Food pantries, free clinics, and education opportunities are just a few of the things the congregation of Greenfield United Methodist Church has its hands in after a Rural Poverty Workshop held in November 2017 at the church. It has joined forces with other churches, the school, and local Crisis Intervention and Community Action services to begin relationship building with those struggling in the community.
“Many people in our community have been transformed in their thinking toward those who are in poverty, and especially the children of those in poverty,” said Pastor Eric Schubert of Greenfield U.M. Church. “They are able to see others in a much more compassionate light than before.”
More than 90 people came to the workshop that day from at least 25 churches in six different denominations, schools, and non-profit groups from six different counties. The six-hour workshop focused on the difference between the middle-class mindset and poverty, relationship building, poverty in Iowa and across the United States, and how past programs have worked or didn’t work.
The workshop was led by Susan Pennock, a layperson who currently guides United Methodist Churches in the Western North Carolina Conference through Congregation 4 Children, a non-profit that helps churches build relationships with children in generational poverty.
“Through her passion, as well as through her own experience, Susan helped us see persons in poverty through their eyes,” said Terra Amundson, Southwest District Superintendent. “Her message will help us be in ministry with, rather than to, those in our communities for whom poverty is their lived reality.”
“God's presence was so much a part of the of workshop, and people are still talking about it,” said Schubert. “Susan was an incredible blessing to us, and as we switch gears and rethink our approach to people in poverty God has been guiding and prodding us along.”
Part of switching gears is figuring out how to help people in the long-term and also building new relationships outside of the church walls.
“Before we were basically seeing how we can quick fix things – pick up the yard, mow the lawn, make the community look nicer,” said Schubert. “We have for several years been talking to and building relationships with those who are using our food pantry, but now we are looking to help people in the community make real connections with their neighbors.”
Schubert said this is a long process that is based on trust, and once that happens they can begin the work of solving problems within the community.
“I'll be honest – it was a lot to take in, and we are still trying to figure out how and where we go forward from here,” said Schubert. “We are working hard to break down the silos of people only knowing the thing they do, working at cooperation throughout our community, getting as many volunteers in the school as we can, and working on building relationships first. We will not be able to solve problems at this point, we are working toward that, but relationships and a sense of trust must come first.”
For more information or to get involved, contact the Greenfield United Methodist church by calling 641-743-2715 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.