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What is the Holy Spirit up to in our midst, and how do we support that evolution? (Metro Community Church)

Joining God in Shaping Our Future
Suzanne Willian

Two Action Learning Teams (ALTs), working from September 2018 to January 2019, were gathered to engage the following challenges:

Primary Questions: What is the Holy Spirit up to in our midst, and how do we support that evolution in our churches and in our diocese?

Secondary Question: What leadership do we need to foster this change?

They looked across Episcopalian and other protestant communities to seek out stories of congregations that suggest the birthing and ferment of the Spirit at this time. The following story (the third in a three-part series) highlights a few of the traits named by Action Learning Team members earlier this year. (Click here for the first story and here for the second.)

  • These communities are shaped by habits of dwelling with and listening to the people of the community. They have moved away from benefactor models of church (providing services to in terms of meeting needs and hurts) to connecting and joining with what people are doing and talking about beyond the church walls.
  • Service in the local community is a priority, and often an outgrowth of building the faith community.

This following story also highlights some learning around leadership. Leaders in these ministries are persistent and take a long-term view. They are passionate about their ministry and accomplished in sharing the story.


Metro Community Church
Englewood, NJ

Metro Community Church is a multiethnic and multicultural church located in Englewood, New Jersey. Initially started as a church plant in Fort Lee 13 years ago, Metro meets at a local elementary school every Sunday. The church’s administration office, where many ministry and church events are hosted during the week, is also in Englewood.

Part of the ethos of the church is to serve the least, last, and lost; service in the local community is a priority. Metro Community Church does not want to be outsiders offering charity. They want to be insiders sharing in the struggle. Listening to stories of people in the community has helped shape their perspective and insight in how best to serve the community. Living in the community is also important. A growing number of congregants and staff members live in Englewood.

One of the ways that Metro learned to move away from a stance of helping people and meeting needs to one of being with people and listening to where the Spirit might already be at work has been through community partnerships. Initially, Metro Community Church held events based on what they perceived as the needs of the community. They created programs that they had passion for. As they began to partner with organizations already at work in the city, they discovered that they were more effective. Current Metro partnerships include working with the police department and local high school to run a mentorship program for struggling students and with Parks and Recreation to offer open gyms and club sports for middle school students.

Metro Community Church

Metro has learned that it takes passionate clergy and lay leadership to build a culture of service and engagement with the community. Cultivating and nurturing the community partnerships takes time. Leadership’s passion has helped the community persevere.

While passion comes from senior leadership, Metro Community Church has also learned to build up new leaders who are passionate about service. To get more people involved, they offer regular seminars on their Justice, Advocacy, & Compassion (JAC) ministry. The JAC ministry is also part of student ministries. Growing their young people into people of service helps to fuel the passion for service.

Another lesson Metro learned is the importance of having a person devoted to service ministry. It’s part of their ethos and so they dedicate a staff person to direct this ministry.

Finally, the church has learned to be intentional about serving Englewood, their local community. They have passed on opportunities to serve other places so that they can focus solely on the local community.


Thanks to the following individuals for their work towards joining God in shaping the Diocese of Newark’s future

Action Learning Team Members:

Ford Livengood, Christ Church, Newton
The Rev. Miguel Hernandez, Holy Trinity, West Orange
Janet Maulbeck, Executive Director, Interweave
The Rev. Bob Morris, Calvary Summit
Cheryl Notari, St. George’s, Maplewood
Henry Ogden, Calvary Summit
The Rev. Anthony Puca, Grace, Westwood
The Rev. Diane Rhodes, St. Andrew’s, Harrington Park
Peter Savastano, St. Luke’s, Montclair
Dean Javier Viera, St. Peter’s Morristown
The Rev. Jim Warnke, St. Mark’s, Teaneck
The Rev. Paul Yoon, All Saints’, Leonia
Cali Yost, Grace, Madison

Action Learning Team Coordinators:

Joe LaVela, St. Paul’s, Chatham
Larry Sunden, Grace, Westwood

Action Learning Team Coaches:

The Rt. Rev. Steve Lane, Episcopal Diocese of Maine
The Rev. Dwight Zscheile, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Diocesan Coordinator:

Suzanne Willian, Diocese of Newark

Diocesan Sponsor:

The Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Episcopal Diocese of Newark

Action Learning Advisor:

The Rev. Alan Roxburgh, The Missional Network