Glide Hosts National Ministry With The Poor Experiential Training
*By Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—"Glide has been a transformative experience and has helped me see God's grace, here we call it unconditional love," says the Rev. Dr. Karen
Oliveto, senior pastor of San Francisco's Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. Oliveto, along with Glide's executive team, recently hosted United Methodists from across the nation in an experiential ministry with the poor training.
"I want folks to be able to extend their communities to realize there are people living on the margins in every community, including theirs…and not to invite the margins to the center, but bring the center to the margins, and to build ministry from that place," said Oliveto. Following urban flight of the white middle class in the sixties, Glide revisioned downtown urban ministry in San Francisco for a new day and age. Glide responded creatively and faithfully with effective programs that include recovery circles, housing, legal aid, medical care, HIV/AIDS services, unlearning violence, women's empowerment, and family and children's support.
The training included a 50 year reflection of Glide's history led by the Rev. Cecil Williams, longtime minister of liberation at Glide, and Janice Mirikitani, founding president of the Glide Foundation, as well as a community activist and poet. The couple has been at Glide for more than 50 years, and married for 33 years.
Other highlights included a walking tour of the Tenderloin neighborhood where the church is located, and a Wednesday night worship celebration with singing by the Glide Ensemble and Change Band. Participants also helped to prepare and serve a breakfast meal along with volunteers of the daily feeding program, and toured the church's affordable housing units, and early education program. They participated in recovery circles, and witnessed a weekly community forum called, "Speak Out."
Williams challenged those gathered, "It's in the doing, it's in the act, it's in the way we live…put our lives where they need to be in the midst of the people." Mirikitani says recovery is core to all of Glide's programs. She says, "One of the biggest killers in our society is shame…we're saying to people you can be all that you can be, it's a place of transformation, challenge, and struggle."
Laura Barry traveled to San Francisco from Summerfield United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Barry says one key learning for her is the recognition that people need to be heard. "In the recovery circle, and speak out, people shared what was on their heart, what concerns them, what they're excited about, or just shared some news…that's really a unique offering," says Barry.
The Rev. Steve Lundin is in his first year as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Salinas, California. The congregation started a neighborhood ministry with the poor seven years ago feeding up to 200 people a day, six days a week, breakfast and lunch. Lundin says, "Now, we are looking at what it means to continue this ministry for the long haul and what we will need in order to maintain and grow." He added, "Infrastructure, funding, volunteer recruitment, training, and recognition are just a few of the areas that we will be focusing on."
The event was sponsored by the denomination's mission agency, the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). Several of these events have taken place across the nation and are designed for those interested in uplifting relationships with people in poverty and developing strong and healthy neighborhoods and congregations. The Rev. Nora Colmenares, Assistant General Secretary GBGM, says, "It has been happening here (Glide) for a long time, they have an out of the box model. They have pushed boundaries, they have done things differently, and this is a church that that is touching lives and known in this community."
Ministry with the poor is one of the denomination's four focus areas.
Other ministry with the poor experiential trainings have taken place at Theressa Hoover UMC and Better Community Development Inc. (BCD) in Little Rock, Ark.; Church for All People UMC in Columbus, Ohio; St. John's UMC Houston, Tex,; and, Cass UMC in Detroit, Mich.
Colmenares added, "I see a church that is alive, I see God doing amazing things, I see grace everywhere…we need to get away from the mentality of scarcity, and the church is dying, and come back to God's grace is abundant, and we have enough to do what God has called us to do and get out and do it."
*Hygh is director of communications for the denomination's California-Nevada Annual Conference that includes 360 churches and 78,000 United Methodists in Northern California and Northern Nevada.