History of MCC Sacred Journey
Written by Traci Reinartz, Founding Pastor Rev. Jane Nelson, Tish Price, and Pastor Rev. Joan Saniuk
The Journey Begins!
Rev. Jane Nelson, Gay Fritzemeier, Sam Hockaday, and Michelle Campbell formed the MCC Asheville Church Planting Team through their shared sense of calling as an approved church planting ministry with Metropolitan Community Churches during the summer of 2007. These friends came together from Colorado and Virginia to Hendersonville, NC to plant a new MCC church. Their vision was for this church to be a local faith community within Metropolitan Community Churches that would have global impact. Their mission of creating a faith community that believes if it matters to you, it matters to God! was developed from a favorite saying of their MCC mentor and hero, the late Rev. Elder Jeri Ann Harvey (If it matters to you, it matters to Jesus!). They prayerfully and strategically began the church plant after meeting folks in Hendersonville and the surrounding areas by attending Asheville Pride and by hosting Stella's Place FALLFEST in October 2008. MCC Asheville Church Plant formed as a spiritual discussion group on Sunday morning, November 16, 2008 with 21 people in attendance.
A Place Where It Matters!
What began as a hope-filled spiritual discussion group toting their own camping chairs to sit on the 1st week grew and was followed by many walls being taken down, both literally and figuratively. The small but mighty group was blessed by the gift of donated meeting space with a 2-year rent-free lease, hymnals from St. John the Apostle MCC in Fort Myers, FL, love offerings from MCC Richmond in Richmond, VA and other individual financial supporters, and a multitude of prayerful supporters that fueled collective passions within MCC Asheville Church Plant to be church and paved the way to move forward.
The church where it matters turned blessings into loving action by co-creating ministry teams to serve the emerging congregation and the broader local community. Early ministry projects included: collecting food for local food banks, hosting monthly movie or game nights, working with Habitat for Humanity in Asheville, and sparing change and filling gratitude food baskets for families impacted with HIV/AIDS through Western NC AIDS Project (WNCAP) as well as learning to create sacred space to participate in and plan Sunday morning worship services.
This little group that could did not stop there! A commitment to having a global impact became an early reality as we raised funds and sent our 1st missionary, Alex Goodrich on the MCC 2009 Youth Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic.
Not Your Grandma’s Church (but she’d be welcome)!
Our emerging faith community endured changes and growing pains, but persevered as we made the important shift from spiritual discussions to actual weekly worship service. This church was not going to be your grandma’s church but she’d be welcome! Birthed as MCC Asheville Church Plant, MCC Sacred Journey would become a place where anyone could call home!
In November 2009, Rev. Jane Nelson appointed a 5-member Advisory Team to serve as a confidential sounding board and group counsel. The members of this crucial team were: Diane Meyer, Brent Pack, Carol Price, Tish Price, and Phil Torres. Functioning as a temporarily appointed Board, the Advisory Team elicited involvement from members of the emerging congregation and spear-headed our efforts over 8 months to be recognized as a member congregation in Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC).
A Church is Born!
From January to July 2010, our congregation worked diligently to achieve successive milestones and fulfill stated affiliation criteria to become affiliated with MCC. The congregation had the privilege and responsibility of choosing a church name that put our identity in a nutshell! The group named our new church MCC Sacred Journey. Other milestone tasks included incorporating with the State of NC, receiving a Federal ID number and being recognized by the IRS to share tax exempt status with Metropolitan Community Churches. Membership classes were held and our 1st corporate business meeting allowed us to conduct business toward being church like adopting church by-laws, calling a part-time pastor, and electing a Board of Directors and Lay/Alternate Lay Delegates. Each accomplishment was documented in a written application requesting affiliation status to be recognized as a member congregation with Metropolitan Community Churches.
On August 14-15, 2010, Rev. Elder Darlene Garner and her wife, Rev. Candy Holmes joined dozens of out-of-town guests with many who gathered locally for a Affiliation Weekend Celebration for MCC Sacred Journey! Highlights included the Saturday evening wedding of MCC Sacred Journey's founding pastor, Rev. Jane Nelson and Gay Fritzemeier officiated by Rev. Robin Gorsline, and a church-wide dinner and dance.
August 15, 2010 our church was born when Rev. Elder Darlene Garner gave the Rite of Church Membership to 37 founding charter members of MCC Sacred Journey before delivering her powerful message, Upon This Rock! followed by the installations of Rev. Jane Nelson as founding pastor and the inaugural Board of Directors.
A Mission Continues!
2011: MCC Sacred Journey highlights included folks attending the MCC Church Size Summit at 1st MCC Atlanta, Atlanta, GA; hosting 2011 Carolinas Spring Network Gathering with folks from MCC congregations in NC, SC and TN attending; coordinating worship themes and sermon series to promote spiritual growth and attendance including events like Sunday in the Park; celebrating our 1st Church Anniversary; and celebrating Fellowship Sunday and the 43rd Anniversary of MCCs Founding on October 9th with MCC Moderator, Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson!
2012-2013: MCC Sacred Journey grew in faith and size! Highlights including shifting our pastor in increments from 1/2-time to full-time; in stewardship and fundraising included congregational weight-loss challenges, 50-50 raffles, annual yard sale, church t-shirt sales, inaugural church cookbook, and our first ever Stewardship Covenant Drive (Gratitude with Attitude!). Church programming broadened to include the Healing Wayfarers ministry; use of church space for 12-Step Recovery meetings: and hosted outside speakers in worship and workshops on topics of addiction, codependency, and marriage equality. We were blessed to enjoy the ministries of Rev. Wanda Floyd (BOD Retreat and Sunday Worship); Dr. Clay Eddleman (regarding spiritual and political ethics of Amendment 1); Rev. Delores Berry (spiritual renewal weekend including healing service, concert, and preaching); and Rev. Brendan Boone (2nd anniversary +Way Off Broadway variety show); and Rev. Elder Arlene Ackerman (weekend of workshops, focus groups and celebration of our 3rd anniversary).
2014: MCC Sacred Journey faced transition with moving to another location! After 5-1/2 years at the Sugarloaf Road location, we packed up our musical instruments, sanctuary chairs, hymnbooks and assets and began sharing space with 1st Congregational Church UCC in Hendersonville on June 1st. This physical move was a spiritual catalyst for unity, teamwork, and renewed vision after a period of congregational tension and financial challenge.
2015: MCC Sacred Journey is celebrating a year of deepening faith and resolve as individuals and as a faith community. Like most founding pastors eventually do, Rev. Jane Nelson, announced her resignation to the congregation effective June 30th. In a letter to the BOD and congregation, she stated: "My decision has only come because I believe the Spirit has called me to leave. MCC Sacred Journey runs through my veins; I love this church - its people and its ministry - enough to obey this prompting. Like Moses and the children of Israel, I am no longer the one to lead this flock. It is time for me to step away as founding pastor so that this church can fulfill its mission and call." While the BOD diligently worked with MCC Office of Church Life & Health to secure an Interim Pastor, Rev. Diane Meyer (active member and ministry leader) served as the Pastoral Support Provider from July 1st through the end of the year.
2016: The year began with the arrival of Provisional Pastor Rev. Dr. Joan Saniuk. Various gatherings throughout the year gave members a chance to share their fears, hopes, and visions for the next phase of the church’s journey.
Members of the congregation became active in protesting North Carolina’s HB2. In June, MCC SJ joined with P-FLAG of Flat Rock/Hendersonville, Tranzmission of Asheville, and the Rev. Mykal Slack of 4LyfeMinistries, to hold a conference on transgender issues at the Biltmore Park Hilton. MCC Sacred Journey also resumed outreach activities, with presences at Blue Ridge Pride and as a member congregation of Henderson County Churches Uniting.
Fundraisers included a successful yard sale, and a special Variety Show featuring Christian vocalist Marcus Young.
The end of the year saw a renewed organization of lay ministry with “Dream Teams” for Hospitality, Fundraising, Marketing, Welcoming, and Education/Outreach/Social Action.
2017: We secured, and furnished, office space at First Congregational Church. At a special Congregational Meeting on April 9, the congregation voted to call Rev. Joan Saniuk as the Pastor. With leadership that is no longer "provisional," we are growing into the next phase of our ministry and life together!