Community West Church launched as a new ECO congregation on April 20, 2014. Previously, we’d been a second site of Third Presbyterian Church of Richmond, VA, but Easter Sunday marked our birth as a distinct church plant with a new name.
To celebrate our new beginning, we had a dedication service a couple weeks later. We’d been studying Nehemiah in the sermon series, so just as Nehemiah dedicated the re-built walls of Jerusalem, we too wanted to gratefully and joyfull dedicate our church and ourselves to God. We wanted to celebrate what God had already done in our midst while also praying expectantly for what He would do in our future.
To symbolize this, we invited people to help create a piece of artwork of our new church logo, a cross that looks like a flourishing tree. The imagery points to being rooted in Jesus Christ for our flourishing and the flourishing of God's Kingdom in the world, particularly in west Richmond.
An artist in our congregation painted a large canvas with the cross, and then, during the service, people had the opportunity to come forward to apply two different colored leaves to the canvas to complete the tree. The dark green leaves represented us. The other leaf we added—lighter green to signify new growth—represented a specific person for whom we committed to pray would come to know Christ. These leaves also represented our prayers, hopes, and expectations for how God would continue to grow His Kingdom in Richmond through Community West Church.
After the service, we celebrated with a "Start Party," and what's a party without food and gifts? The lunch we provided encouraged folks to linger after church in order to spend time talking with one another and "building community," which you might have guessed, is a vital value of our congregation. The mugs and cups we gave away, imprinted with our logo, created excitement and ownership of our new name.
As church leaders, we need to remind one another to take time to celebrate. Sometimes we get too bogged down in the details and push for church growth (whether we are just planting or are worried about a decline) that we don’t pause to celebrate what God has already done in our midst. By marking our launch with a celebration, there was joy, laughter, and excitement. Our celebration demonstrated our gratitude for God's faithfulness, now and in the past. And most of all, our celebration represented our hope for the future as we continue to step out with Jesus.
Will you pray for our congregation as we approach our community launch on September 7th? This is simply our opportunity to introduce ourselves with our new name to our community. As a church, we are particularly focused on West Richmond and have found that people in the suburbs often feel disconnected and unaware of the diverse groups of people living in the west end of Richmond. We desire to live missionally among our neighbors, friends, and co-workers to develop authentic relationships so we can share the hope of Christ.
Esther Choi is a Presbyterian minister who served churches in Texas before moving to Richmond in 2012. She helps plan creative worship services for Community West Church, along with Nelson Ould, Lead Pastor. Esther is married to Phil and they adore their three young children Allison, Bailey, and Bennett. When she's not going on adventures with her family, Esther’s next favorite thing is to spend long hours over coffee, deepening relationships with people.