Members at First United Methodist Church in Cleburne put a new twist on brown bagging it last Saturday, Nov. 20, as part of their mission to rethink church in the Cleburne community.
“We have really taken a risky step forward in rethinking how we are the church in our community,” states Mauri Ford, director of outreach ministry. Church volunteers donated, assembled and gave away nearly 200 free Thanksgiving meal brown bags as part of what felt more like a neighborhood outdoor picnic than a holiday mission project.
No one was asked to pre-qualify for the give away. No records were kept. Instead, residents of East Cleburne were welcomed by a lively band, a buffet snack table and café-style tables and chairs as they gathered for the free Thanksgiving take away brown bags.
Guests smiled in delight as church volunteers passed among the crowd with trays of sweet and savory treats, a sign of the radical hospitality and concern that church volunteers have embraced for their neighbors.
Large pre-cooked hams replaced the traditional turkeys in the sacks because many of the area residents do not have the means to roast a large fowl. Activity sheets and crayons were provided in the brown bags for the children as well as a Thanksgiving table benediction written by Darrell Johnson and the congregations’ blessing for the holidays.
This is one of three outreach ministries planned for the fall and Advent seasons at what the church calls Resurrection Ministries. Resurrection got its start as St. Paul United Methodist Church on East Henderson in Cleburne. It was reborn in 2008 as Resurrection United Methodist Church, a new church start supported by the Central Texas Conference’s Commission on Church Growth & Development and the members of First Cleburne. When it was abandoned as a new church start in July 2010, the 774 members of First Cleburne envisioned significant opportunities to witness and engage the East Cleburne community even though it is located about three miles from their own church building.
Currently, all ministries at Resurrection are being conducted in partnership with CG&D and First Cleburne. Church Growth holds the title to the building and property and is responsible for the insurance on the grounds and facility. First Cleburne handles the monthly utilities and upkeep while “rethinking” its use as a community outreach center in this predominately low income, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic community.
There was a good turnout for the FUMC Cleburne’s Trunk or Treat Halloween ministry event Oct. 30, Ford recalls. In addition to their regular Trunk or Treat at the church on Oct. 31, the church provided trunks, treats, bounce houses and volunteers to give the children a great experience at the Resurrection Mission site.
On Dec. 22, Resurrection Mission will collaborate as an extension to nearby Operation Blessing’s annual toy drive that also provides opportunities for the neighborhood children to receive much-needed shoes, socks, food and other ministries to adults.
The visionary leaders of First Cleburne see other possibilities for Resurrection Ministries, like hosting Child Protective Services meetings and parenting education, possibly after-school programs, and Bible studies and worship in 2011.
Look for more radical hospitality at Resurrection Ministries as First Cleburne continues its vision “to provide ministry opportunities for children, youth and their families in East Cleburne.”
The Rev. Robert H. Herzig is senior pastor at First UMC Cleburne. For information about the church and its ministries, visit www.fumccleburne.com