Julie and Jerome at one month

Circle of Hope is good at having babies. I just saw Isaac J.B. Jehanian on Facebook. And dear Josephine (our latest granddaughter) had a five-month-old picture showing her smiling face on Moment Garden yesterday!

Circle of Hope, as a whole, is also having a baby and we have given birth to two leaders to nurture it along. (I included their picture!) We have a September due date, so Julie and Jerome, especially, are feeling heavy with child.

I have never personally given birth to a child, so I don’t know what that feels like. I hear it is harder than birthing a congregation. Julie will be able to tell us soon. But I do know that birthing a church is not easy. It is not even advisable unless the Holy Spirit has, somehow, talked you into doing it. I don’t think it is grandiose to say you should be a little like Mary being visited by an angel in one way or another if you are going to try it.

The Annunciation — Henry Ossawa Tanner

Julie Hoke sometimes looks up at me in our meetings with her rueful smile which seems to ask, “How did I get here, again?” (Like Mary, “How can this be?”). She feels like she goes through a college class in entrepreneurial pastoring every week. (She passes the classes, too, I must say). She was fully engaged with young children, and was a great cell leader and cell leader Coordinator. She had her life full with all that and a burgeoning career in helping people who need help, for which she was trained and deployed. Then we plucked her out of the apprentice pastor process and made her our pastor. Thank you Julie (and Steve!). It is a risk to lead us, we know! Julie is a trooper — brave, warm, smart, passionate, caring, self-giving and a quick study. Pray for her. Also, she is a woman! Women pastors in the church are still relatively rare and patriarchy runs deep. Pray for her again.

The Magnificat — James Tissot

Jerome, likewise, sometimes looks at Julie and then at me with his amused grin that seems to say, “How funny is this?” (Like Mary, “He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.”) He had an inkling he wanted to be a pastor, but then we accelerated his career development times twenty. It seems like he just moved to Philly, just went to seminary, just got married, just had a baby and now he is a church planting pastor ready to pass around 5000 invitations to a great new thing happening in the Northwest! We plucked him out of the  apprentice pastor process after he had barely multiplied his cell and was just getting used to being a Cell Leader Coordinator.  Thank you, Jerome (and Darcy!). We know it is a risk to lead us. Jerome is also a trooper — brave, compassionate, insightful, adventurous, outgoing. Pray for him. And he is Black. Black pastors of diverse churches are still relatively rare and racism runs deep. Pray for him again.

Both of these dear people are kind of “eating the elephant” right now. (How does one eat an elephant? — piece by piece). By September, they will have worked through the multiplication of our South Broad congregation (which is tricky enough) and will have met who-knows-how-many people God has already been nudging their direction (which is another set of challenges). As you can tell by the picture above, I think that sounds like great fun. But pray for them. There is nothing more joyful than giving birth!  — but there are not many things are that are harder or more life-changing.

Want to follow their progress? They started a blog: Next Circle!

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