National events in the works to focus on ministry with the poor

By Amy Forbus, Editor

LITTLE ROCK—Leaders from five United Methodist churches around the country gathered at the BCD EmPowerment Center Sept. 3 and 4 to discuss how their work among the poor might help them teach other churches interested in similar ministries.
Representatives from Cass Community UMC Detroit, Mich.; Church for All People in Columbus, Ohio; Glide Memorial UMC San Francisco, Calif.; St. John’s UMC Houston, Texas; and Theressa Hoover UMC Little Rock spent time sharing about their ministries and, in some cases, the independent nonprofit organizations that have grown from them.
Led by George Howard, deputy secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), the meeting focused on how these churches embrace what GBGM now refers to as “Ministry With,” a term that distinguishes between ministering to people and the alternative model of walking alongside them to help break the cycle of poverty. GBGM believes this group of churches is among those that could help others learn to do similar ministry in communities around the U.S. To learn about the Ministry With approach, visit www.ministrywith.org.
“The bishops have said over the last four years that ministry with the poor is just part of who we are as a people, all around the world,” Howard said. “In this country, there are a number of places, churches—and this represents five of them—that have really been doing it for a while, that have learned some things, that have some things to share. And so what better group of people to begin to have some conversation about, ‘How do we mobilize, across the country, more churches to be engaged in ministry with?’”
By the close of their time together, all five churches had agreed to partner for a series of Ministry With educational events, hosting one at each site and featuring a national faculty drawn from each of the ministries. They plan to hold the first of these gatherings by the end of 2015.
Participants felt energized at the meeting’s end, citing the common spirit among the churches and their ministries.
“I felt like I’ve made a new family here,” said the Rev. Faith Fowler of Cass Community UMC. “We don’t look alike, but we sure do think alike most of the time.”
Retired Bishop Felton May, who currently serves as pastor of Theressa Hoover UMC Little Rock, told a story of his late colleague Bishop Leontine Kelly declaring, “I just can’t wait” in a situation where she was expected to keep silent. He said the meeting had awakened his “Leontine Kelly spirit.”
“Maybe that’s where we are as a church: we just can’t wait any longer, following rules and regulations that were meant to prohibit as opposed to motivate and send us forth,” May said. “We just need to do it.”