News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Lisa Jones, left, and Ashley Collins plan to go out into the community Sunday to serve as Jesus did.
Daily photo illustration by Gary Cosby Jr.
Lisa Jones, left, and Ashley Collins plan to go out into the community Sunday to serve as Jesus did.

The church has left the BUILDING
Not 'having' church but 'being' the church is Central Methodist's plan as congregation heads into community for service projects

By Melanie B. Smith 340-2468

It's Sunday morning, but the church has left the building.

At least, that is what Central United Methodist Church is planning. The Sunday schedule will not be "church as usual," said the Rev. Mitchell Williams, pastor.

The church will hold a brief 8:30 a.m. service and then is encouraging a mass exodus to serve at schools, ministries, senior housing sites and other places.

Williams said the 11 a.m. service won't be in the sanctuary but will certainly take place as members scrub the Community Free Clinic, visit nursing home residents, organize clothes for the Neighborhood Christian Center and do two dozen other projects.

Be the Church on Sunday at Central Methodist means going out to serve as Jesus served, said Ashley Collins, director of communications.

Members, regular attendees and guests are being asked to wear work clothes and join in. If someone cannot go out or forgets and shows up in a "Sunday outfit," he or she will still be able to participate, Collins said. Church-based projects will include assembling booklets for West Decatur Elementary School and praying for schools and agencies.

Collins and Williams hope that 400 to 500 people from Central Methodist will take part. That is the church's average Sunday morning attendance at two services, they said.

"Some people have asked why," she said. "We say why not?"

Some agencies or sites not usually open on Sunday are grateful for the extra help and plan to have staff on hand, Collins said.

"We hope to make a difference in Decatur and a spiritual difference to people in our church," Williams said.

All ages will have work to do. Senior high youths will paint hallways at Somerville Road Elementary School. The junior high group will wash cars for free in the church parking lot. Children will make get-well cards.

Projects for families and Sunday school classes range from delivering goodie bags and balloons to Hospice of the Valley patients to spray painting playground equipment at Leon Sheffield Magnet School and weeding gardens at other schools.

At the Committee on Church Cooperation, Central volunteers will paint the clothing closet. The Decatur/Morgan County Senior Center will get its windows washed and gutters cleaned.

Many Central members help the community already, serving with Parents and Children Together, the Red Cross or other organizations, staff members said. Members teach or volunteer in area schools. The congregation is following the lead of these, Williams said.

Member Jeremy Jones said his family is excited to participate together.

"It's a great teachable moment," he said.

Jones said he and his wife, Rosellen, are taking their children to Hospice of the Valley to deliver gifts. He said the program is dear to them because hospice helped when Rosellen's grandmother was dying of cancer. Church leaders have done a good job of preparing the congregation, Jones said, and he and Rosellen have explained to Walker, 8, Will, 7, and Katie, 6, how Sunday will be different.

"We want to make the connection as vividly as possible between loving God and loving your neighbor," Williams said.

"Others" is the church's watchword for 2007, he said. More than 100 in the congregation have served on the Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, and church members have volunteered in Honduras, he said.

Lunch will be served at the church at 11:30 after two hours of service. Some volunteers will prepare lunch as their ministry project.

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