Welcome to our summer series, “Interview with a Pastor.” This series will highlight some of the pastors and churches in Project Thrive as we journey together toward the final year of the Thriving Congregations Initiative. We are grateful for the pastors as they lead their churches toward a thriving, hopeful future!
The Rev. Adrian White is the interim pastor at Woodland Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), serving East Nashville in the Five Points area. Woodland prides itself as an intentionally welcoming space for all visitors, practicing inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ persons, promoting justice, and practicing anti-racism. Woodland’s worship style is a relaxed form of traditional worship. They share their building with Eastminster Presbyterian Church, an English-Spanish congregation which was displaced by a fire prior to the pandemic.
The goal of Project Thrive is to help our churches thrive in their context. In your opinion, you believe your church is thriving and in what ways?
Woodland is on our way to thriving. There is a level of commitment, hopefulness, and connectedness present that gives me hope. This is not a dying church; there is movement and vibrancy I see every Sunday, in worship and in the commitments of our volunteers. I feel very optimistic about what’s next.
Has your definition of thriving changed through this process? If so, how?
Thriving is one of those words that can feel nebulous; we assume a lot about it and folks may have different definitions. Having the grounding of the seven characteristics has been helpful for framing what thriving could look like at Woodland. They help express the ways in which we are operating and living as we feel most called and provide areas for growth. Project Thrive has given us more language and more tools to think about what it means to thrive, because before people did not have a concise definition of that.
Do you think the nature of your church either has changed or will change in the future?
We have been through so much transition prior to Project Thrive that affects us even now . The character and culture of the church have remained stable, so the tools we have learned in the process have helped and will help us move forward to see what the next phase will be.
What has been a valuable lesson you have learned as your church has participated in this process?
For me as a pastor in my first call, seeing the ways people think about their church through the past/present/future conversations has been very helpful by showing all the overlap in how they view the church. As a pastor, I have multiple inputs on how people understand their church and have learned so much from those various viewpoints.
What part of the process has been most helpful?
The Project Thrive team has done a good job of understanding what our specific needs are. The workshops have been a sort of continued professional development for me by filling in gaps on what is not taught explicitly in seminary such as operations, finances, building culture, etc. These are things many pastors learn along the way through trial and error or desperation. This process has allowed me to learn from folks who are in similar situations and share experience and values.
What do you want to celebrate?
I want to celebrate that Woodland is moving forward. They have been in intentional transition for a long time, and I am really hopeful that we will see things that are emerging and blooming that we can’t quite imagine now but believe are possible.