Recently, the Fresh Expression led by our own Gannon and Carey Sims was featured in Faith and Leadership. Check it out!
When sanctuaries closed their doors in mid-March 2020 in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19, not everyone at The Center for Faith and Leadership, a student ministry at the University of Mary Washington, was ready to trade the communal worship experience for one delivered via Zoom. So a handful began gathering outdoors at the home of Gannon and Carey Sims, The Center’s co-directors, who live about a block from the small liberal arts campus.
Socially distanced on the couple’s back porch, they sang, testified, and prayed for each other and their community. Rather than preach a sermon, the Simses led the group on a guided exploration of Scripture, one in which all present were encouraged to share the words or passages from the day’s reading that had moved them.
For Haley Randall, 24, who graduated from UMW last spring with a master’s in education, the participatory bent of those backyard gatherings was unlike any church service she’d ever attended.
“It was like the sermon was written right there in front of our eyes. Everyone had gotten something different from the scripture,” said Randall, a high school world history teacher in nearby Caroline County. “And everyone’s voice is valued. You are free to hear the voice of God as well, rather than listening to what God has said to somebody else.”
Teaching young people how to develop healthy, supportive relationships with others while discerning God’s call is at the heart of everything the Simses have done since arriving at The Center nearly a decade ago.