New church pastor, Lydia Muñoz, leads worship at PlumbLine UMC in Narberth.
By Lydia E. Muñoz*
If anyone tells you that the process of church planting is filled with great joy and excitement, stop them immediately and ask them “so, have you planted a church lately?” The truth is that it is filled with great joy and excitement, but they are cleverly disguised in challenges, struggles, endless phone and personal contacts, countless hours of proposal writing, and a myriad of trips to the grocery store for refreshments to be ready for every event that you host.
However, sooner but most likely later, through divine intervention, things begin to line themselves up and those long days of working through contact after contact, and perhaps never seeing a response begin to bring back some results.
Now I can guarantee you that the results will never seem exactly the way you had planned it, but the more I work at this, the more I see that it’s true what Scripture says in Acts 2 “and the Lord added to their number.”
PlumbLine Fellowship in Narberth UMC is a new church start that began its birth process in July of 2009. Through many dangers, toils and snares, PlumbLine has been trying to work through the hard process of transforming an existing congregation that has been struggling to survive, into the vision of PlumbLine with a mission to be a place where people are called to become disciples of Jesus Christ working to bring spiritual depth and equity in an unbalanced world. This has not been an easy task, and there have been moments of complete frustration. Nonetheless, the existing congregation has been engaged in the extensive work of discovering what it means to be a new church start, and of developing the gifts to practice radical hospitality in order to welcome new folks.
One of the ways we strive for our mission is through the ministry of the Family Resource Center. Here families can receive food, clothing and legal consultation to help them with their utilities bills. Our Center also provides mental health assistance through our program, Circles of Care. This program is designed to create support groups for people in transition due to job loss, economic hardship and or immigration issues. We are diligently working with the community to create a much needed community center that will house several classes for all generations, after school programs, musical events, small group studies and worship.
Another place we seek to live out our mission is through our alternative worship service called The Well. The Well is a coffee house emergent worship, where people come to a relaxed experience of worship, engage in Biblical and theological reflection and participate in the Eucharist. At The Well, we provide a complete meal to folks because we realized that many of our attendees also frequent the food bank ministry of our center. We wanted to provide a warm meal for families however we were committed to treating people with dignity and respect, so a soup kitchen was out of the question. We wanted people to experience what a group of committed, Jesus-loving, Kingdom-building disciples could do in the name of Love. So at our coffee house you never know who you will sit with because everyone is treated the same. You are ushered to a beautifully prepared table complete with candles and silverware, while you enjoy wonderful music that will lift your heart as well as move your feet. PlumbLine exists to bring balance and build equity, so at the table people from all walks of life, rich and poor, of all ethnic backgrounds, all different kinds of stories converge into one story and one song – “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
PlumbLine is also engaged in witness outside of our building walls. We have done this by participating in many events that the local community holds, such as the Fourth of July festival, the Charles Dickens Festival, and Earth Day Festival, and most recently through the celebration of our Animal Blessing. It is a gift to be able to connect and learn about the values of a community in order to build your identity as part of that community. This has made the name of PlumbLine Fellowship begin to be a familiar name throughout the community because we are involved in every level of the community’s life. From HSA and PTA meetings to Borough Council meetings, PlumbLine is committed to being a real neighbor.
True to God’s word, the Lord is leading people to PlumbLine as we have seen with the recent addition of Ms. Cheryl Graham who has organized youth in her community to help raise awareness and funding sources to help young people get to college. PlumbLine will be a site for a new youth ministry centering on the performing arts and using the talents of young people to introduce the message of Jesus Christ. Already this first weekend we expect to have 50 to 100 young people participate in a talent and dance show. God has also brought to us Yvette Diaz, a second year student at Palmer Seminary to intern with us. She brings a tremendous desire to serve God in the midst of a new church start, as well as great people and organizational skills.
You may be wondering if there are any missionary fields left to explore, or perhaps you have been praying for God to move you into a new direction. Have you considered partnering with a new church start? Have you considered what it would be like to minister to the un-churched or nominally religious? This is the time and PlumbLine might the place. Join us; you just might be who we are waiting for!
For more information on Church Planting please contact: Dr. Irving Cotto, Director of Congregational Development, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church, 800-828-9093, Ext. 218 or Irving.Cotto@epaumc.org
Rev. Lydia E. Muñoz is pastor of PlumbLine Fellowship at Narberth UMC: PRgirlsings@aol.com or 215-687-1368.