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Experiencing the Transformational Power of the Spirit in “Ministry WITH"

For several years, Central UMC in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico has been in ministry with a group of people experiencing homelessness and living on the margins.  Building on this foundation, in 2012 Central UMC began a weekly outdoor worship service called Community of Hope, which functions as the worship extension of the ministries with the homeless and marginalized. (See "Community of Hope: Planting a New Seed at a UMC").

Community of Hope is a group of people-- housed and street, churched and unchurched-- who come together on Sunday afternoons to build community through worship and the sharing of a meal. Community of Hope embodies the belief that every person is created in the image of God and that in each other’s eyes we see Christ.

The people who participate in Community of Hope have taken complete ownership of it. Without being asked, people help to tear down, set up, lead worship, pray, speak, and play music.

On weekdays, Central United Methodist Church has a ministry called Helping Hands, where we give out bus passes, sack lunches, clothes, toiletries, etc. -- while treating people with dignity and respect. Every Friday at Helping Hands we have a Bible study. For Lent we are using Rueben Job's new book on prayer.

One recent Friday many of our volunteers had other commitments and we were short-handed. So I drafted David and Daniel, two people I know well who come to Helping Hands for assistance.

When Daniel and David were invited to share their gifts and graces at Helping Hands, they received and bestowed hospitality, respect and affirmation. They were so moved that I asked them to help that they asked when can they serve again.  Then they took an important next step.

That Friday, for the first time,  David and Daniel stayed after for the Bible study. At the Bible study, which included eighteen people, they chose to share their gifts and graces again, this time by giving testimony.  David shared how his prayer life gave him strength to cope with his wife's death. Daniel shared how God changed his life in jail through prayer.

While these experiences on Friday were enough to make my heart soar, two days later after the traditional church service at Central, I saw a clean shaven man in a suit I had never seen before. When I introduced myself, he said "It's me. Daniel."

Not only had Daniel cleaned himself up, put on a suit, and come to worship at Central, but he also served in every way possible at Community of Hope: setting up, tearing down, hooking up the sound system, serving food, etc.

In Ministry WITH, Daniel had experienced the transformational power of the Spirit.  And so had I.

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Rev. Greg Henneman

The Rev. Gregory S. Henneman, a Church and Community Worker missionary commissioned through the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, serves at the Church and Community Development for All People in Columbus, Ohio. At C4AP he directs the Health Eating and Living (H.E.A.L.) programs and manages the Fresh Market.

About This Blog

Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.