Two churches unite to show love to neighbors

Two churches unite to show love to neighbors

Libby Bowman (left) and Brenda Lindsey, members at Woodlawn United Methodist Chuch, show off care bags prepared for Carroll County school nurses.

HILLSVILLE, Va. – When Karen Alley thinks of all the people facing dark days amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she wants to cry.

In the last few months, however, Alley and other church members have found a way to channel their concern into projects that show God’s love to people in the path of coronavirus.

Located just five miles apart, Woodlawn United Methodist Church and Shiloh United Methodist Church are combining forces to reach out to medical personnel and elderly neighbors. Under the leadership of the Rev. Dina Clower, the two small churches are also developing a new grief ministry for people who have recently lost loved ones.

“When I see these huge numbers of patients with COVID, I wonder, ‘How do they take care of all these people?’” Alley said of her empathy for nurses and other medical workers. “My heart just cries out for them.”

Alley is a member at Shiloh, and her pastor and members at Woodlawn shared her concern. So in December, church members decided to provide 83 breakfast biscuits for the emergency staff at Twin County Regional Hospital in Galax. The owner and manager of a local McDonald’s restaurant liked the idea so much, they provided half of the biscuits free of charge.

Pastor Clower delivered the biscuits to the ER on Christmas Eve morning. The staff was so grateful, “one girl looked like she was about to cry,” Clower said.

The money for the breakfast biscuits was left over from a Christmas gift drive-by for Woodlawn and Shiloh’s elderly and shut-in members. December kicked off the first month in the new monthly mission initiated by the two churches, said Libby Bowman, Woodlawn member.

In January, members of the two churches prepared care bags for the eight school nurses serving 3,500 students and 600 staff at Carroll County public schools. The bags included coffee gift cards, handmade towels, hand lotion, sanitizer, and candy.

Care bags for school nurses


“You don’t realize how something so little can make a difference,” said Bowman. “The school nurses are so good with the kids, and they don’t get a lot of thank yous.”

Lisa Frost is the head school nurse in Carroll County. She explained how school nurse duties have exploded with extra rules and responsibilities, including contact tracing and checking temperatures to detect virus infection among students and workers.

“They’re the first churches that have reached out to us,” Frost said of Woodlawn and Shiloh. “It’s so nice to look into that bag and say, ‘Someone is thinking about me.’”

In February, the two churches plan to take Valentine’s Day bags with candy and snacks to 90 residents and 70 staff members at a nearby nursing home. Church members give money for the care bags, but only one person can deliver the bags to hospitals and nursing homes due to pandemic restrictions, Bowman explained.

A grief ministry has also emerged, as church members discovered Stephen Ministries grief books and began to share them with others. Alley recently shared the books with Clower, who lost her mother to COVID-19 in September and her son-in-law to a tragic accident in November.

“God is bringing us through it and giving us a heart to help others get through it,” Clower said. Church members are investing into buying the books to share with many others and to begin Stephen Ministries training.

Bowman said she is grateful to her pastor for helping to unite the two congregations, which numbered 50 in worship attendance for Woodlawn and 40 for Shiloh prior to the pandemic.  

“Until this past year, we didn’t do much together,” Bowman said. “Now it’s almost automatic that when one of us is doing something, we offer it to the other church. I give the pastor and the Lord credit for that.”

“We focused on our own church for years,” Alley said. “But there’s got to be something that’s going out into the community -- not just our church but everybody’s church. This is just the beginning of that.”

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Holston Conference includes 853 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia.



Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.