Community of Hope is a 14-week program that trains lay people for various service ministries within churches and in communities. Community of Hope (COHI) is based on Benedictine spirituality and was created by an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Dr. Helen Appelberg. Key parts of Benedictine spirituality are service to others, listening with our hearts, connection and building community, and being grounded in who we are with no pretense or sense of inferiority.
Community of Hope nurtures God’s call to each of us. It guides individuals to cultivate and cherish their own spiritual gifts for service. COHI is more than a pastoral care ministry: It is about our own spiritual formation, service, and outreach. The training helps to equip participants to join God’s work in the world. The COHI experience builds community and develops skills and capacities for spiritually centered lay service.
Each participant is encouraged to make the COHI experience a journey into wholeness, to use the training to explore a “Rule of Life,” to practice sacred silence, Christian meditation, compassionate listening, and to develop a ministerial and service identity within the context of Benedictine spirituality.
The Community of Hope model can be applied in a variety of settings, including outreach to the community, the homebound, nursing homes, hospices, retirement communities, prisons, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, women’s ministries, youth and children’s ministries, outreach to the homeless and underserved, and in support of mission trips and community centers. It is active in large and small congregations as well as rural communities, many of whom form cluster groups for training and ongoing support.
Since its founding in 1995 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston, Texas, COHI has grown into an international movement. For more about COHI, including information about starting a Community of Hope ministry, go to the Community of Hope International (COHI) website www.cohinternational.org This training is not limited to Episcopalians, but is open to and enriched by the participation of persons from many faith traditions.
Adapted from materials from St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Alpharetta, Georgia (http://www.staidans.org/community-of-hope/), the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia (https://diodocs.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/community-of-hope/), and the website of COHI http://www.cohinternational.org/index.html