Community ministry projects often begin with a vision in someone’s head. How does this happen? Here are two stories of new programs to serve the community that began with someone’s dream:
Heather Delzell McKay, who started the Children’s Center for Arts and Learning at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Denver, describes how she awoke one night from a dream that she is certain “was sent by God.” It told her that this was the time and place to take action on her wish to start an arts ministry. The vision actually came before the identification of a need or a specific public. She stresses the term “vision” rather than idea. “You need that one person,” she says, “who is convinced that God wants this to be done. If you start with a committee, it probably won’t happen.”
Laura Cantrell, who founded the AIDS Network, talks about her calling to this ministry. She was not raised in a religious tradition. She joined Episcopal Church to please her husband.
I was going to my upper-middle class Episcopal Church, doing what women did. I did volunteer work while the kids were in school and socialized with my friends. I was in a prayer group and I used to pray (it makes me smile now) ‘God, I want to know you more.’. . .Well, one night I had a dream. . .Someone said, “Come to my people with AIDS.’ I told my husband I had the strangest dream and it was probably something on television that had been bothering me. That night I had the same dream, only this time I was awake. And the next night I had it again. ‘This is really weird,’ I said to myself. ‘I’m not the least bit mystical. I’m an Episcopalian, for God’s sake!
A year later she began working with AIDS patients. Now she uses religious language to describe her experiences:
This is where I found God, alive and well and full of strength. Clearly, words are inadequate to describe how I know that [God] exists, but I found it with people with AIDS, and the way others cared for them. . .These people are suffering profoundly. Yet what strength! What a holy thing this is. I learned this is where God is. We suffer with them and it changes the suffering.
 Linda-Marie Delloff, Public Offerings, (Bethesda, MD: Alban Institute, 2002), 32.
 Robert Wuthnow, Loose Connections (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 177.
Photo: Melody Campbell, Dream!. 7.10.18. Flickr Creative Commons.