March 02, 2023 | by JB Brayfindley
“We have to get rid of the attitude of scarcity, the God who calls us will equip us,” states Rev. Dr. Dale Weatherspoon, senior pastor of Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond, California. Having pushed through years of the pandemic, Weatherspoon sees ways God showed up in 2022 despite the many needs of the Richmond community. “…we have to take the first step.”
At first hesitant due to the enormous financial commitment, Easter Hill UMC took on the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School summer program in 2021 when asked to by Open Door UMC in Richmond, the only such school in Richmond. The church raised the $175K necessary to run the program through grant funding and donations. The 2022 program enrolled 70 young “scholars” for the six week program using Afro-centric reading materials to maintain or improve reading levels along with special afternoon activities and Friday field trips to expand experiences and knowledge. Easter Hill is in the process of raising funds and planning for the upcoming 2023 program including hiring college interns.
“For me, this is not a matter of can we or can’t we,” states Rev. Weatherspoon recalling the first year. “We’re going to do this. We really did step out in faith to raise over $100,000 to run that program.”
According to Pastor Dale, the Richmond community struggles with food insecurity, affordable housing, transportation, affordable healthcare, and safety. Weatherspoon serves as president of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), a homeless shelter housing 65 people but feeding lunch to the community at large every day. Easter Hill is one of forty other area faith organizations supporting the program. Easter Hill members provided up to 500 sandwiches on the third Saturday of each month during the height of the pandemic and now provide approximately 200 sandwiches monthly. The church participates in the October GRIP Harmony Walk—online during the pandemic but in 2022, it was in person complete with a tour of the GRIP facility. GRIP currently provides mail service, clothes washing and case management to those in need.
In August of 2022, Easter Hill renewed its’ partnership with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school in Richmond, .3 miles directly north of the church up S. 39th Street. Pastor Dale and several church members showed up on the first day of school with balloons and Welcome Back signs. Church members regularly volunteer in the school kitchen serving breakfast and cleaning up. The congregation donates gift cards and clothing, too.
“The vice principal came to our Sunday worship service and said, ‘Some of the kids are wearing the same clothes to school every day…’” notes Weatherspoon. “We really are trying to be the church beyond the walls—trying to be a church in the community to meet the needs in our community.”
“I pray we all continue to keep our eyes open and look for where God is showing up,” states Pastor Dale, “because God shows up every day.”
See 2022 article Easter Hill UMC Richmond: Celebrating Love in Action for more information on this congregation history and ministry.