The Future Story of Henson Valley Christian Church
With a focus on becoming and being disciples of Christ, intentionally living the Jesus-way, and loving others so that they choose to live the Jesus-way as well, Henson Valley Christian Church is no longer narrowly focused on preserving the institution or maintaining the church building. The focus is now on partnering with God so that God’s mission is accomplished in the Fort Washington/Oxon Hill/Camp Springs/Temple Hills communities of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Rather than primarily seeking others to become members of this congregation, Henson Valley is giving herself to others so that they might experience a true encounter with God as God is known through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
There are communities of persons who have been marginalized by the church, who have not experienced church as welcoming and hospitable, and who yet want a relationship with God and neighbor or who want to deepen their relationship with God and neighbor. Henson Valley Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has responded to the call to become a congregation that invites, welcomes, embraces, and creates spaces for belonging to any and all – and all means all – who desire fellowship with a church family that affirms the humanity and dignity of all people.
Henson Valley Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is seeking to become a more visible expression of God’s inclusive love. We are being called to serve the differently-abled and their families, members of the LGBT/Q communities, and any other individuals or groups for whom the church has been less than welcoming.
Partners in Mission
Conversations with partners continue in order to determine how best to meet the expressed needs of the differently-abled and their families. Henson Valley shares information about programs that are being sponsored by our partners and encourages those who can benefit to respond with their presence and active participation.
The Arc Prince George’s County supports the monthly Birthday Parties hosted at Henson Valley by forwarding the invitation to families included in its database. Henson Valley supports The Arc through our participation in the Spiritual Collaborative that has been created by The Arc of Prince George’s County. The Spiritual Collaborative is a group of service providers, including congregations that have ministries in support of the differently-abled and their families. The Collaborative serves as a clearinghouse of resources to the communities of the differently-abled and their families: information, services, programs, activities.
Each week, young adults who participate in the day programs sponsored by The Arc of Prince George’s County, come to Henson Valley for activities and social interaction. They also practice work-related skills that intersect their interests and the needs of the church.
Surrattsville High School students who participate in the Special Education program come to Henson Valley once a week with their teacher and teacher assistants to engage in work-related experiences. Each student has a set of skills that has been determined for them to learn and they practice these skills with an emphasis on problem solving. A skill is practiced until the student shows proficiency and then another skill is practiced until the entire set of skills on their learning plan has been completed.
James Ryder Randall Elementary School’s Special Education Department is the recipient of school supplies provided by Henson Valley. The school provides lists of needs for Pre-Kindergartners through Fourth Graders and, in addition to the supplies from these lists, Henson Valley responds to needs for instructional supplies requested by the Coordinator of the Special Education program. Among the supplies that have been provided are: pens, pencils, composition books, book bags, glue, left-handed scissors, crayons and markers, folders, diapers, baby wipes, clothes, cleaning wipes, tissues, paper towels, storage bags, hand sanitizer, and color ink cartridges. When non-instructional needs occur, Henson Valley tries to be responsive. When a James Ryder Randall family who has a differently-abled child lost their home to a fire, Henson Valley supported the family by providing a check to help them with emergency needs. The school is supportive of the congregation’s efforts to publicize events and programs designed for the differently-abled by sharing the announcements with their families.
Henson Valley has made space available to Connections Therapy and National Care Financial Group for presentations to families and, in support of all of our partners, the congregation provides a Resource Table where materials announcing upcoming programs and informational brochures are available to the congregation and to visitors to the church.
How might Henson Valley Christian Church think about its missional focus in terms of a theology that frames our call to become a welcoming and hospitable sanctuary for those for whom the church has not been a place of welcome?
Perhaps it would be helpful to embrace a theology that rests upon the foundation of a new way of thinking about three things: time, hospitality, and belonging. If we can find new ways to think about these things, then we might find ourselves rightly practicing the Jesus-way with the people who are at the heart of our missional focus.
This process of creating communities where time is redeemed, where we are both guests and hosts in the lives of others, and each of us is missed when we are not present is helping to shape how Henson Valley Christian Church is moving forward in our partnership with others who share our missional focus.
We are joining God in God’s mission to re-create a world where unconditional love is everybody’s experience, where no one has a basic need that goes unmet, where we embrace the responsibility to care deeply for our sisters and brothers, and where what we want for others is no less than what we want for ourselves.
We believe this is a reasoned response to the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission. Jesus has commissioned us to “Go.” We are being “sent” into a world in need of what God has purposed for it since the beginning of time. We understand this time as a kairos moment in the life of the congregation when, with God’s help, we can do something of significance to share God with others by sharing ourselves with them; a kairos moment when we can be open to others sharing God with us by sharing themselves with us.