Neighborhood Services: Ministry with the Poor

Dr. Mary White and Bishop Peggy Johnson

The spectacular skyline of Philadelphia was quite a sight from the 8th floor of The View at 800 North Broad Street on the night of March 5th, 2010, as United Methodist Neighborhood Services (UMNS) celebrated 114 years of service to the community of Philadelphia.

Dr. Mary White, executive director, opened the evening celebration with a brief summary of the purpose of United Methodist Neighborhood Services.  She stated, “We are keeping the hope and dream alive today!”  She emphasized that the reason UMNS is still on Broad Street is because the services rendered are desperately needed – especially in these difficult economic times.

Dr. White stated that “I prayed for good weather and room full of people.”  The room overflowed and seats were rearranged as more and more people arrived. District Superintendents, pastors, laity, and Bishop Peggy and Rev. Mike Johnson were present.

It all started as the Women’s Home Missionary Society of Philadelphia, an organization devoted to welcoming immigrants to our shores, providing them with a place to stay, and assisting them as they began a new life. 

The organization, Dr. White said, continues to provide a myriad of services to the community: an after-school program, summer enrichment camps,  clothing and food for needy persons, and a place of safety for those in need of it.

Melodious music from The Sydney West Ensemble, accompanied by Rev. David Cassidy, who led the audience in singing, praising and shouting of Halleluiahs, was part of the celebration.  Rev Sunil Balasundaram sang To God be the Glory.  Faces beamed with smiles as individuals broke bread and conversed together.

Bishop Violet Fisher delivered an on-time message, built on the theme from Alice Walker, We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For.  She challenged us to not look to the hands, policies and voices of the government to do what God has ordained us to do.  She challenged us to take up the mantle that was and is still being carried by women like Sister Hattie Hamilton, who has served this conference for many years.  She challenged us not to look at our economic resources or lack thereof but to trust God to provide what is needed for us to serve.  She challenged us to “stir Christ in the Pot of Soup, the Kool Aid, the Hot Dog sandwiches” as we serve those who are displaced.  She challenged and commanded us to get up, step up, and get out. Bishop Fisher then called for a special offering to support UMNS’s ministry with the poor.

Persons are invited to contribute an offering or service to UMNS.  Please contact Dr. Mary White, mwhite9891@aol.com or 215-236-0304.

*Article by Olivet Brown, a lay member of Berry-Long UMC.