BROOKSVILLE — In May, several local ministers launched the Hernando Christian Ministerial Association, providing a place for ministers throughout the county to share in fellowship and unite to better serve their churches and residents of Hernando County.
"The reason for launching a new association was to expand fellowship, communication, collaboration and opportunities to serve our communities," said the Rev. Jerry Waugh, president of the group. "We believed we would be better together."
Several pastors from Brooksville wanted to participate with the group, which had met for 30 years as the West Hernando Christian Ministerial Association. Members voted to dissolve the former association and selected a name that would reflect the representation from the whole county.
Those on the exploratory and organizational committees for the new association included Waugh, of Northcliffe Baptist Church; the Rev. John Hensel, vice president, Christian Life Assembly of God; the Rev. Carl Brown, Community Bible Church; the Rev. David Steadman, Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church; and the Rev. Jerry Pence, Brooksville Wesleyan Church.
"Ministers are better together when we can fellowship with other ministers in the community," Waugh said. "Each month we have a venue for sharing our wins, our challenges and our burdens."
Nineteen pastors attended the May meeting, during which the group looked at what they had accomplished in the past and looked ahead in anticipation of what the new group could do.
"Most pastors believe that they have been called to minister to a community, not just a group of people," Hensel said. "I believe the Hernando Christian Ministerial Association is one resource that is available to help."
Each ministry provides its own benefit to the community, Hensel believes, and can better accomplish its goals by uniting with others.
"The minister who participates in the HCMA will have the opportunity for great fellowship with community-minded ministers," he said. "They will also have the opportunity to work together on efforts that will bless the county at large."
Making one another aware of resources that can help people, such as food, clothing, financial aid and counseling services, is one benefit of the group, Waugh said.
"We also provide special services for the county such as the Good Friday community service at the YMCA, the community Easter sunrise service at Weeki Wachee Springs, the high school baccalaureate services for graduating seniors and a community Thanksgiving service," he added.
Meetings are about an hour long and include a free buffet lunch, a guest speaker and time for discussion. The association is open to all men and women who are Christian ministers or staff ministers in Hernando County.
Hensel's duties include lining up the guest speakers.
"The speakers we invite are from government officers, ministries, associations and professions that we believe are able to share valuable information with the ministers and at the same time provide an opportunity for discussion on important issues within our county," Hensel said.
Bud Goodwin, director of Lakewood Retreat, will address the group at its meeting at noon Tuesday. No reservations are necessary. Applications will be available for prospective members.
Hensel said he has "very high hopes" for the association's future.
"I believe it has much to offer the community," he said. "When the body of Christ comes together, the community is always strengthened."
Waugh would like more ministers to join them.
"The last thing I need is one more meeting to attend," he said. "But if a member of the Christian clergy in Hernando County would enjoy a time of fellowship with fellow ministers, a 20-minute program that can benefit their ministry and want to be a part of better serving our community, they may wish to attend one of our monthly meetings and check it out."