Something Good from the Pandemic

Something Good from the Pandemic

Joe Whalen

contributing writer

When the pandemic temporarily halted in-person worship, weddings, and funerals, churches were left wondering how they could continue to provide a connection with their congregations. Many found it through streaming worship services online.

However, the same equipment used for streaming worship has found another usage in the streaming of funerals. This new usage seems to have found a permanent place in the life of those churches who can provide that service to the loved ones of a departed member of their congregation.

When asked his opinion of the use of his church’s streaming capabilities for funerals. Rev. Zach Roberts of First United Methodist Church in Blytheville responded, “There’s no question that, in my experience, the pandemic prompted the streaming of funerals and the increased use of social media to care for those in mourning.Having said that, the positive feedback we have received from streaming funerals has proven that this is an important ministry tool that we will use in the future, covid concerns or none.”

Rev. Dr.Michelle Morris at First United Methodist Church in Bentonville echoes these thoughts adding, “Streaming in general is an outgrowth of the pandemic.Most churches weren’t doing that for regular worship, much less streaming funerals, before March 2020.”

However, it’s important to remember that if your church is not already streaming its worship services and wants to begin to do so as well as provide funeral support for its members the choice of equipment can be daunting. Marc Moss, who provides the audio-visual support at Lakewood UMC in North Little Rock cautions, “Just because ‘everybody’ uses certain equipment or software or cameras or whatever is not a reason to purchase [that] equipment or adopt certain methods. There are many ways to put some video up on the internet but you must do some homework to devise a way to deliver your message affordably and within parameters as far as complexity/expandability/personnel.”

Rev. RoyBeth Kelley, the senior pastor at Lakewood UMC, indicated that she liked streaming funerals because it gave friends and family who live at a distance a way to attend the funeral when doing so in-person might otherwise work a hardship on them. Additionally, the ability to provide the family a recording of the funeral itself is something that she has found appeals to people who have lost a loved one.While we can all agree that the pandemic has been something that we could have done without, at least something good has come out of it.

Streaming funerals is something that we can now provide to families that have lost a loved one. This serves to bring them, as well as friends of the departed, closer together in a time of loss. Even when they cannot attend the funeral in person, technology now gives them the opportunity to attend online.

Village UMC Mobile Food Pantry

Village UMC Mobile Food Pantry

Caroline Loftin

contributing writer

At the beginning of the pandemic, many of the weekly ministries of Village United Methodist Church in Hot Springs Village were disrupted. The community was encouraged to isolate and Village UMC’s congregation began seeking opportunities to help others remotely.

17% of Arkansans were struggling with food insecurity already, but during the spread of COVID-19, the small community of Mt. Pine – just up the road from Hot Springs Village, showed 30% of its citizens were experiencing hunger.

Partnering with Mt. Pine schools, Village UMC established a food drive in March of 2020, with large food donation bins located at the main entrance of the church. They also made weekly deliveries to the school’s pantry, keeping it stocked with canned goods, cereal, and pasta to supplement the already up-and-running program. To date, over 48,000 pounds of food have been shared through this effort.

But Village UMC’s ministry didn’t stop there. Led by Pastor Chris Hemund, the church began to imagine new depths of service in the Mt. Pine community and beyond. That’s where their new mobile food pantry mission was born.

“It could help us effectively get more food out into the community and neighborhoods of our mission field,” said Pastor Hemund.

The vision begins with Mt. Pine, and in time will expand to include the Jessieville and Ft. Lake communities.

Through the generous bequest of longtime Village UMC member Mona Galloway, the new Galloway Memorial Mobile Food Pantry was approved by the Village UMC Leadership Team and brought to life. Two coordinators stepped up to lead this work, and in the first week more than 80 volunteers signed up to assist. The trustees designated a room to house the food pantry, installed shelving, and purchased a trailer.

Food is purchased in bulk at Project HOPE and brought to the church pantry where it is sorted, checked, and shelved in preparation for the next team to come in and bag items. Each sack holds 25 food items and currently costs $14.28 to fill. The mobile food pantry is equipped to serve 100 families each month. On distribution day, a team of volunteers load the bags into the trailer and head out.

Village UMC invited sister church New Salem United Methodist Church, located in Mt. Pine, to partner in serving neighbors. New Salem volunteers staff the distribution event. Not only is food shared, but spiritual connections are being made.

“Together we are answering the call to care for our community with heart, mind, body, and soul,” said Pastor Hemund.

Matthew 25 Food Pantry Receives $10,000 Grant to Provide Toilet Paper, Personal Incontinence Products
The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas Grants Funds for Oak Forest United Methodist Church’s Mission to Purchase, Distribute Personal Hygiene Care Items to Neighbors in Need

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For More Information, Contact:
KD Reep, 501-766-1260 or kdreep@hotmail.com

LITTLE ROCK, AR (Sept. 22, 2022) – It was an unusual request, but one which would mean the difference in mobility and quality of life. Oak Forest United Methodist Church in Little Rock recently sought funds from The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas to purchase $10,000 worth of toilet paper and personal incontinence products to provide to community members utilizing the church’s Matthew 25 Food Pantry. The grant request was approved, and the pantry will now provide these items as needed.

“It was the first time we had received a request like this,” said Rev. Mackey Yokem, director of leadership ministries for The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas. “When we met with the food pantry volunteers and Rev. Jeanne Williams, who is the pastor at Oak Forest, we were able to get a better understanding of how the funds would make a difference to their neighbors utilizing the food pantry.”

Oak Forest United Methodist Church is located on Fair Park Blvd. in the University District of midtown Little Rock. The neighbors visiting the pantry twice each month include elderly Arkansans raising their grandchildren, people on a fixed income after retirement, and single parents. The people served by the Matthew 25 Food Pantry would inquire about toilet paper and personal incontinence products as well as feminine hygiene products and other personal hygiene items. The church began collecting and distributing toilet paper and personal incontinence items during the COVID-19 pandemic and learned what an impact it made on those who received them.

“We have one person in particular who has been helped by these donations,” said Deborah Keene, director of the Matthew 25 Food Bank and member of Oak Forest United Methodist Church. “She is a retired teacher, and she comes to us supplement her groceries. She asked if we might have these items as they allow her to go to her church and volunteer. On her income, she must choose to purchase these items, which are expensive, and do without other necessities, or not purchase them and stay home. To work all your adult life then have to make decisions such as these should not be something anyone should have to consider. If we can provide her these things, she can maintain some personal dignity and live her life in retirement the way she chooses.”

Matthew 25 Food Pantry serves an average of 58 families (comprised of 185 individuals) per month. Most of these families are elderly couples or individuals who are raising grandchildren. These funds will purchase toilet paper and personal incontinence products so the families who utilize the food pantry for food can use their budgets to purchase food for their families that the food pantry cannot provide. Their budgets not spent on these items also can be utilized for medicine, utilities, clothing, school supplies and any other necessity they may have. Of the $10,000 grant, $8,115.36 will purchase toilet paper and $1,884.64 will purchase personal incontinence products. The average American family uses 32 rolls of toilet paper per month, which the food pantry will provide, and the number of personal incontinence items will be purchased and distributed based on need. The cost of tax will be covered by donations in the food pantry’s checking account.  On July 31, 2023, this project will conclude, and Matthew 25 Food Pantry will provide the status of the ministry, the use of this grant’s funds and the results achieved.

For more information about Matthew 25 Food Pantry, contact KD Reep at kdreep@hotmail.com. For more information about Oak Forest United Methodist Church, visit https://www.oakforestumc.com/. For more information about The Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, visit https://www.methodistfoundationar.org/.

Bay First UMC receives grant to expand feeding ministry

Bay First UMC receives grant to expand feeding ministry

Rev. Pam Lamb-Lee

pastor at Bay United Methodist Church

Bay United Methodist Church recently received a grant from the Arkansas Hunger Alliance for $3,327.00 to go toward their “Enlarging our Territory” project.

The pastor and congregation are working very hard to enlarge their food pantry. Over the last year, the need has grown from serving 12 families to nearly 40. With these grant funds, the church will be able to purchase a commercial freezer to allow them to store meat, dairy, and frozen foods in addition to dry and canned foods. They will also be able to purchase thermal bags to deliver warm breakfasts to the elderly every month. All other funds will go toward shelves and paint to revive the older portion of the church and give it new life as it will allow those served to “shop” for their own choices rather than pre-packed assumptions. Everyone is excited and looking forward to working with the Hunger Alliance and the NEA Food Bank to bless our community.

Donuts with Grownups

The First United Methodist Church of Pocahontas sponsored Donuts with Grownups on Friday, September 9 at Pocahontas Elementary School. Six hundred pre-k through third-grade students and grandparents and grand-friends enjoyed donuts and milk.

Rev. Pat Bodenhamer challenges her church to find “pop-up outreach” opportunities throughout the community, and once again, they answered the call to share the sweet (taste) of God’s love with the community of Pocahontas.

Theressa Hoover UMC lives out recovery 365

Theressa Hoover UMC lives out recovery 365

Caroline Loftin

contributing writer

September is National Recovery Month. Addiction is a disease that can afflict anyone of any status, and most people have experienced the pain it causes in some way or another. Although the power of healing from addiction is celebrated and acknowledged widely this month, for Better Community Development, Inc. through the Theressa Hoover Memorial United Methodist Church in Little Rock, recovery is an everyday, around-the-clock mission.

“It’s not where you go to church; it’s where your church goes.”

After the desegregation of Central High School in 1957, a gradual racial population shift commonly known as ‘white flight’ took place in midtown Little Rock as black citizens moved to the neighborhood. Due to this transition, a church building formerly owned by a congregation that moved west was left vacant in 1979, only to be taken over by Rev. William H. Robinson Jr. in 1980. Theressa Hoover Memorial was born, however structureless at the time, with the heart of its namesake in mind.

According to their website, “Robinson, in search of a name for the new congregation, felt that Theressa Hoover, active in the Women’s Division dedicated to developing church ministries appropriately reflected his mission and purpose for this newly formed congregation.”

Today, the congregation is led by another courageous and remarkable woman, Pastor Deborah Bell. Although their ministries started small, they have grown beyond anyone’s wildest imagination for what faithful people can accomplish. The church was only the beginning.

“It’s just mind-blowing what God can do if you are listening and obeying,” Rev. Bell said.

Serving the disadvantaged of Little Rock’s 12th Street Corridor since 1981,

Better Community Development makes the restoration of a community left behind a priority.

“Because the church was serving the last and the lost, it was serving a community that wasn’t a typical United Methodist middle-class,” Rev. Bell continued, “this was an evangelical mission.”

Out of an abundance of need, homeless ministries opened the door to rehabilitation ministries. As a result of a partnership with the City and HUD, the Hoover Treatment Center was created. It is a faith-based substance abuse treatment center that provides a safe, drug-free environment for participants and their families. Their approach is a unique, innovative, community-based support system with a specific cultural perspective on recovery using evidence-based, clinically-sound treatment.

“We take a holistic, comprehensive approach, you gotta look at who you are, how you got there, and what gaps need filling to restore your life first and then become a productive citizen,” said Rev. Bell.

The Center provides outpatient and residential services for people ages 18 and older with substance abuse problems. The center also includes a homeless shelter, an HIV/AIDS ministry, job training, and permanent and supportive housing.

Many success stories have emerged from the center, but none quite like one of the BCD’s current faith leaders. She struggled with addiction for her entire life before finding the Hoover Treatment Center. Not only did she find success in recovery, but she also found Jesus.

“God took the needle out of my arm,” said the former client.

She works with women who have exited the in-patient program to prevent relapse and nurture spiritual growth as an avenue for recovery.

“When you strive to be the best version of you that you can be, you start to embrace who God created you to be,” she said, “because you start to get proud of yourself, and God truly shows you he’s proud.”

Through Christ’s love and teaching, the people of Arkansas are finding eternal salvation and relief from addiction.

“When you give your life up when you say God I’m yours, is the moment you start living,” said the client.

“That joy and that peace you get is better than any drug I’ve had, and I’ve done them all,” she said.

Last month, Better Community Development received a portion of the $2.5 million in federal grants awarded to five statewide faith-based treatment centers in partnership with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA).

These funds, called The Faith Initiative, will strengthen existing health programs such as fitness, mental health counseling, psychiatric care, nutrition, and now, health equity education. This includes establishing a primary care provider for clients through a once-weekly mobile clinic and health insurance registration resources.

“Nobody wanted to deal with ‘those people,’ but ‘those people’ are our people, our uncles, mothers, sisters, and brothers,” said Rev. Bell.

The efforts of Theressa Hoover Memorial and the Better Community Development Center have proven to be the stuff of miracles. The UMC is well represented in this slice of Little Rock. May blessings continue to flow and all God’s children find the hope for recovery.