A New Worshiping Community Embracing (but not bound by) Denominational Affiliation
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
- Write Blog Article
- Make Drs. Appointment for Mom
- Plan Ministerium Meeting
- Set Up Petting Zoo
- Finish Wedding Service
- Pick Up Wedding Gifts
- Eat Lunch
- Get a Quote for Roofing
- Get a Flu Shot
- Check on 341 Checking Account
- Work Out with Anna
- Write Next Week’s List…
We both make lists. We are different in age and denomination, but we share a love for lists.
Lists are not only our bullet-pointed refuge from the chaos of this wonderful life we have been called to live, but they give us breathing spaces while we whittle away at the to-do’s of the day.
Community 341 has grown out of a collaboration between St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church. The “Three” stands for the coming together of the Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Brookliners to worship and serve our community.
Chris is a thirty-something career Lutheran pastor and Marsha is a sixty-something second career Presbyterian pastor. Chris is getting married in less than a week! Marsha and her husband are married 33 years this month and just celebrated the birth of their first grandchild. (November is one of our most list-worthy months including community Thanksgiving services and meals, Light Up Night, Live Nativity – you should see the lists!!) Chris shares her understanding of the sacraments, technology and Shakeology; while Marsha shares a love of silence, lengthy preaching, and Pilates.
We come together with our love for lists, our quirks, our differences, and our similarities to tell the story of God’s love. This love of God in Brookline, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA, has manifested itself for us in what is becoming Community Three For One (or Community 341).
This ministry, one of the 1001 new worshiping communities in the PC(USA), is an innovative form of church for our culture and for two struggling, mainline urban congregations.
Community 341 is a new church development or worshiping community that has grown out of a collaboration between St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church. The “Three” stands for the coming together of the Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Brookliners to worship and serve our community. This also reminds us of the mutuality and co-equality of the Trinity. The “For” can be a numeral, but it means for or on behalf of the “One”, which is Christ for everyone.
The model is always with, not to.
We are called to be a part of the reconciling work of God. Community 341 is a ministry “by, for, and with” the people of God here in Brookline. It is characterized by innovation and experimentation, focused on relationships, and always grounded in God’s love for God’s people. We are incredibly blessed by powerful connections between neighborhoods and denominations, while moving forward with new ways of experiencing Christ’s ever-present power in the world.
Three For One is a community that crosses traditional divides. It is a privilege to walk alongside people who would never enter our sanctuaries on a Sunday morning. Many of the people who comprise this community come from different faith backgrounds or no faith background at all. Many are physically challenged or socially isolated.
We at Community 341 believe that we are called to minister to and with those whom Matthew describes as ‘the least of these’. We answer the call of those in need of food and clothing through the Brookline Christian Food Pantry, the weekly meals we offer, and ‘Begin Again’ Clothing Room, where all may shop for free. We seek to emulate Christ who came not to be served, but to serve.
So what does a typical 341 day look like? Well…
- Grabbing a missing ingredient for the dinner, the children’s lesson, snack or craft
- Answering requests for food, clothing, housing, or money to fix a flat tire, all followed by prayer
- Taking prayer requests from many about loss, pets, illness, or arguments at the local shelters
- Checking in with our ‘regulars’ about their week and answering queries about “What’s for dinner?”
- Answering a call from our Coach through the 1001 New Worshiping Communities of the PC(USA)
- Panicking over an upcoming deadline for a judicatory report or grant
- Talking with Katie, our field education student from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, about the new church development degree program
- Prepping for a funeral and/or sermon
- Finding a wedding DJ to replace a last-minute cancellation
- Accompanying Marsha’s 92-year-old mother to a doctor’s appointment
- A frantic call from our Pre School and subsidized childcare program about a sick child or teacher
- Attending to other wedding hiccups that have come to attention
- Listening to folks who popped in just needing to talk
- Rescheduling a badly-needed hair appointment – for the third time!
We often feel pulled in multiple directions, or as if we are trying to balance on two moving chairs! Our work is a stream of consciousness challenge, and it is not for the faint-hearted. It can be helpful to read through the gospels and remember that Jesus’ own ministry (his ‘lists’, if he made them!) was constantly being interrupted to meet needs, and build relationships with those in the community (for examples of Jesus negotiating this tension, just read the first few chapters of Mark’s Gospel!) Like all who have sought to follow Jesus through the centuries, we struggle daily to balance our time and relationships with our families, our congregations, and our community.
We spend a lot of time listening to community members and slowly introducing the Good News of Jesus, reminding them they are beloved children of God. We worship and serve together, accompanying each other. The model is always with, not to. Our ministry is always enveloped by prayer, and we seek to offer worship appropriate for the body gathered. Sometimes it is simply a song and other times it involves prayer stations, or the celebration of communion. We try always to remain gentle with our worship traditions and styles.
It can be helpful to read through the gospels and remember that Jesus’ own ministry (his ‘lists’, if he made them!) was constantly being interrupted to meet needs, and build relationships with those in the community.
Sounds good, doesn’t? We will humbly be the first to tell you that this work is not without its challenges. Developing a New Worshiping Community (PCUSA) or Synodically Authorized Worship Community (ELCA) – depending on which denominational hat we are wearing – while still serving as called pastors to established congregations and living our personal lives as daughters, wife/fiancée, mother, and everything in between, is undoubtedly a lot to juggle! What keeps us going is our passion for the Gospel and our passion for the least of these. We struggle, we fail, and we try to be faithful with all other duties as assigned.
When it comes down to the long and short of it…we make lists!
AUTHOR BIOS: Pastor Christina Ingold (Soon to be Pastor Christina Hough) is the pastor of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and co-pastor of Community Three For One, both in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. She did her undergraduate studies at Westminster College in New Wilmington PA, and is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. She also studied one year at Yale Divinity School and has been ordained nearly 10 years. Christina is engaged to be married to Thomas Hough, III, on November 21, 2015.
Rev. Marsha Sebastian is pastor of Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church since 2003 and co-pastor of Community Three For One. She received a BA from Grove City College and a Master of Science Degree from Duquesne University. She is also a graduate of the “Moses plan” of evening classes to receive a Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. As a second career pastor, her experience in education, retail, and marketing were helpful preparation for full-time ministry. BBUPC has benefited greatly from many ministry and building partners and a study sponsored by Partners in Sacred Places. Results of this grant helped members to understand their church as a community asset which generates almost $300,000.00 in services annually to their neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
Marsha is married to Robert, an attorney, and they have two grown sons. One son and his wife just welcomed Marsha and Robert’s first granddaughter into the world in November! Marsha has training in Interim Ministry and Gestalt Pastoral Care. She enjoys poetry, planting flowers, and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.