|Youth practice traditional Native American drumming as part of the Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry. Photo courtesy of New World Outlook.|
Ministry tells community,
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35 (NRSV)
Branch Street United Methodist Church, a Native American congregation in Lumberton, N.C., reaches out to residents of one of the poorest counties in the state with the Beauty from Ashes ministry.
It helps residents who live in three low-income housing projects and old mill houses near the church and is funded in part by the special offering received on Native American Ministries Sunday.
"We want to be a congregation that is open and inclusive," says the Rev. Sylvia Collins, pastor. "We want to tell our neighbors, ‘You matter, and our church is not complete on Sunday mornings without you.'"
Branch Street members went door to door, inviting people to church. They also formed partnerships with the local housing authority and an elementary school to help families in the area. The school provides a list of children who have particular needs for the holidays, and church members try to meet those needs.
"As a result," Collins says, "we have some new families at our church, all races, and they are excited that someone cares about them."
|Native American ministries in North and South Carolina include feeding members of the community . Photo courtesy of New World Outlook.|
Branch Street Church is one of 13 Native American congregations in the Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry. The cooperative, formed in 1995, coordinates ministries within Native American communities in North and South Carolina.
Branch Street and other congregations have distributed more than 900,000 pounds of food to needy families over the past four years. Other ministries focus on children, youth and young adults, and leadership development for laity and clergy.
Volunteers also help with home renovations, roof replacements and emergency repairs in local communities and as far away as Mississippi and Alaska. Many volunteers say that they "see the face of Jesus" in this kind of work.
--Barbara Dunlap-Berg is creative resources editor for the Connectional Giving Team at United Methodist Communications. The North Carolina Christian Advocate and New World Outlook contributed to this story.
Native American Ministries Sunday is April 6»
Native American Ministries Sunday, one of six churchwide special Sundays with offerings, recognizes the contributions of Native Americans to the church and society.
Annual conferences with Native American ministries keep 50 percent of their offering to develop and strengthen local Native American ministries. The remainder of the offering goes to the General Council on Finance and Administration for distribution to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for scholarships and to the Native American Urban Initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries.
April 6 is the official date for Native American Ministries Sunday in 2008. Promotional resources can be ordered at www.umcgiving.org or by calling (888) 346-3862.
Churches that do not observe Native American Ministries Sunday on April 6 are urged to select another day to receive the offering.