Northaven and The Village Forge Partnership Through Dialogue and Service

TWD: Northaven and The Village

The two churches are planning a joint back-to-school drive next month and pastors to swap pulpits

What began as a brief conversation between two long-time friends and fellow pastors on a break during ordination interviews has blossomed into a growing relationship between Northaven UMC in Dallas and The Village UMC in DeSoto. After an initial conversation about how their congregations might share in honest dialogue about race in America, Rev. Ann Willett and Rev. Derek Jacobs identified five members from each church to form a group tasked with casting a vision for what this partnership could involve.

Eating togetherThe group’s first initiative was to share a meal together as part of Project Unity’s Together We Dine. On April 20, around 30 people from each congregation gathered at Northaven for dinner and small-group discussions about their personal experiences about race.

“It was an awesome experience to sit around tables with people who don’t look like one another,” Jacobs said. “God is in the midst because it needs to happen. When you look around at the country, it’s clear we need this. This is what’s showing the world that we cannot be divided.”

One Together We Dine participant from The Village, Mavonee Jeffries, emphasized, “It was as eye opening as it was heartwarming! A great starting point!”

This was indeed just the beginning of the growing partnership between the two churches. On the last Sunday in June, an adult Sunday School class from Northaven attended worship at The Village. The two groups were intentional about not staying in their own comfort zones, but rather integrated throughout the sanctuary to build new relationships and worship God together.

“We have really enjoyed getting to know each other,” said Northaven member Susie Marshall. “The Village members are generous in sharing their life experiences and joining us in creating welcoming spaces. I know I better understand some of the considerations that people of color face every day in our metroplex to ensure their safety, regardless of socio-economic status.”

Gardening together “This is what we as God’s people come together to do,” said Jacobs. “We can do more united than divided. We don’t want to just have conversations but also serve together. So, we’re looking at how we can leverage both congregations to do service together.”

That desire to serve together led to what has been dubbed “Together We Garden.” On June 15, members of both congregations spent two hours pulling weeds and cleaning up the gardens at Owenwood Farm and Neighbor Space in Dallas.

Marshall, who also serves as Executive Director of Owenwood’s partner GROW North Texas, described the relationship-building that happens while people get their hands dirty in the garden. “Having 20 years of experience bringing people together to volunteer in one kind of garden or farm setting or another, I believe a lot of wonderful conversations and sharing happen in the field. Everyone is getting sweaty and a little dirty together with a common purpose of helping people in the broader community. People share stories of gardening successes and failures or favorite dishes with whatever vegetable is being weeded. Knowledge about plants and weeds is shared. Casual ‘getting to know you’ questions are asked: ‘Do you have kids?’ ‘Where did you grow up?’ The garden (or farm) is a great place to build relationships as we connect with creation.”

The Village and Northaven are planning a joint back-to-school drive next month, and Willet and Jacob will also swap pulpits, preaching in one another’s churches this fall. As they continue forging these bonds of community, the United Methodist connection signals God’s kingdom to come.

Published: Wednesday, July 12, 2023