KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A church that’s already serving people on the margins in East Knoxville is preparing to shelter them over a Christmas weekend forecasted to be dangerously cold.
Magnolia Avenue United Methodist Church will open on Friday, Dec. 23, at noon, followed by worship at 5 p.m. After that, 30 to 40 individuals without shelter will be allowed to stay overnight in the church until Monday morning, Dec. 26.
“We do ministry every day here,” the Rev. Tim Jackson said. “We see genuine, wholehearted, real need every day in East Knoxville, and this is an opportunity to share the gospel at Christmas and invite people into the faith.”
The church will offer three days and nights of warmth and rest, including nine meals, over the holiday weekend, Jackson said. The decision to host hungry and homeless neighbors was made earlier this week, after the pastor received a text from a friend warning him about the upcoming frigid weather and asking, “How are we going to respond to this?”
Temperatures are expected to drop into single digits Friday through Sunday.
A few local United Methodist churches have already sent money and a few volunteers have been enlisted. Jackson said he needs a large group of volunteers who will “cook, serve, sit, pray” and be present for shifts throughout the weekend.
Also needed are cash donations and several items which can be dropped off at 2700 Magnolia Avenue in Knoxville:
- Paper products
- Personal hygiene items
Jackson said he has met with health department officials and Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) leaders to prepare for the weekend. "Number one will be safety and security for the church and for our guests," he said. "Number two will be meals."
In addition to Friday night worship, devotions will be offered at every meal. “We’re not KARM and we’re not the health department,” he said. “We’re a church and our job here is to make disciples,” Jackson said.
Magnolia Avenue was closed for nine months in 2021 by city officials after it was declared “unfit for human habitation.” United Methodist groups and funding from the Holston Conference Congregational Development office helped repair the church so that it could reopen for worship in November 2021.
In addition to a health clinic and free lunch every Monday, the church offers recovery worship and a meal on Wednesday nights. Food, clothing, bus passes, prayer and other aid are provided on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Throughout the year, Sunday worship is offered at 5 p.m.
Cash donations may be made through Venmo @MagAveUMC or delivered or mailed to Magnolia Avenue UMC, 2700 Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37914. If you can volunteer or offer other aid, please text the Rev. Tim Jackson at 865.300.9021.
Sign up for a free weekly email subscription to The Call. Holston Conference includes 842 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. Holston Conference's main offices are located in Alcoa, Tennessee.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.
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