On Sunday, September 11, 2005, Hope Fellowship, a new congregation being launched by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, will formally begin meeting at the Knowles Senior Center, Patricia Hart Building, at 174 Rains Ave., Nashville, TN, near the Tennessee State Fair Grounds. Services begin at 10 am CST.
September 11th sticks out in the minds of many Americans and people around the world as a day of darkness and extreme sadness. However, Pastors Matthew Sullivan and Steve Burton and the people of Hope Fellowship desire to offer hope in the midst of those troubling memories.
In the hours following the collapse of the World Trade Center’s towers, Burton was invited to Ground Zero along with a small contingent of Nashville ministers. There, he prayed with and counseled rescue workers, police and firemen. The group served meals and offered solace to hundreds of family members and friends of victims. “It was a horrible and unique scene, one that I will never forget. But there are people who are walking around traumatized all over this city, too. I want to be a part of helping them find hope. It’s pleasantly ironic that this new project opens its doors on the same date.”
“We believe that the best way to change our country is by ministering to our cities, and the best way to minister to the cities is by planting churches in them,” says Sullivan. Sullivan hails from Columbus, Ohio, and has always had a passion for cities. He graduated from Miami University, Ohio, with a degree in urban planning, followed by four years serving in urban ministry in New York and five years at an inner-city church in Boston. “We desire Hope Fellowship to be a catalyst for renewal for other churches throughout Nashville.”
“To do this, we do not limit ourselves to traditional ‘church,'” says Burton, “but actively develop new ways to serve one another, the city, and the nations.” Burton was born and raised in the small town of Itta Bena, Mississippi and has 18 years of full-time ministry experience throughout Tennessee and Mississippi. To show one way of serving the community, he has put his chef apron on a number of times, flipping burgers and hot dogs for free community picnics for the neighbors in the 12 South neighborhoods. “We believe God is calling us to be a community with a shared experience of His grace. We are seeking to knit our lives together and live out the transformation the Gospel makes in every area of our lives.”
Hope Fellowship will offer opportunities throughout the week, in different parts of the city, for people to develop relationships, deepen a sense of community, and pursue questions of faith and life in a safe and inviting environment. “Our prayer is that anyone who would walk through our doors would know that Hope Fellowship is a haven, where we can all be ourselves, because we have nothing to prove,” says Sullivan.
Services will have a contemporary feel, with a strong flavor of the ancient. While singing to guitars and bongos, the words of many of the songs sung during the service may come from 18th century hymns. Prayers may come from the early Christian church, followed by a Nashville musician sharing his very current struggles of life and faith.
There will be Bible study and discussion groups, children’s programs, and community service opportunities as well. International outreach and missions will be a strong focus for Hope Fellowship. “We feel that the best way that we can love the world and bring it the Hope of the Gospel,” Burton continues, “is to begin this new work in a spirit of constant sending people out in service and giving ourselves away to others. Missions will be interwoven in everything that we doâ€”from praying together to sharing a meal together.”
Burton himself has a special passion for missionary service. Over the past 10 years, he has completed 17 short-term trips and has introduced hundreds of Americans to a struggling region of Northern Ireland. Recently, he helped to found Hope in Ballymena, which ministers primarily to the children and families of that conflict-torn community. Now, Hope Fellowship looks to share that same hope in Nashville.
“In the book of Jeremiah, God tells the prophet, ‘Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its peace you shall have peace,'” quotes Sullivan. “So, here we are, asking God to show us what it looks like to seek the peace of Nashville. What we do know is that He’s led us here to offer His perfect peace to those who feel they have no hope.”
For more information, contact the church office at 615.577.HOPE (4673) or visit www.hopenashville.org
About the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) was established in 1981 and now has almost 80,000 members in some 200 churches. With headquarters in Livonia, Michigan, outside of Detroit, the EPC is one of the fastest growing denominations in the country. Hope Fellowship is the second EPC congregation to be launched in metropolitan Nashville. Redeemer’s Chapel began worshipping in Franklin, TN in April, 2005. This family of churches is active in cross-cultural missionary work, with 80 full-time workers in over 20 countries. For more information on the EPC, visit www.epc.org.