I Am United Methodist: Wanda Carpenter
Faith United Methodist Church, Mooresville, North Carolina
"What we do serves as proof of what we believe," says Wanda Carpenter, a member of Faith United Methodist Church in Mooresville, North Carolina, part of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.
Carpenter takes her responsibilities as a United Methodist Church laywoman seriously.
"We are all called to minister," she says. "As laity, we respond to God's call to reach out to our communities. As laity, I believe our focus is doing and going."
Carpenter dreams of a church that is more than a place to go on Sunday, and we intentionally live out our faith serving our community outside the church walls.
"Every day we are given an opportunity to impact someone's life or to make a difference," she says. "I dream of a United Methodist church where my twin granddaughters will want to join and become a part of a powerful ministry in reaching others for Christ."
A lifelong United Methodist, Carpenter wears many hats. In her local church, she has served as witness team coordinator and chair of the Church Council. She is associate lay leader for the Metro District in her annual conference. She has also served as project coordinator for Impact Community, a two-week summer camp for more than 65 children and youth in the community. She has also been a PlowPoint church-transformation team member and a member of the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century coaching network.
She works as associate director of Reynolds Ministries with the United Methodist Foundation in Huntersville, North Carolina.
She is grateful for clergy who provide pastoral support and equip the laity to serve.
"From the earliest days Methodism has been a lay movement," she says. "This is proof to me that John Wesley relied heavily upon the laity in ministry. The development of effective and faithful lay servants is critical in helping our congregations move from maintenance to ministry."
Effective clergy and lay leadership lead to a vital congregation, and a vital congregation leads to a disciple-making church, she says, adding that nurturing vital congregations is a step in the right direction.
"To fulfill most effectively our call to the mission of the church," Carpenter adds, "we continue to reach and strive for innovative ways to reach more people for Christ. Although it may not be comfortable and popular, The United Methodist Church is having much-needed dialogue about the church looking like the kingdom (in terms of) diversity."
She says she longs for local churches that are not afraid to move from traditional ways of doing ministry to doing what is necessary to attract all people. Meeting people wherever they are and however they are is vital to the mission.
Carpenter and her husband, James, strive to model discipleship. Every Tuesday evening, they facilitate Beyond the Walls Community Bible Study that draws 24 people. The study is held outside the four walls of the local church in downtown Mooresville. This study continues to be unique; intergenerational and inclusive, reflecting the community. As it reaches beyond denominational walls, it offers an appreciation of ministry as mutual and relational. "We cast our nets and God provides the rest" is the theme.
"We are intentional in inviting and engaging the community," she says. "As we journey together, we come to the realization that we are a community of believers who truly care for one another, who pray for each other and who see God's wisdom and grace in all we do.
"Because we trust each other, we are willing to ask the hard questions that lead to transformation," she said. "I rejoice in what God is doing through our ministry."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg served as general church content editor at United Methodist Communications. She is now retired and living in Nashville, Tennessee.