Although Mercy Street United Methodist Church has not yet settled into a permanent location, it is enriching the Smyrna, Tenn., community through a wealth of outreach programs and its staff, including a deacon, the Rev. Holley Potts.
Growing up in First United Methodist Church in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., Potts was called to ministry through the Walk to Emmaus program and "serving for many years in youth ministry, studying the Scripture and seeking out mentors to help discern the call."
Mercy Street Church is seeking to expand the idea of church beyond a brick-and-mortar building.
"As part of a church plant without a permanent location, we are constantly seeking ways to create a presence at community events," Potts says. "I think it's important to live every part of my life as an expression of faith, whether it's in the church, at a community event or interacting with other parents while my kids play at the park."
Potts appreciates The United Methodist Church's wisdom, especially in its processes, from administration to ordination.
"I love our theology," she says, "especially the focus on sanctifying grace! I find that our openness and grace-filled message are much needed in a world which has experienced a lot of legalism concerning the church."
However, Potts says, the church faces problems from its size on both extremes – from the personal and the whole. "Our churches operate so differently in different regions across the United States, not to mention the world," she continues.
"Many of our congregations' theology, passions and ideas about outreach and mission differ according to where we are located. That makes dialogue and priority setting much more difficult. One of the issues that keeps arising in my local church is reaching out to those who have been wounded by church or who have never been involved in a faith community. We are also feeling called to focus on emotional healing and recovery ministry."
Potts would like local churches to have better connections with the denomination at large. Many congregations in her area, she says, are not aware The United Methodist Church offers so many resources.
Imagining the future, Potts expresses hope that The United Methodist Church never loses sight of its "invitation to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
Brett Parsons is freelance writer based in LaVergne, Tenn.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, September–October, 2014.