Hope Fellowship, Waco, Texas
Hope Fellowship, a member congregation of Western District Conference, is located in Waco, situated along the Brazos River and I-35, halfway between Dallas and Austin. The mission of Hope Fellowship, is: By God’s grace, to be the church, to love each other, to serve our neighbors, to proclaim God’s peace and forgiveness given to the world in Jesus Christ.
As an intentional Christian community, Hope Fellowship looks to Acts 2:44-46 for inspiration. “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” From Hope’s Vision Statement:
Hope Fellowship is our life together – it is not a building, a worship service, or a collection of programs. We try to organize our lives so that we have daily contact with each other in a variety of ways. Some of us live close to or work with each other, share childcare or living space, and find ways that our paths will cross whether for praying, socializing, or meetings (Acts 2.46).
The community life and ministries of Hope Fellowship are rich and diverse. They have made commitments in energy and finances to the ministries of World Hunger Relief and Habitat for Humanity. The Fellowship has a prayer garden, the site of work days and the locus of small groups and meditation for many in the fellowship and in the neighborhood.
Hope Fellowship’s origins go back to 1986 when Joe and Nancy Gatlin moved to Waco, Joe’s hometown, for Joe to serve as the founding director of Waco Habitat for Humanity. In 1993, the Gatlins, their daughters, Gabriela and Analí, and another couple, Don and LouAnna Arterburn, moved into a century-old home in the neighborhood to begin a Christian community named Hope Community. During the ups and downs of its early years, the new community received guidance from Reba Place Fellowship, a mature, like-minded, intentional community formed in the 1950’s in Evanston, Illinois. Hope Community eventually became known as Hope Fellowship, affiliated with Western District Conference in 1994 and officially became Hope Fellowship in 2001. Hope Fellowship also has affiliations with Shalom Mission Communities and Nurturing Communities Network.
Hope Fellowship has 25 family units with 75 individuals, including about 25 children. Most Hope people live within a ten minute walk of the meeting house. About 20 of the adults are bilingual (English-Spanish) and several were born in Spanish-speaking countries. People in the fellowship have a variety of jobs – professors, teachers, cook, internet technician, property managers, social workers, not-for-profit staff, newspaper editor, health clinic executive, jubilationists (aka retirees), immigration attorney, and others. There are connections with Baylor University.
Hope Fellowship has an unpaid pastoral team of four (Ruth Boardman-Alexander, Matthew Porter, Fernando Arroyo, and Bethany Smith) and a church council of three. Everyone in the community contributes to the life and welfare of the community. Koinonia groups focus on discipleship and discernment. Ministry teams lead different areas of community life: worship; spiritual formation and care for children and youth, missions (external relationships), fun & care, and finance & facilities. Hope Fellowship has monthly meetings of the community. Prior to the pandemic, Sunday worship was bi-lingual in two locations (a block apart) followed by Sunday school in the meeting house. The community is currently gathering on Zoom. A highpoint of the year is the Easter retreat (photo below) when the whole church travels to a retreat center for a weekend of worship, fun, cooking and celebration.
Immigration is a concern and focus for the community. The Fellowship is supportive of Grupo de Apoyo y Esperanza, a group of Latina first-generation immigrants meeting together for mutual support, education, and worship. Hope members are involved with Waco Immigrant Alliance and teach English to immigrants. An immigration lawyer with a non-profit practice is part of the Fellowship. Hope has an 18 year relationship with Valle Nuevo, a community of Salvadoran campesinos who were refugees during the civil war and repatriated to El Salvador. Hope Fellowship members are part of yearly delegations to Valle Nuevo. This relationship has brought healing and unity to communities historically alienated by colonialism and imperialism.
-Lee Lever, WDC Interim Conference Ministry Liaison, Texas