St. Andrew UMC partners with City of LR to house Neighborhood Alert Center

By Martha S. Taylor
Special Contributor

Partnerships between local churches and their communities are taking shape throughout the Arkansas Conference. Feeding ministries, after-school care programs, and providing a place of safety for at-risk youth are just some of the ways local churches are responding to the mission plan set forth by Bishop Mueller. (To read the Bishop’s Mission Plan, see the Sept. 20 issue of the Arkansas United Methodist or visit www.arumc.org/missionplan.)

St. Andrew United Methodist Church, located in southwest Little Rock, is among those responding to the call for greater involvement in the “mission field” surrounding the church. Effective immediately, St. Andrew is opening its facility to house a Little Rock Neighborhood Alert Center. The church signed an agreement with the city for the next five years. The contract allows for an additional two-year extension if needed.

City personnel approached the Rev. Chester Jones, St. Andrew’s senior pastor, after they learned the current alert center located in Baseline Elementary School would need to relocate. The church had three rooms available with a separate entrance and ample parking. Most important, it was in the perfect location for the city’s purposes and is already a familiar place for those in the neighborhood. “The church is located right on the main drag,” the Rev. Chester Jones said. “And the people in the area are already coming to the church for the food pantry. Jenni [the Rev. Jenni Duncan, minister of Hispanic outreach] has 50 or more Hispanic individuals coming for language classes and other types of activities.”

According to the City of Little Rock website, Neighborhood Alert Centers exist to create a climate of achievement and neighborhood empowerment, and foster partnerships between the City and neighborhood organizations. The centers also can house various city services. “Now we are walking on both sides of the street,” Jones said. “It’s a good partnership for the church and being in the business of reaching people; they provide safety for the community’s physical safety and we are caring for their spiritual well-being.”

The Rev. Taylor handles marketing and training for the Arkansas Conference.