|United Methodist Bishop Visits Mission Institution in Fort Worth, Texas|
by Barbara Wheeler*
Fort Worth, Texas, April 25, 2008 -- As an all-church meeting continues in Fort Worth, Texas, one bishop took time on April 24 to attend another important gathering: snack time in the after-school program at United Community Centers, Inc., a local United Methodist mission institution.
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, resident bishop of Alabama West-Florida Conference and president-designate of the Council of Bishops, also serves as a director of Global Ministries and vice-chair of The Advance committee. Bishop Goodpaster visited United Community Centers with his wife, Deborah; Phyllis May, wife of Bishop Felton May; Shawn Bakker, director of The Advance; Jeri McKie, executive for Community and Institutional Ministries; and other Global Ministries staff.
United Community Centers began in 1909 as a local church ministry of what is now First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. The church's mission board women volunteers provided food and clothing to people in impoverished communities and founded Wesley House, which today is one of three locations for United Community Centers' programs. This mission work includes child-care, youth programs, emergency assistance, summer day camp, providing hot meals, and English as a Second Language classes.
In addition to Wesley House, Polytechnic Center and Bethlehem Center are part of United Community Centers' ministry. Bethlehem Center in Fort Worth, the first project of its kind west of the Mississippi River, was founded in 1938 and works with the community to provide child-care for working parents.
Bishop Goodpaster volunteered in the after-school program at Bethlehem Center, serving juice to students, and talking with them as they had their snack and worked on arts and crafts. Children at the center sing the prayer for their daily snack in Spanish and English, reflecting the diversity of their community.
"This reminds me of why we do what we do," Bishop Goodpaster said. "Sometimes we get caught up in meetings and procedures. You know that at this center people are caring for the children we all need to be caring about."
United Methodist support of United Community Centers comes from around the denomination. It is a project of The Advance, receives support from United Methodist Women's Mission Giving and local United Methodist volunteers, and is a mission appropriation of North Texas Conference.
Celia Esparza, executive director of United Community Centers, said volunteers play a key role in the mission work of the agency. United Methodist Women members read to children during story time, volunteer in the clothing room and food pantry, and make contributions to be distributed as part of the emergency assistance ministry, Ms. Esparza said. Other volunteers come to attend vacation Bible school with children.
"This is what the church is all about," Bishop Goodpaster said.
Give to United Community Centers, Inc., and other community centers in the United States through The Advance (#982149) at Givetomission.org
* Barbara Wheeler is an executive secretary for communications with the Women's Division of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Apr 25, 2008