JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 30, 2015) – On Sunday morning, the doors of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church were closed.
The congregation didn’t take a vacation day, however. A few blocks away, hundreds of church members and their neighbors gathered in the cafeteria at North Side Elementary to pack food and health supplies for students.
Then they all went outside and worshiped on the school lawn.
The Sept. 27 event, named “Let’s Get Together,” was designed to help the downtown church get to know their neighbors better, according to the Rev. Patty Muse, minister of missions and outreach.
“We had no idea what to expect, so we think it turned out quite well,” she said.
Sitting in lawn chairs and joining in worship in the schoolyard were 421 people, including people from the community, teachers and students, and members of nearby Otterbein United Methodist Church. The cafeteria was packed with volunteers preparing 200 “Food Is Fuel” bags and 130 “Clean is Cool” personal-care kits, Muse said.
In addition, donations totaling $5,500 were received for the purchase of new playground equipment. Principal Sharon Pickering, a member at Munsey Memorial, made an appeal for playground equipment during the Sunday-morning service.
Munsey has partnered with North Side Elementary for three years, providing tutoring and school supplies and meeting other needs. “We give to this school all year, but a lot of people have never been here until today,” said Rick Chinouth.
The Rev. Mark Gooden, senior pastor, preached on Jesus and the blind man from Mark 8. “I hope you take the opportunity today to see somebody that you haven’t seen before,” he said.
On Monday morning, the Munsey staff received an email from a North Side resident and school staff member:
“Just wanted to let you know how touched I was by Sunday at North Side," the email said. "Not only the gifts for our amazing children, but the warmth of your people … I attend Otterbein and have lived in this neighborhood for about 29 years. I really cannot find the words.”
Muse said she hopes the gathering will inspire more Munsey members to “plug into our North Side School mission as servants – vs. volunteers -- who read with students, are lunch buddies, whatever. We hope this was a launch into more connections.”
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.