On April 24 and 25, hundreds of churches from around the world, including a number from the Kentucky Annual Conference, participated in Change the World service and fundraising events designed to make a difference globally and locally. Pastor Chris Howlett shares what Christ Church United Methodist in Lexington did on April 24.
Southend Park Project
Southend Park, a neighborhood of dilapidated houses that is being displaced by the Newtown Pike Extension, has historically been served by the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission. The residents are currently living in temporary housing in the form of trailers provided by federal, state, and local governments. One of the residents is a student in Christ Church’s Mentoring Program at Harrison Elementary.
The project at Southend Park was to dig beds for flowers, amending the soil with top soil, and providing flowers. In addition, a cookout for residents and church members gave them a chance to fellowship with one another, developing and strengthening relationships between the two groups. Fourteen flower beds were planted, and 28 people from the church participated.
Residents of Southend Park expressed appreciation for the volunteers’ help. Ann Roe said, “I think it’s a great thing! It’s nice to have some color down here, to give people something nice to look at besides just green. It’s nice that your church is getting together to do this.”
Christ Church member Scott Cahill remarked, “God’s blessed our lives in so many ways, in ways that we don’t think about sometimes. Doing little things like this is the least we can do to further God’s Kingdom. If planting a few flowers and us being here sharing a meal with these folks helps people get to know Christ better, then that’s why we’re here. To serve God, to serve people, and to make everything more beautiful in the world.”
Nancy Martin, chair of the Christ Church Council, believes it’s important for the church to see where all their community members live: “We want to show that our church cares about everybody who lives in Lexington, not just people who attend our church.”
Canaan House Project
Canaan House is a non-profit organization that provides housing for severely mentally ill adults in three different houses in Lexington. Two of the houses are next door to each other off South Broadway in Lexington. At this location members of our church have had a long-time relationship and Friendship Ministry. On Wednesdays a small group of Christ Church members go and hang out, play games, talk, and lead Bible Study from time to time. They also bring residents of the Canaan House to our church on Sunday mornings and to special events. There are about 20 residents in all.
Seven church volunteers mulched the flower beds on the outside of one of the houses. They also fixed a drainage problem that was leading to leaking into the basement and installed new ceiling tiles in a bedroom that had suffered water damage due to some faulty plumbing that has been fixed. The volunteers also painted a pantry room off the kitchen.
One resident of the Canaan House said, “I think it’s pretty cool that the folks from Christ Church are here today helping out. This place is going to look a lot nicer when they’re done.”
Volunteers discussed their reasons for participating. Eric Wilson said, “I believe as Christians we need to show God’s love. He loved us so much, so we need to reflect that love onto others that we walk with everyday.” Rob Marrow explained, “I wanted to give back and participate in the community more. It’s a nice thing to do and we are very blessed as a family and I’d like to be able to give back.”
How did Change the World change the congregation?
This has yet to be seen. Our church has been undergoing a change in the last couple of years where we have become more and more aware of the surrounding community, particularly those parts of the community that are living in poverty. We have a group who has been reaching out on a monthly basis to the Children’s Home in Versailles; we’ve led a mentoring ministry at one of the most disadvantaged schools in Fayette County, Harrison Elementary; we’ve participated in Room In The Inn, a ministry with homeless men; we’ve been running our own small food pantry and assistance ministry called the Jesus Cupboard; and we’ve had a group serving on a regular basis at the Canaan House. The Change the World event has enabled us to expose more of our membership to serving beyond the four walls of the church, getting out into the community to build relationships and make a difference. I hope that this encourages an expansion of ministry that leads to more interaction and a greater impact for Christ as we learn to share his love in tangible ways.