The Hinton Colleague Covenant Forum (CCF) is an ongoing program of the Hinton Rural Life Center, Hayesville, North Carolina. The CCF provides leadership training and resources for pastors of rural congregations and those with small membership. Spread over two years, a Covenant Colleague Forum gathers once every three months during which five course sessions are held over three days.
Drawing from the Upper Room two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation, the Forum follows a curriculum with distinct focus for each gathering. The four meetings during the first year are centered on the themes of God’s Transforming Word, Spiritual Disciplines for a Rule of Life, Worship and Spiritual Formation, and Protestant Spirituality. Meetings during the second year are built around the following issues: New Testament Communities and Our Communities in Ministry and Mission; Christian Spirituality and the African-American Journey; the Pastor as Spiritual Leader and Facilitator; and, Sustaining the Witness to the Kingdom of God in the World of the Isolated and Small Membership Churches.
Members read two books related to a meeting’s theme, prior to each meeting; additionally, each participant develops a two-year long project involving his or her congregation. The overall purpose of the first-year curriculum is on the development of a pastor’s personal spiritual journey; the second year focuses on the spiritual life of the congregation as a whole.
Under the auspices of this grant, the Hinton Center conducted a total of eight Colleague Covenant Forums beginning in the year 2000. Three of these were held at the Hinton Center, and one each in Durham and Asheville, North Carolina, Sumatanga, Alabama, Indianapolis, and Memphis. The Forums at Indianapolis and Memphis were ecumenical in nature; the organizers noted that in the absence of a common theological or regional idiom, it was comparatively difficult to develop a group identity or cohesion in an ecumenical setting; in contrast, the Forums held at the Hinton Center saw group members readily translating differing theological perspectives into a common “Southern” idiom. The ongoing work of the Hinton Center in relation to the Covenant Colleague Forum is featured on its website, http://www.hintoncenter.org.