Revitalizing, Reimagining, and Restarting through Listening Community
By Patricia Peña
An exciting new initiative for church revitalization and planting, a Path 1 initiative, advancing diversity and innovation in church planting, is on its way! We had the opportunity to work with Rev. Luke Edwards in hosting the first Bilingual Listening Church/Listening Community Cohort at the Rio Texas Annual Conference. This initiative is perfect for teams looking to restart, revitalize, or plant. The Listening Church program is available in Spanish and English, and it's an excellent resource for conferences, districts, and churches looking to reach diverse communities. The cohort walks churches and teams through the phases of listening to God, church, and community and then creates a plan of work based on the spiritual needs of the community they will serve.
This is an amazing opportunity to jumpstart a new strategy of work or to simply direct a planting program. The first step is to truly listen.
I had the opportunity to interview Rev. Maribel Vasquez of the Rio Texas Conference, and she will share more about the impact this cohort had in the Rio Texas Conference.
I: Pastor Maribel, tell us a little bit about the Listening Community Cohort in the Rio Texas Conference.
M: The Pastor’s Alliance of San Antonio of the Rio Texas Conference held its first meeting for the Listening cohort on September 9, 2023. The first session was held at Emmanuel UMC. This first cohort consisted of twelve Hispanic congregations of San Antonio, Hill Country, West, and El Valle. This bilingual initiative was done to strengthen our Hispanic congregations.
The listening cohort allows churches and planting teams to learn what God wants for the church and to meet the spiritual needs of the community through deep listening.
I: What is the structure of the cohort?
M: The Listening Community Cohort begins with an in-person day retreat followed by four online Zoom meetings for follow-up and guidance. We complete our cohort this January.
I: Which churches participated?
M: The following congregations are part of the cohort: Emanuel UMC, La Trinidad de San Antonio, La Trinidad de Seguin, Trinity`- SA, Westland- SA, Pollard Memorial - SA, El Mesias- Floresville, El Buen Pastor - San Marcos, Principe de Paz - Del Rio, Nuevo Pacto - Sa y el Distrito de El Valle.
I: What have been some of the positive outcomes of this cohort?
M: Each church participated in various projects and events to listen to the voices of God, church, and community. Some of the results have been fascinating. For example: Emmanuel UMC did a prayer walk. While they prayed and praised, they were able to open their eyes to the needs of the community. This led to noticing that there were a lot of lonely women in the community.
This led the church to host a retreat for women. More than forty women who said that they had felt lonely, abandoned, sick, and without hope participated. The results have brought renewed hope to these women. We plan to host another retreat this year.
The findings from this cohort will help our Alianza de Pastors to create a strategy to equip and deploy leaders for the work ahead. We are very excited to see what God will continue to do in our communities after gaining a renewed vision through this cohort.
I: Thank you, Rev. Maribel, for granting us this interview. We also look forward to what God will continue to do with the Rio-Texas Conference.
For more information on how the Listening Church/ Listening Community Cohort can help your conferences, please email [email protected]. We will host a fully online version of this cohort this spring. It will be available in English and Spanish.
Patricia Peña is the Director, Diversity & Innovative Community Engagement, with Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries.