Eight West Ohio congregations will be participating in the first Fear+Less Congregations Initiative beginning September 10. Funded by the Lilly Endowment for $1 million over five years, the mission of the Fear+Less Congregations Initiative is to support congregations in seeing the gifts in all individuals and the shifting values in their communities, hearing God’s vision for wholeness, and amplifying change through partnership and mission.
Partnering with West Ohio Conference in this initiative is Dr. Greg Ellison and Fearless Dialogues, a nonprofit organization that creates spaces for unlikely partners to engage in hard conversations about difficult subjects through highly engaging and experiential learning opportunities.
“Many of our initiatives teach techniques. Fear+Less Congregations Initiative also invites pastors and congregations to explore their identity and what keeps them from fully engaging in God’s vision. This is a transformational process in the life congregations, pastors and the communities in which they serve,” said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer.
The first Fearless Congregations Cohort includes: Braden UMC and Sylvania First UMC from Maumee Watershed District; Ada First UMC and Lima Trinity UMC of Northwest Plains District; Wilmington UMC and Forest Chapel of Ohio River Valley District; Southpoint of Shawnee Valley District; and Church for All People of Capitol Area South District. Each cohort, by direction of the grant, must include at least 1 rural, 1 Appalachian, 1 urban and 1 suburban congregation.
Participating congregations are chosen in the following ways: self-identified interest, recommendation by Bishop Palmer, pastor colleagues, district superintendents or other conference staff. Congregations are selected because they are committed to understanding the neighbors God has given them, hearing their dreams, and exploring together what it means to be an outpost of God’s love in their community.
Trained West Ohio Coaches will journey with each congregational team providing a process by which they can contextualize what they have learned and experienced in ways that make sense for them. Each congregation will develop a unique missional engagement plan. The West Ohio Fearless Congregations Coaches are Rev. Rae Lynn Schleif, Harris Tay, Sam Rodriguez, and Rev. Dee Stickley-Miner.
“The Fear+Less Congregations Initiative provides an incredible intersection of content, context and coaching that will transform congregations and communities. This is an exciting time to discover God’s unfolding vision for God’s people and I am excited about working alongside these 8 congregations and their gifted leaders,” said Rev. Dee Stickley-Miner.