Nurturing a Kingdom Community
"People ask me why I'm a Presbyterian pastor, as opposed to some other denominational tribe," Craig Goodwin (MDiv '95) says, "and my simple response is that it is the Presbyterian community that led me to Christ and nurtured me in faith." Craig's wife, Nancy Moomaw Goodwin (MDiv '96), also describes her childhood as the minister's daughter at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in California as a time when she was nurtured and challenged in her faith. Today, the couple serves together in pastoral ministry, nurturing the community at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church in the city of Millwood, situated in the Spokane Valley of Washington.
Millwood Presbyterian offers its congregation spiritual nourishment through programs that include small groups, outreach opportunities, and camps. While Craig sees the value of such programs, he admits, "I'm most passionate about getting our congregation engaged and involved in the community." For Craig, the "more important step" is leading his congregation to "actively cross the boundaries between church and community." By spending equal amounts of time among their neighbors and community as he does in his church office, Craig leads by example.
His focus on integrating the congregation and surrounding community reflects Craig's expansive and creative view of pastoral ministry. "We are not just shepherds of people's souls," he points out, "but architects of community life in the way of Jesus." Prayer is foundational to this venture, but Craig also emphasizes actively seeking the welfare of the community where God has called them to be witnesses. A major component in Millwood Presbyterian's mission, "seeking the welfare of the city," is an idea based on Jeremiah 29, a passage which Craig calls a "helpful conversation partner" for the church as they sort out God's calling for them.
One important move the Goodwins and their congregation have made toward this call was opening the Crossing Youth Center two years ago. "Instead of creating a youth room for the church youth group, we developed a vision for a shared space with broad community ownership," Craig explains. The Crossing partners with Young Life, the school district, a local group home, and other community members.
The church also works to build a Kingdom community by facilitating the Millwood Farmer's Market in its parking lot from May through September. Craig calls the market his "Wednesday congregation" and a key link between the church and its neighbors. Although traditional evangelism efforts are not used at the market, "We've found that it's been a real tangible witness to God's Kingdom of justice, shalom, and community," Craig observes.
While Craig is the vanguard of community outreach at Millwood Presbyterian, his wife, Nancy, is on the front lines of another part of church life as she oversees congregational care, visitation, and small groups. "I have a heart for pastoral care," Nancy says. Reflecting on an early ministry experience working with people receiving cancer treatment, Nancy says, "I feel so honored when I can be invited into the most tender times of peoples' lives, praying with them, and seeing God work in amazing ways through both joy and crisis," she says. "Whether it's through pastoral care or Bible study or helping with the food distribution in our church parking lot, I love grappling with the big questions: Where is God at work, and how are we called to partner in what God is up to right here, right now?"
Over 10 years of pastoral ministry together, the Goodwins have worked in ways that are complementary to each other. "The great advantage for Craig and me is that our gifts are so different," Nancy points out, noting that their distinct roles and strengths reduce the likelihood of power struggles. "For the most part it works well, with the congregation very receptive to our shared leadership," Craig adds. "It seems like a very natural part of our family and church life."
The Goodwins credit their time at Fuller for another natural aspect of their ministry--having a welcoming attitude toward newcomers of all traditions. "Our interaction with people from other denominations at Fuller gave us a generous spirit when engaging new members in our church," Craig remarks, "and made it easier for us to nurture a common ground in Christ amidst our diversity of backgrounds."
Aiming to be "shepherds of souls and architects of community": As the Goodwins work together to care for their congregation and lead them to reach out to their city, they are indeed shepherds and architects--building and nurturing a model of Kingdom life and community to whet appetites for God's reign here and now on this earth.
To learn more about the Goodwins' church, visit www.millwoodpc.org. For more about their involvement in environmental sustainability and the local food movement, visit www.yearofplenty.org.