chimes.sum2013.web0729 - page 13

the church of the 21
By Rachel Howard
effrey Richards,
a 2008 M.Div.
graduate of San
Francisco Theological
Seminary, always
envisioned himself serving in
a traditional church setting. A
native of Petaluma, California,
Richards enrolled in SFTS as
a commuter student in 2007
and planned to become associate
pastor of a church in Sacramento.
When things didn’t turn out
as expected, Richards began
exploring other ways to lead
worship within the Presbyterian
After talking to people around
him, Richards found that many shared
his desire for worship in small, informal
settings. So Richards started gather-
ings for worship and discussion in coffee
shops, pubs, and homes. Members of the
various groups were given the autonomy
to choose their own meeting times,
discussion topics, and locations. This network of groups
has blossomed into a ministry led by Richards called the
Word House. The participants include both church mem-
bers and non–church members from the Sacramento com-
munity. Richards has established and maintains a formal
relationship with Sacramento’s Faith Presbyterian Church.
In addition to serving as a forum for worship, the
Word House also provides opportunities for community
service. Members often make the trip downtown to pass
out sandwiches and hot drinks to homeless members of
the community. They offer people on the streets a listen-
ing ear and an opportunity for prayer.
A variety of experi-
ences with nontradi-
tional ministry earlier in his life
helped prepare Richards to embark on
the path that led to the Word House. After high
school, he worked at a mission-based summer camp in
Sonoma for five consecutive summers. Frequent shared
worship experiences in the close-knit community of SFTS
further influenced him on this alternative path.
For those interested in starting an alternative ministry
of their own, Richards has the following advice: “Form a
partnership with a local traditional church. Examine your
individual gifts and talents to see if they can be incorpo-
rated into a new ministry.”
His final piece of advice applies to all Christians seek-
ing to apply their faith in daily life: “Talk to people, listen
to see where God is calling, and be open.”
For more information about the Word House or
about how to become involved, please email Richards
Rachel Howard is an SFTS communications associate.
the ‘Word’
SFTS CHIMES | Summer 2013 11
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