Samaria Bailey Tribune Correspondent | 0 comments
Nearly one year upon his departure from one of the city’s oldest Black churches, Pastor Wayne Weathers is working to build a brand new church, Vision of Hope Baptist Church, from the ground up.
Vision was formally established Nov. 30, 2014 and to date has an estimated 60 members. True to its name, the church is designed to bring a brighter look to communities lacking in faith and resources, with a focus on discipleship and grass-roots community work.
“It’s been a journey, it’s been a blessed journey,” said Weathers. “God is allowing me to do something I thought I could never do. I’ve always thought I was called to pastor churches that have already been established, so doing something outside of the box — I never felt that was my calling. (But) after fasting and praying, I heard the Lord give me the name of the church, the mission statement, the goals and objectives. So it’s been a journey.”
Vision’s full mission is “to create and develop disciples who will in turn go back and disciple the congregation in the community.” To that end, new “converts,” he said, are trained in discipleship.
At a members retreat planned for Oct. 31, the church will reflect on the congregation’s talents and ways they can touch the community. The issues they plan to tackle include inequalities in education and social justice.
“The social justice piece — we are exploring that right now, the budget cuts that are happening within the Philadelphia public school system, the (possible) closure of more schools and the lack of funding from Harrisburg,” said Weathers. “What I’m realizing is there are many people gifted and talented sitting here in the congregation so it’s really utilizing the gifts.”
Weathers named a prison ministry as a specific one they are currently working on, with the goal of making it as relevant as possible — not for just prisoners, however.
“We are going back to the table and rethinking how we can implement this ministry,” he said. “We have families affected by their loved ones being incarcerated. How do you minister to the person that’s been incarcerated and has to (adjust) from being in prison, back into society and how do you minister to their families.”
Internal ministries that Weathers said have already been implemented are “congregational care, to minister to members in the face of challenges,” a “social media ministry, to spread God’s word” and a “marriage ministry” that is being developed by Minister Benita Weathers, the First Lady.
The other piece they are working toward is finding their own building. Right now, they use a general room housed in a Strawberry Mansion church to hold service. A nontraditional room for a service, the congregation sits in folding chairs, while Weathers, without a pulpit or platform, sits and preaches, level with them.
But no matter the environment, the service went on unaffected. On the Sunday of the Tribune’s visit, there was a spirited praise and worship and the congregation seemed genuinely happy to be there, evident as people welcomed each other with smiles, hugs and kisses.
That Sunday, Weathers preached part five from a series, “It’s All about Faith: I Still Have Hope,” based out of the Book of Lamentations.
His message encouraged the congregation to continue to have faith, even in the face of bleak circumstances.
“Although it may be dark outside, although I may be sick … I still have hope in God,” he preached. “If you still want to have hope in God,” you have to change your mindset.
Weathers preached intensely for that sermon, at one point, loosening his tie to cool off from all of the energy and movements from catching the Spirit and working to convey his message.
“When Pastor Weathers branched off, I felt compelled to follow him,” said Darryl Andrews, a member since last November. “The message was here, the connection was here. I feel comfortable growing in the faith here. It’s an education in Christ. A lot of places I have been, have been more about tradition. This was deeper — where you can learn the basics of following Jesus.”
Andrews added that the Vision congregation has been uplifting for each other and him personally. Last year, he said they “counseled” him and one of his teenage sons “who was going through a troubled phase.”
Anna Washington agreed, stating that “everyone looks out for one another. There is no bickering. It’s always just a lot of love.” She added that Weathers’ message that day was what she needed because she was recently “forced to move from the Blumberg projects with little resources. I started getting depressed and I hadn’t been to church in a week,” she said. “I’m glad to be back. I knew what he was saying I needed to hear it again.”
The ultimate vision of Vision, said Weathers, is to be a place for this type of uplifting — for the church and beyond.
“We are not trying to be the largest church in Philadelphia,” he said. “It’s really trying to develop ministries that are going to convert and transform — not only lives but transform communities also.”