Conference Grant Helps Congregation Serve Local School

October 02, 2019
(Kara Witherow for the AWF Conference) - A few loads of laundry, dozens of bags of groceries, and a lot of love have helped revitalize and invigorate Metropolitan United Methodist Church.

They’ve also helped meet some tangible needs of Davis Elementary School’s students and families.

The congregation has long had a desire to serve its Montgomery neighborhood, and when Rev. Richard Williams was appointed to the church in July, they told him as much.

“They shared with me that they want to help children and those in need,” Rev. Williams said of the Metropolitan UMC congregation. “I was told that the congregation wanted me out in the community and that they wanted people to know that the congregation loves them. They want to be the church, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

After meeting with Davis Elementary School principal Tori Infinger, Rev. Williams and the congregation got to work. As they learn of needs, they aren’t content just to pray, he said.

Before teachers, staff, and students returned to school this August, a group got together to pull weeds, plant flowers, lay mulch, fix a flagpole, and paint the school’s sign. Since such beautification projects are not part of the school district’s regular budget, the congregation will be out again this month to plant new flowers for the winter. 

The congregation has also prayed over the school, painted a bathroom and directional signage in the hallways, and made emergency buckets for each classroom.

And when they learned that the school needed a washer and dryer to be able to launder clothing for children who didn’t have clean clothes and those who needed fresh clothing while at school, they knew they had to help.

The $1,100 cost was outside the small church’s budget, but it didn’t deter them.

While in conversation with June Jernigan, Director of Ministerial Services and Assistant to the Bishop, and Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries, Rev. Williams shared the opportunity to serve the school but that the congregation was unable to meet the need.

The two saw the ministry that was being done in the community and the relationship the congregation had forged with the school and were able to facilitate a $1,000 grant from the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

With the new washer and dryer, the school’s guidance counselor and parent liaison are able to launder clothing regularly. And on an upcoming Sunday, Metropolitan UMC will partner with several other area churches to collect and donate 1,000 pair of socks and underwear to the school.

“I really believe that’s what it takes for churches to be what God calls us to be,” Rev. Williams said of Jernigan’s, Davis’, and the Conference’s support. “It takes those who are in leadership to invest, to step out in faith, and partner with us and support us.”

The support the congregation is showing the teachers, staff, and students has made an impact, Infinger said.

“Anything that I ask or say we have a need for, we get it. The support of Metropolitan Church has been outstanding,” she said. “It makes such a difference.”

News about the church and school’s partnership spread. A photo of the washer and dryer was posted on an online public-school portal for others to see and celebrate. After seeing it, the Montgomery Food Bank gave Metropolitan UMC a grant to partner with Davis Elementary School to provide the school with a food bank.

Two weeks ago, the congregation served 45 families at the food bank’s launch. Another 45 families were served the next week. The 90 families will rotate, each group taking home several bags of nutritious food every other week.

Church members shop for the food, store it in the provided refrigerator, freezer, and pantry area at the school, and distribute it. Fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, cereals, crackers, and other items were given to families chosen by the school.

“It was wonderful to see people who are really in need come in and get food,” said Robert “Bob” Clayton, a member of Metropolitan UMC and chair of the church’s benevolence ministry.

The church’s partnership with the school has given the congregation new life, Clayton said, and has given them the opportunity to put their faith into action.

“We have always been interested in doing something in the community,” he said. “This has been very worthwhile for us and worthwhile for our community. It’s given us something of substance that we’ve been able to do. I really feel like I’m doing something that is really helping, that’s really beneficial.”

The partnership has brought joy to Metropolitan UMC and Rev. Williams, and it’s shown them that when they’re willing to step out in faith, they can do anything.

“I believe that anyone can do ministry,” Rev. Williams said. “It just has to meet the capacity of the body of believers. No matter the size of the church, we can do big ministry because God is big.”