Martin Hutchison: Working together to bless our community

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There are a wealth of jokes out there that begin something like this: A Catholic priest, a Baptist Pastor, and a businessman were …

So, what do you get when a Lutheran church, a Church of the Brethren, an Adventist Church, and a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Church work together on a project?

No it is not a joke!  It is a real deal and it is happening right here in Salisbury!

It all began in 2007 when the church that I pastor, Community of Joy (a Church of the Brethren congregation) bought the church building adjacent to Bethany Lutheran Church on South Boulevard.

We knew we wanted to take a turn hosting the cold weather emergency men’s shelter for homeless men in our facilities.  So, we tore out our pews making way for a place for the cots in our sanctuary.

But, since we do not have a kitchen or fellowship hall in our building, we struggled with how we would feed these men each evening.

To solve this dilemma, we approached our neighbors – Bethany Lutheran Church about using their kitchen and fellowship hall.  They inquired about joining us in hosting the shelter and a ministry partnership between our churches began.

A couple years later, Bethany made their facility available to a new church that meets on Saturdays for worship, Beacon of Light Adventist Church and soon they decided to join the two of us in hosting the homeless men’s shelter each winter.

Two years ago, Bethany again opened their doors, this time to another new church The Restoration Project that meets for worship on Sunday evenings. Soon The Restoration Project also joined in hosting the men’s shelter.

So, for two years now, the four churches have been working together in ministry to the homeless and making fledgling attempts to strengthen bonds with each other.

Believing that “surely God smiles when churches work together” especially churches of vastly different denominations, I asked the other pastors if they wanted to consider doing other projects together to bless our community.  In November 2014, we hosted a gathering of folks from the 4 churches and pitched a couple projects that we might work together on to the crowd.   I had already been dreaming and working on the idea of a community garden and that project received the most interest so, we joined forces to create the Camden Community Garden.

Out of that November 2014 gathering, we chose the name The Corner Church Collective because at the time, all four churches were located on a corner of South Boulevard (The Restoration Project has since moved to Asbury United Methodist Church, though they are still active in the collective).

The pastors of the four churches meet together monthly to pray and support one another. On Oct. 3, we invited the leadership teams of each church to gather with us to dream of other ways we can work together as a collective. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, we had 27 adults dreaming together for a couple hours of ways we can build on what we are already doing.

One of the most common themes in our dreaming was to further engage children of our neighborhood that we have met through the garden. We have learned that many of them struggle with boredom. So, we plan positive activities to address this issue.

We are excited to be working together to bless our community as we cooperate on various project in our neighborhood. And we all believe that surely God smiles when churches work together!  And that’s no joke.

Martin Hutchison is pastor of Community of Joy Church in Salisbury. Reach him at joyfilled.com.

 

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