Bishop Peggy Johnson

Planting Seeds academy inspires hope for the city

Story and Photos By John W. Coleman

Enjoy photos of the Planting Seeds event on our conference Flickr page, and listen to speeches by Scott Chrostek and Wilson Goode on Hopewell UMC’s website.

“Pray for the City” was the theme for the 14th annual Planting Seeds for Ministry Growth, held Sept. 30 at Hopewell UMC in Downingtown. But in addition to prayer, the academy’s faculty also taught careful planning, imaginative programming and strategic practices for improving a church’s ministry, music and management of money.

The Rev. Scott Chrostek (right) serves Resurrection Downtown, the burgeoning, 6-year-old, urban satellite congregation of rural UM Church of the Resurrection, located in the heart of Kansas City, Mo. The young pastor delivered humble humor and adaptive wisdom from his church planting experiences. “Imagining the Possibilities” was the title of his sermonic keynote address, followed by a how-to lecture about “God’s Misfit Mission: Meeting People Where They Are.”

Story after story, complete with lessons learned, revealed some of the blessed, and even bizarre, encounters, radical generosity and unusual people and practices that have grown the church to nearly a thousand weekly worshippers. One event-planning insight Chrostek offered was to “get outside of your church calendar obsession and pay attention to the calendars and concerns of people in your community.”

Other afternoon workshops, led by expert teachers, taught how to draw the most out of the aging voices more prevalent in today’s church choirs and how to develop best practices in church financial management, fundraising and investment. Singing voice specialist and clinician Margaret Baroody taught “Singing Strong: Getting the Most from the Voices in Our Choirs.” Jack Brooks, CEO of the Mid-Atlantic UM Foundation (below), taught “Rich Church, Poor Church.”

In addition, Keith Wilburn, Hopewell’s Pastor of Urban Connection, led a tour of the suburban church’s new downtown community center. The Well is a spacious former funeral home that Hopewell purchased and has been rehabbing all year, thanks to dedicated volunteers from the church and community. The new mission enterprise houses the South District offices, an after-school program, the church’s Celebrate Recovery group and other ministries ready to serve local residents.

The final Planting Seeds speaker was the Rev. Wilson Goode Sr. (left), the 79-year-old director of the acclaimed, faith-based Amachi Program that connects thousands of children of incarcerated parents with caring mentors. A Baptist minister and Philadelphia’s first black mayor, he also pioneered affordable housing development and supervised federal education policies in the Clinton Administration.

Goode spoke of the challenges facing millions of urban children, including parental incarceration, poverty, violence and neglect. “There are children all across this country who need our help, including 10.7 million children with parents in prison or under legal supervision,” he said. “We must advocate for those whom others consider disposable… or we’re no better than non-Christians.”

“We’ve got work to do, folks,” said the Rev. Steve Morton, Hopewell’s pastor, in closing remarks. He quoted the Jeremiah 29:7 scripture that inspired the event’s theme. “We know we must pray and actively seek the welfare of the city.”

The Philadelphia UM Mass Choir and Hopewell’s praise ensemble provided inspirational music for the evening service. And two morning workshops preceded the formal Planting Seeds event. “The Way of the Labyrinth” taught contemplative, prayerful path-walking on the church’s outdoor labyrinth. And “Children’s Ministries—Building a Firm Foundation” taught ways to create and sustain vibrant growth and exploratory learning activities for children in the church.

Enjoy photos of the Planting Seeds event on our conference Flickr page, and listen to speeches by Scott Chrostek and Wilson Goode on Hopewell UMC’s website.