2015 Echo Reader's Choice Award for Leader of Spirituality and Worship

By KJ Philp, May 2015 Issue. Meet the other winners here.

Community Church of hope has won Echo Readers' Choice Awards for Leader of Spirituality and Worship 16 out of its 19 years in existence.

Echo caught up with Community Church of Hope pastor Patrick Stout following the April 9 awards ceremony and here's what he had to say:

Echo: It's quite a feat to be nominated twice in the same category (as a reverend and a church) and still win, to what do you attribute the readers' loyalty?

Stout: It is important that an organization does its job well and consistently. I believe this has been our strength over the years. We are a part of the community, not apart from the community. We are involved with community, work at the rodeo, Pride and Rainbows festivals and more with whatever jobs are needed. We have a great base of volunteers who are willing to step up to the plate and get almost any job done. We are called upon by the community to perform weddings, blessings, baptisms, memorial services and funerals and we are happy to help with whatever is needed.

Photo by KJ Philp.

Echo: Tell readers a little bit about CCH and your congregation.

Stout: We are Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, Questioning and many more spiritual paths. We are gay men, lesbians, straight, transgender, young, old, singles, couples and families. CCH offers community worship services each Sunday morning at 9 and 11 a.m. We have approx. 200 people in attendance each week and service approximately 450 different people within a 30 day period. We have an AA group that meets in our building on Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. Each month we support Joshua Tree Feeding Program which supports people with HIV/AIDS by bringing in food, toiletries and pet supplies every first Sunday. We also take an extra "loose change" offering each first Sunday of the month to assist those who might need a little financial help during the month. We have given away over $25,000 in our 19-year history through this program. Each July we celebrate Christmas in July with a month-long food, toiletries and pet supply drive for Joshua Tree. Also, in the month of October, we have a pet food and supply drive for the Arizona Humane Society. Our staff is involved with spiritual counseling, hospital ministry, prison ministry and other community needs.

EchoWhat would you say to someone reading this who wants to become involved but doesn't know where to start?

Stout: CCH has a number of volunteer opportunities available. These are listed in our weekly handout that is available at each service. These are usually also listed in our weekly newsletter that is published on Wednesdays (sign up at communitychurchofhope.com). Donation opportunities can also be found on our website or through calling our church phone, 602-234-2180. We take all major credit cards, PayPal and, of course, cash.

Echo: What types of changes has the church – and/or officiants – seen since marriage equality became legally recognized in Arizona last year?

Stout: We have had the opportunity to perform a number of weddings with many of them being Holy Unions that have been performed at CCH previously. Many of our people want to schedule their ceremonies on an anniversary (their original Holy Union, date when they met, etc.). We have also performed ceremonies for people in our community that do not attend the church as well as people who find us through friends or on the Internet.

Echo: How much of your calendar year goes into fundraising? How much goes into event planning?

Stout: Other than our regular giving that occurs through the website or at our Sunday morning services, we also have two major fundraisers that we plan ourselves. One is on the First Friday of May and the second one is the First Friday of December. Both involve a piano concert with Rev. Patrick Stout. The May concert also involves a silent auction and the December concert involves Wreaths for Hope which includes Christmas wreaths and centerpieces made and donated by church attendees as well as community businesses and individuals.

Echo: We're noticing a pattern: Melrose District-based nominees are taking home most of our awards – how does your locating positively impact your ministry?

Stout: I don't know if our location impacts our winning this award, but it certainly doesn't hurt to be in the "Fruit Loop" where a lot of the bars and activities of the community tend to happen. We are a member of the Seventh Avenue Merchants Association and participate as we can in their activities and their vision. It is a great, active organization that keeps Seventh Avenue alive and well and moving forward.

Echo: What's the best advice you've ever received?

Stout: Do your job, be consistent, keeping doing it well and then do it again.

Echo: What's the best advice you have to give?

Stout: Always be YOU. So much is negative in our world that would come against encouraging you to be YOU. There is only one YOU. Don't let anyone take that away from you, define you or limit you in any way.

Echo: Here's a fun one: Tell us about your earliest Echo memory.

Stout: When I came to Phoenix in 1992, I was soon introduced to Echo Magazine and met Bill Orovan and Steve Schemell. We have been an advertiser in Echo for many years and Echo was the only way that many of our early church attendees could find us. Echo has always been available at Community Church of Hope and we have supported the magazine and its mission in any way we could.

Echo: What new and exciting things can we expect to see from CCH between now and the 2016 Echo Readers' Choice Awards?

Stout: CCH will continue to challenge and inspire people on their spiritual journeys as it always has done. We will be celebrating Rev. Patrick Stout's 45th year in the ministry in 2015 and in 2017 we will be paying off the mortgage on our buildings.

Echo: Is there anyone you'd like to thank? Shoutouts you'd like to make?

Stout: The community has been so supportive of Community Church of Hope. This includes the LGBT community as well as the political and greater Phoenix community. We have been blessed to be a part of this community and have been able to give to many people, organizations and groups and we have received so much in return. Each one of us is a vital part of this community and it takes all of us to make it all work!

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