For church planter Rev. Rachel Woehler, the call to form a new kind of church came from the Lord’s Supper.
“In summer 2011, I got a metaphorical burr in my saddle,” Woehler said. “Almost suddenly my ear became attuned to certain words: feast, meal, table, and fellowship. I was especially aware of these words when I witnessed church leaders speak about the Lord’s Supper.”
Over the next two years, Woehler worked to transform that yearning into action. “During those two years of working through my fears,” Woehler remembers, “I read everything I could find about table fellowship, church planting, and the Lord’s Supper.”
Woehler came to develop a new model of worship, which she named Potluck Church. This worship centered on a meal, at which all were welcome to be nourished – both physically and spiritually.
At the suggestion of Kentucky’s Regional Minister Rev. Greg Alexander, Woehler attended Hope Partnership’s Leadership Academy. There, she mapped out a timeline for her new venture and established relationships that would provide future support.
“Leadership Academy helped me articulate God’s vision and calling for Potluck Church, so that when I returned home, I felt more confident about boldly inviting others,” Woehler said.
Soon after, First Christian Church in Woehler’s hometown of Madisonville, KY, freely offered their gym to host Potluck Church gatherings.
With support and guidance, and a free meeting place, Woehler, along with her husband and ministry partner, Eric, began inviting others to join their new community.
For Woehler, it was important to reach out to people who weren’t already attending church, because Potluck Church offered something different.
“We have learned that some people have been hurt by traditional churches, and the idea of entering a pew-filled sanctuary brings deep anxiety instead of peace,” Woehler said. “The meal is an alternative setting that offers a more familiar first step into a congregation.”
Woehler believes this model is duplicable for new and existing churches: it’s an affordable model to launch in another community – requiring only a place to share a meal, communion set, and willing convener. For existing churches, potlucks could be a new offering to reach community members who may be yearning for a meal or open discussion.
“I believe that our history, polity, and culture as Disciples of Christ (in all its varied diversities) makes us uniquely positioned to live and grow into alternative church styles that God is creating in our midst.”
To support church planters like Rev. Woehler in your own region or area, and across the life of our church through Hope Partnership’s New Church Ministry, you’re invited to give to the 2018 Pentecost special offering, received in many congregations on May 20 and 27.