More than 700 people came with hope to the Living Cloud of Witnesses dinner, the first dinner event of the 2011 General Assembly on Saturday, July 9. Hosted by Church Extension (CE), Disciples Home Missions (DHM) and Higher Education & Leadership Ministries (HELM), the event celebrated the launch of Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation and the leadership of Jim Powell, retiring former president of Church Extension.
Emceed by Nashville’s own KK Wiseman, who serves on DHM’s board, is a product of HELM and a CE supporter, the evening’s program included the participation of nearly 20 individuals whose ministries have been enriched by Jim Powell, his leadership and his vision for the future of the church. Their heartfelt remarks spoke to his role in encouraging and mentoring them in their vocations, to his contributions to the new church movement and how best to serve God’s mission in bold and courageous ways—how to find, as Jim says, “the next right answer.”
The speakers talked about the “hope” they brought to the event, referencing Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation, a collaboration of CE, DHM, HELM and other general ministry, educational, regional, ecumenical, congregational and community partners. With the purpose of “empowering courageous leaders as they guide the church into life-giving expressions of ministry for this new era of God’s mission,” Hope Partnership is designed to encourage emerging new models of congregational leadership for today’s cultures and contexts. In addition to the dinner launch of Hope Partnership, CE, DHM and HELM’s exhibits at General Assembly included a joint exhibit space dedicated to introducing Hope Partnership’s services and support to Assembly attendees. The ministries’ joint report also spoke to the collaborative leadership development effort.
A special performance by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Craig Wiseman set the tone for the evening. He was followed by remarks from former CE board member J.O. Williams, Florida Interim Regional Minister Rebecca Hale, anti-racism consultant Jessica Vazquez Torres, Chalice Christian Church’s Linda Miller, Christian Churches Together’s Dick Hamm, Esteban Gonzalez and Fernando Barbosa from the Christian Church of Puerto Rico, CE President Emeritus Hal Watkins, DHM President Ron Degges, HELM President Dennis Landon and General Minister and President Sharon Watkins. CE staff Rick Morse, Eugene Randall II and Rick Reisinger also share their sentiments and extended best wishes to Jim.
Perhaps the most moving moments of the evening were provided by Jim and Peggy Powell’s son, Drew, who performed a song he had written for the occasion, surrounded by the couple’s children and grandchildren.
Before Drew and Craig led dinner guests in singing rousing camp songs, CE Interim President Lori
Adams closed the evening’s program by referencing the 4th Chapter of Luke, encouraging those assembled “to rejoice in the ministry of everyone in this room and our cohorts beyond this space.” She added, “The holy power of God is in our very being to help us live out our created purpose in life: a purpose FROM WHICH WE CAN NEVER RETIRE…We have all we need to be church for this new era of God’s mission…to figure out how to bring our resources together…to BE God’s incarnation in a hurting world.”