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Experienced congregational journeyers step forward to lead

Merica Gellerman and the Rev. Deacon Deborah R. Drake.
Nina Nicholson
Merica Gellerman and the Rev. Deacon Deborah R. Drake.

After the departure of the Rev. Ginny Dinsmore and Suzanne Willian in September, the Rev. Deacon Deborah R. Drake and Merica Gellerman, both long-time participants in the Congregational Journey, have stepped forward to serve as its co-conveners.

Drake has been involved in the Congregational Journey from its earliest days.

“I had always felt that our church needed to be more involved with the neighborhood – I just saw the neighborhood as part of church,” she said. “Then I heard there was a missional team and it really interested me, so I started going to the meetings and volunteered to be part of Going Local.

“I believe that we really need to work on our faith foundation for everything else to come out of it – to be able to talk about our faith with one another, to share our stories and to feel comfortable talking to our neighbors about God in our lives and learning how to recognize the presence of God in all we do.

“That's why it's so important to me – it's a way of life. I didn't choose to do this – I feel I was called to do this.”

Gellerman has been involved in the Congregational Journey since her congregation, Church of the Messiah in Chester, joined the second cycle of Going Local in summer 2015.

“There had been a little blurb in our church bulletin, about missional work and getting out more in your neighborhood, and it spoke to me,” she said.

“I believe you need to live your Christianity in everything you do all day long. I've always wanted to be more actively involved in a Christian way in my community and with people around me.”

Gellerman decided to tell Messiah’s Rector, the Rev. Margaret Otterburn, that she was interested in joining Messiah’s team, but before she could do so Otterburn invited her to join.

After a year of involvement in Going Local, however, “life got in the way” as Messiah’s team members got pulled to other things, “and so I was there with no team,” Gellerman said. That’s when Dinsmore invited her to become a Companion to other congregations in the Congregational Journey.

“Ironically,” Gellerman said, Messiah’s Going Local team re-formed earlier this year with herself, another one of the original team members and a new member.

As co-conveners, Drake and Gellerman will both be responsible for supporting teams currently on, or exploring, the Congregational Journey. They are also on the planning team for Convention, the theme of which – Gifted, Called, Sent – fits in with Going Local practices; are involved in planning the 2019 Confirmation Retreats to introduce Going Local practices to diocesan youth; are preparing workshops to present at Convention and at the March 9 Church Leader University (formerly known as Vestry University); and are just beginning to explore the possibility of collaboration and partnering between the Congregational Journey teams and the Clergy Cohorts.

Drake is looking forward to visiting interested churches to lead forums on Going Local, while Gellerman is excited about plans to schedule listening tables with District 1 congregations to start a conversation about shared ministry.

Congregations or individuals interested in learning more about the Congregational Journey can contact the Rev. Deacon Deborah R. Drake at and Merica Gellerman at