At the Annual Conference session in June, we gave thanks for the ministries of New England churches that had closed in the past year. The Vine ministry in Haverhill, MA, which closed last fall, should have been among the ministries that were lifted up.
The Vine was a new church start in the Tri-State District that was pastored by Melissa Yosua-Davis and Ben Yosua-Davis. Seeking to be presence in a community, with love for a city and its people, with special attention to those who might be considered the "least," Ben and Melissa gave themselves to this new ministry with heart and soul, mind and strength.
The connections and relationships and impact that The Vine had in Haverhill were blessings. Powerful blessings.
The Annual Conference, through its Urban Grant and Hebrews 11 processes, gave good support for what was, for us, a new and different form of community ministry: a church without a church building or most anything that was (for most of us) traditional.
Two Christmas Eves ago, I joined The Vine folks at a park in Haverhill (it was wet and cold) as they served hot soup and delivered new gloves and mittens to those who gathered. Some song sheets and candles were distributed. Melissa spoke briefly. We sang carols, talked together, and lit our candles. It was one of the most special incarnational Christmas moments I have experienced.
Last year, it was a very difficult discernment for Ben and Melissa and other Vine leaders to see that The Vine needed to close. Since then, there have been several conversations about how things went and what we should learn from The Vine experience.
Ben and Melissa have shared their feelings and thoughts about all this in their blogs:
God Loves This City
A Glorious Message
Going on to Perfection
All in all, we have learned many lessons in this process. Perhaps a most important lesson is that God continues to offer the gifts and spirit and energies for new relationships, new community, caring and sharing and justice ministries, which live the heart and life of Jesus Christ.
We continue to seek ways to connect with new people in different ways. In all our congregations, we are called to ministries that connect with the hearts and lives of our neighbors.
May God continue to call us forward in this work.
– Rev. James T. McPhee, Tri-State District Superintendent