NYC’s Advent Hope Reaches Out
to Community With ‘Balancing Life’

In May, congregation moves beyond comfortable boundaries (Posted May 3, 2013)

BY JAMIE SANTA CRUZ AND BROOKE PIERCE, Church of the Advent Hope, writing from New York City

Glance through the church newsletter any given week, and you’re sure to see announcements about a wide array of events and programs serving the various social, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who are part of Church of the Advent Hope community. But what is the church doing to engage the larger community beyond the church steps? How can Advent Hope better reach out to its Upper East Side neighbors?

That’s been the major question on the minds of the Advent Hope volunteers that have spent the last few months hashing out plans for the new “Balancing Life” seminar, kicking off at the church – long a fixture in the tony Manhattan neighborhood -- on Friday evening, May 3. “We don’t want to be an organization only talking to or with ourselves,” says Pastor Todd Stout. “Our goal is to facilitate a conversation with our community about important subjects that are meaningful to the community.

MANHATTAN WORSHIP: View of the sanctuary at Church of the Advent Hope on the Upper East Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan. The congregation, long a fixture in the tony neighborhood, draws a mixture of young and old, from a wide range of occupations. [PHOTOS: Church of the Advent Hope]
The seminar, which runs through May 10, is occurring as part of NY13, an initiative of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists involving a yearlong emphasis on engaging NYC with thoughtful subjects across the five boroughs of New York City.

Although the highlight of the efforts will be a 15-session seminar in June at the 11th Street church with Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, there are dozens of other meetings taking place throughout the city during the course of the year, including this series at Advent Hope.

Since the goal is to engage with the wider community, the planning team has been intentional from the start about finding out just exactly what New Yorkers are interested in and shaping the seminar around those interests.

Early in the planning stages, the team came up with seven different possible seminar titles and themes, then took the list to friends and colleagues not associated with Advent Hope to find out which themes attracted the most interest.

“Balancing Life” received the most positive responses, so it became the series title.

“It’s a tested need the community has expressed,” Stout says.

The series, which is being heavily advertised through direct mail and a subway ad, will consist of a series of four sessions, each dealing with how a particular biblical principle, such as the Sabbath or healthful living, can help in the quest to achieve balance in a hectic city life. To increase flexibility and enable greater attendance, the series will run through each session once and then repeat, meaning that each one will be offered on two separate dates.

PASTOR SPEAKS: Todd Stout, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, leads the Church of the Advent Hope congregation.
John Bradshaw, speaker/director of It Is Written television ministries will be the speaker for the event. According to Bradshaw, fresh off an evangelistic series in Prague, Czech Republic, the presentations beginning at Advent Hope May 3 will not be geared toward hard-core skeptics or atheists, who, in his view, are better served by other means. Instead, they are intended for those who are already spiritually inclined.

“In Manhattan there're thousands of people with a real spiritual interest, people who are ready for the encouraging, hopeful message of the Bible. This seminar is especially geared towards those people.”

For Stout, the seminar is an exciting one because it represents a new direction for his church. “This is the first time in recent memory that Advent Hope has done something like this—and by something like this, I mean doing an intentional series to encourage dialogue with the community outside the doors of the church itself.”

Although this first seminar is admittedly a new initiative for Advent Hope and thus something of an “experiment,” the plan is that it will be the prelude to more such events in the future.

Says Stout: “We want to learn how to better facilitate thoughtful discussions that are meaningful for the community.”


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