Picture, if you will, a church that does not yet have walls, or established ministries — but is rooted in an ancient tradition.
While it’s a blank canvas at the moment, a new Episcopal church in Wesley Chapel won’t remain that way forever — and beginning in January, meetings will be held to begin organizing the church’s first location in the community.
“We call it church planting. It’s like the sower (in the Bible) who sows the seeds; it’s planting,” said the Rev. Adrienne Hymes, whose official title is Diocesan Missioner for Church Extension.
She has assembled a core group of five people to begin one-on-one conversations with people in the community to find out more about Wesley Chapel’s needs.
The core group also will focus initially on the areas of theological and spiritual formation; discipleship, evangelism and mission.
Hymes expects to have a location by January and to begin holding monthly meetings.
“It will start out once a month on Wednesday nights, and then as we grow, we’ll be looking at Sundays,” she said.
The church currently is in talks for a possible location in a business park off of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
As more members join, a launch team will develop.
After that, it’s hard to predict how fast the move will be to a new location, how large the church will be, how many services and the exact shape of the ministries, Hymes said.
“With something like this, this really calls on us to lean heavily on the Holy Spirit movement — which can be a slow movement, or it can set on fire really quickly,” she said.
One thing is clear; the Episcopal church wants to be a presence in Wesley Chapel.
“Wesley Chapel is growing exponentially, and there are no signs of it stopping,” Hymes said.
The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida has been wanting to establish a presence in the community for many years. The diocese has 77 churches.
The diocese perceives a need in Wesley Chapel, and funds from a three-year national grant are being used to help support the effort to establish a church in that community.
“We do know there are Episcopalians who have been waiting for a (local) church for a long time. If you grew up in the tradition, you want an Episcopal church,” she said. Other Episcopal churches are miles away — in New Tampa, Zephyrhills and New Port Richey.
As the effort gets underway for a new church in Wesley Chapel, Hymes noted: “It just turns out that God sends servants and God sends resources, so that we are really able to focus on establishing a presence out there at this time.”
She is looking for people who want to part of a ground-floor, grassroots effort.
“We’re looking for entrepreneurial types. We’re looking for people who are visionaries. People who can see things that aren’t there yet,” Hymes said. “We’re going to need people who vision and dream,” she added.
“Normally, when you walk into a church, you’re worshipping — things are there,” Hymes said.
Some people definitely prefer it that way, she said.
If, however, “you’re comfortable with not knowing everything and the details, those are the people that we need.
“It’s kingdom-building work,” she said, and she’s looking to attract people from all walks of life to play a role.
There may be architects and construction workers, business people and others, she said. Retired people, who have just wrapped up a long career, may want to get involved in beginning something new, she said.
“Maybe you’ve been a strategic planner your whole life,” she said. “You’re not done yet.
“Right now, we’re in this wonderful dance of the Holy Spirit, wondering what is going to happen next,” said Hymes, who is clearly excited by the prospect.
“How many people have a chance to get on the ground floor of a brand-new church that does not have a name yet?
“Every time we meet and every time a new person shows up, the DNA for this church is being created,” Hymes added.
For those who do not know much about the Episcopal church, Hymes offered a brief overview.
“Our history and our roots run deep. The Episcopal church’s roots are rooted in the church of England, which started in the 16th century. What we offer is an ever-ancient liturgy that people can tap into and hold onto,” she said.
“If you’re led to the doors of this church, we welcome you, and we invite you into the rich Anglican tradition,” she said.
At the same time, the church’s ministries adapt to meet the changing needs of the community it serves, she said.
Those helping to lay the groundwork for the church will be learning about the needs it is called to serve in Wesley Chapel area.
Published November 29, 2017