the world from, are all people you have opportunity to love and spend time getting to know better.  Learning about other people’s lives is an expression of the love God has for you and me, and for all our neighbors. It is also easier to feel compassion for those with whom you do not agree, but have come to understand.

How do you feel about yourself?  How do you express love for yourself? Do you spend time with you?  Spending time with yourself is time well-spent, a spiritual practice of honoring the unique creation of God’s love that is your life. When you choose to be with yourself, do what you enjoy doing, you are loving yourself with a freedom and courage built into you by God’s ever-present, creative, powerful love for you.  

And, whenever you love your neighbor, whenever you love yourself, you are saying, thank you, God, for loving me.   

The brilliant artist, Georgia O’Keefe, known best for the flowers she pained, once said of her success, “In a way, nobody sees a flower, really.  It is so small, we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Loving God takes time too.  You may believe you don’t have time, and that God knows your love is real.  But neglected love changes things, and before you know it, you have changed too.  You’ve lost track of what meant so much to you. Your life is emptied of what mattered to you most.  And, you may have forgotten who you are too.

So, how do you feel about God?


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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Childlike Wonder and the Children’s Festival

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX | 
 
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

The commemorative pieces

On Saturday, August 15, the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries will hold the fifth annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast. The event will take place at Hope Moravian Church from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The festival commemorates the Moravian children’s spiritual renewal of 1727 in Herrnhut, Germany. Every year, this festival features several activities and events for children and their families. In addition to these activities, a commemorative piece is made with participation from the children. A few of the pieces have involved painting, and this year’s commemorative piece will too.
Image of the Children and Family Task Force

The Children and Family Task Force hold the commemorative pieces from all of the Children’s Festivals to date.

This year’s commemorative piece will be a painted tree, the branches representing the various communities and congregations of the Moravian faith. The tree trunk will be pre-painted on two pieces of plywood. These pieces will be placed on a corner of Hope Moravian, one piece on each corner wall. Attached to the plywood will be pieces of canvas cloth, each of which has branches painted on them. There are four canvas cloths, and each piece of plywood will have two cloths extending off of it to the side (about six feet out). The children will be invited to make the leaves by placing paint handprints along the branches.

A couple weekends ago, I helped create the commemorative piece by drawing the branches. Later that next week, the Children’s Festival planning team got together to paint the branches. The commemorative piece, like anything in the church, is a labor of love and a community effort. There is also something about utilizing your innate creativity, and making handmade art, that brings out your inner childlike wonder and excitement.

Image of the drawing version of the commemorative piece

Andrew David Cox stands in front of part of the commemorative piece for the 2018 Children’s Festival. He had just finished drawing tree branches on four six-foot-wide canvas cloths. You can view a timelapse of the drawing on the BCM’s social media channels. | Photo by Andrew David Cox

The Children’s Festival planning team works on painting the commemorative piece for the 2018 festival. | Photos courtesy of Beth Hayes

Childlike wonder

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

There are a lot of amazing talented adult artists out there. Each one of them is talented in a different way. But one is particularly relevant to the commemorative piece for the Children’s Festival.

I remember learning about Picasso in art school and the creative process that drove much of his work. As an adult, he sought to recapture the way children saw the world, and the way they expressed that through their art. There’s a freeness, simplicity, and purity in the way children create art.

Picasso also notably said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

And on a related note, Jesus said this, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone, who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10: 14-16, NIV)

Through the Children’s Festival, we hope to encourage children to lead a life of faith and to never lose that child-like wonder. We also hope to remind adults that they can always recapture that wonder daily through their lifelong journey as children of God.

We look forward to seeing you at the Children’s Festival, both the children and the children-at-heart. Come ready to learn, have fun, and explore our vibrant faith.


Activities at the Fifth Annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast include:

  • Storytelling
  • Moravian frakturs
  • Moravian ships and raingutter regatta boat races
  • Learning Bible verses in English and German
  • Bishops teaching about the Moravian surplice and Hope’s role in making them for new Southern Province pastors

Learn more about the Children’s Festival at Moravian.Online/ChildrensFestival


About the Author

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. He enjoys following motorsports in his spare time, particularly NASCAR.

Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at Andrew@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404


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Jesus Loves the Children… All the Children of the World

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BY BETH HAYES |

Children participate in an activity at one of the Children's Festivals

Children participate in activities at one of the annual Children’s Festivals | Photo by Suzy Tucker

A few weeks ago, many of us witnessed history being made at Trinity Moravian with the consecration of Carol Foltz as the first female bishop in the Southern Province. In her charge, we heard that she pledged herself to the work of children’s ministry in the Moravian Church as one of the important goals in her role as a bishop. The wonderful Logos Choir of children opened the service and warmed many of our hearts with a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.” It was truly a day to remember.

It is important that each congregation in the Moravian Church share Carol’s commitment to children. The recent Southern Province Synod passed a resolution (Resolution #5) to adapt Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living into a weekly email for families and educators. Work by this Synod working group and the Board of Cooperative Ministries has already begun to make this a reality by end of August when many children’s summer will end, bringing with it the beginning of a new school year. Parents, grandparents, and guardians, it is up to you to sign up to get these weekly emails and use the suggestions as part of your weekly family time together. What an impact this could make at the beginning of a new school year, and throughout the rest of the year for your families. (More info on where to sign up for these emails will be available at a later date.)

The Board of Cooperative Ministries continues to work for the children in our Province too. The fifth annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is almost here. There is a lot of interactive learning of Moravian history planned for families at Hope Moravian.

Moravian Ministry Voyage logo

The Moravian Ministry Voyage will happen at Advent Moravian in September. where Moravians of all ages, including children, will gather to learn about Moravian ministry locally and internationally, and see the first ever Southern Province performance of Irene: the Adventure Begins. Irene is a musical about Leonard Dober, David Nitschmann, and their mission work.

The Moravian BCM continues to help our congregations in the ongoing ministry with children by providing quality Sunday school curriculum options, Vacation Bible School options, and a whole host of books and resources for families to use in doing faith formation at home.

Carol Foltz at her service of consecration

The Rt. Rev. Carol Foltz shortly after being consecrated as a bishop of the Moravian Church | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

Let’s not forget Carol’s pledge to serve children and our responsibility that we accepted at children’s baptisms. At these baptisms, we pledge to guide them in faith formation in our congregations and we pledge to provide help and support to their parents.

The BCM will continue to provide opportunities like the Children’s Festival and the Ministry Voyage. There is a Children and Family Task Force that works under the Board of Cooperative Ministries. It is being redesigned at this time and we are looking for new members. For those who might be interested, it meets quarterly. If you or someone you know has a heart for children and family ministry, please let me know and we would love to have you on our team. The goal of this task force says it all: to celebrate and encourage children and families in the life of our church and support faith communities as we fulfill the promise of baptism for our Moravian families.

In closing, remember this quote from The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember 

“Each generation, in its turn, is a link between all that has gone before and all that comes after. That is true genetically and it is equally true in the transmission of identity. Our parents gave us what they were able to give, and we took what we could of it and made it part of ourselves. If we knew our grandparents, and even great-grandparents, we will have taken from them what they could offer us too. All that helped to make us who we are. We in our turn will offer what we can of ourselves to our children and their offspring” (Rogers 65).

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, Sunday school teacher, or a member of a congregation, let’s band together and offer the best we can for our children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She has been working in this role for 33 years. Before coming to the Moravian Church, she served as the director of Christian Education in several Presbyterian Churches. She holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She is a member of Clemmons Moravian Church and regularly attends Come and Worship.


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Nurturing Families in the Church (part one)

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BY CAROL CROOKS |

Since the family is the most important means of growing and sustaining a church community, it is important to place an emphasis on creating a healthy Christian environment that allows parents and children to grow morally and spiritually. Churches need to offer programs that will support and involve parents in the Christian education of their children. One way is to make the connection between studying the Bible as a family affair. In many churches, the children are given lessons created by the church or by an outside organization. These lessons, which are specific to the liturgical calendar, are started in church and then sent home to be completed by the family. During Sunday school or church service, the lesson is completed and the children will have something tangible to take home as a reminder of what was studied.

Photos highlight the 2017 Children's Festival and Lovefeast

Photos highlight the 2017 Children’s Festival and Lovefeast at Friedberg Moravian Church | Photos by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

Children need to be equipped with positive self-esteem and Christian values so that they can become productive Christian citizens that contribute to their community. To help build confidence and encourage positive Christian values, the youth should be an integral part of mission activities, as well as a regular part of the church service and other additional activities being promoted by the church. If an organization or a Sunday school class is having a yard sale, bazaar or making chicken pies, then arrangements should be done to include the youth (especially middle and high school) in some way.

Families with a strong spiritual base are the foundation of a growing and striving church. Groups such as men’s and women’s bible studies, single and divorced parents should be supported. Working parents must be taken into account when activities are being scheduled. As we are aware of current family situations in society, it is imperative that the church seeks to mend some of the weak links in the family. In the past young families had much more support from older and more experienced family members. Currently, there are more single and divorced parents and isolated senior citizens who desperately need a helping hand. Bringing in knowledgeable Christian professionals to help create programs geared to specific needs in the church and its community would be a good place to start. One example is a program that teaches parents about the various stages of physical and mental growth of children and positive Christian-centered methods to discipline them with. Another aspect is the ability of churches to be more open about mental and spiritual issues in communities.

Photo of mother with children

Photo by Marco Ceshi via Unsplash.com

Providing intergenerational programs will allow the younger generations to learn and respect the wisdom of their elders. These fellowship programs would involve group discussions, exchange of emails and/or telephone numbers with the intention of forming relationships. Ideas for the aforementioned programs could be solicited from the congregation. Some ideas that seem out-of-the-box should be at least given some consideration and not be marginalized, because sometimes that is how creative and effective programs are born. Knowledgeable staff and trained volunteers should be available to guide the various programs and projects. A safe and secure environment is paramount in these activities. To prevent abuses or misunderstandings about what is appropriate behavior, training and screening of all adults who work with children should be mandatory.

Children should be an integral part of church activities and therefore, when planning any new endeavor we must always be cognizant of how it might also impact the younger generation. Children activities should have as much parent involvement as possible and input from parents should be welcomed. We must remember that the future of the church is in the hands of the upcoming generations, so let’s faithfully prepare them to carry on the Lord’s work. We should be a beacon of support and nurturing behavior in our society and be more engaging to those needing a spiritual home.

Photo of a family picnic

Photo by John-Mark Smith via Unsplash.com

 


 

Carol Crooks, of New Philadelphia Moravian, served as a member of the Family Nurture Working Group. The working group was a part of the Community Committee at the Southern Province’s 2018 Synod. This blog is a part of a series of BCM Spotlight Blog posts written by members of the Family Nurture Working Group, focusing on their conclusions and findings, as outlined in Resolution #5: Sharing Moravian Best Practices with Southern Province Families.

 


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Trust and Power

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Photo of woman praying

We talk about living our faith on a regular basis. What does that look like to you? Asking myself what living my faith looks like brought me to the following, familiar passage:

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

Faith is an active verb. Taking faithful action, by asking, searching, knocking on the door, co-creates a result that is linked with God’s answer of giving, finding, and the door opening for us.

But in between those paired actions and responses something else, something important, is going on that encourages that co-creative relationship with God that builds a faithful, fruitful life of discipleship.

What is this special something? It is the recognition that to move forward we first must trust God’s power in us.

If you know how to drive stick shift cars, you know this lesson.

Photo of car with stick shift

While recently preparing to teach a class on communication as spiritual practice, I remembered a rerun of an Army Wives episode. The family tradition between mother and daughter in this program is to pass on the legacy of being able to shift like a trucker in less than a day.

Daughter is skeptical, mom is persistent.

Before getting in the car, mom shares that the clutch is about trust, the accelerator about power. As her hands make the familiar foot movements, she explains that to move forward you have to trust.

She then draws her daughter’s hands into her own, lifting them to join in the fluid motions of trust supporting power.

And, indeed, the daughter was shifting like a trucker before they sat down to dinner that evening.

Faith is so very much about that willingness to take action, trusting that God’s power will guide us to seeing the next moment of truth, be it the giving, the finding or the door opening.

But, faith is more.

Faith is an ongoing series of asking, seeking, knocking, sometimes constant, always consistently showing God’s action and willing support for us to live abundantly. It is about acknowledging, with deep, abiding gratitude, what God has already entrusted to us by virtue of God’s power in us. In you, and in me.

My thought is that most of us are willing to take that first step; and we are delighted when it is clear that God has heard and answered us in a way we understand. Faith becomes daunting if we get stuck in the fear of what comes next.

False modesty doesn’t create the kind of results God has been credited with through generations of women and men who have used their faith to create lasting change, community and hope in the world. God loves to work through people.

Top view of feet of people standing in a circle. Runners standing in a huddle with their feet together.

But do we love God working through us?

William Sloane Coffin once wrote that faithfulness is more demanding than success. It is. Rather than being defined as a reachable goal, faith is more akin to a lifestyle choice, a way of being and becoming.

And I believe that is the absolute best part of actively living faith as a verb.

Choosing faith means you and I are always standing in trust and power. Reminding ourselves of that makes it a whole lot easier to harmonize our choices and our actions with God’s choices and actions on our behalf. Knowing that, believing that, acting from that, means we are less likely to allow doubt or fear to keep us stuck in first gear.

There is nothing wrong with being in first gear; sometimes that is simply where we are, and God is with us there too.

But it is really satisfying to get the harmony and rhythm of trusting, of letting that trust in yourself and God support your next step forward. And the one after that. And the one after that.

You get the idea.


 

Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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Remembering Our Baptismal Vows to Nurture the Faith of Our Children

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BY BETH HAYES |

As we broke into the verse of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” that says “He’s got the itty little baby in his hands…” the image of our three newest additions to Come and Worship came to mind. There is no better time to reflect on the baptismal vows we make as a community and how we help these young families raise their children in their first Christian family.

Come and Worship families

We presented each family with a copy of Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living and added copies of our favorite Bible stories. The Covenant for Christian Living says this about baptism:

“As parents, remembering that our children are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and take all possible care to preserve them from every evil influence. For this reason we will seek to approve ourselves as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, setting an example for our children. We will give faithful attention to the spiritual development of our children, both in the home and in the church.”

Our response doesn’t end at this point. We pledge to join with families as communities of God to be there and offer help to parents in faith formation. It takes more than families to guide in this process, it takes more than individual churches to guide in this process, and it takes more than Provincial programming to guide in this process. We have to work together in constant and abiding love to nurture children, youth, and even adults in their faith journey. This experience will be that much richer if we do this together as individuals, congregations, and as a Province.

Not every church is fortunate to have a staff person dedicated to leading faith formation. This is one of many areas in which the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) can assist. In our mission statement, it is listed as our job to help congregations as they and their congregants walk the continuous faith journey. We provide events and workshops on a provincial level so that all churches have access to the resources that will help us in doing this work as a team. Our denomination is much richer for having this programming to help in faith formation and the growth of the Unity. Be sure to take advantage of opportunities that come your way and pass the word on about these opportunities. Join the Roots and Wings Facebook page to stay informed and see some of the best resources and activities for supporting faith formation. Visit our lending library online (Resource.Moravian.org) or in person and check out many helpful resources as you go on this continuous journey.

There are many ways to help in the faith journey, including, but not limited to:

  • Being a table parent at a midweek meal
  • Teaching a Sunday school class
  • Being a youth leader
  • Helping caregivers in your community
  • Joining the Children and Family Task Force of the Moravian BCM

When you prayerfully consider helping in one of those ways or another, remember the baptismal vows and give opportunities to serve some consideration. This is the way to grow our Moravian congregations healthily, where people of all ages can grow together as children of God’s community.


If you have questions or need additional information, email BHayes@MCSP.org or call the Resource Center at (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 


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