CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS
We offer help to those in the Moxham community that are in need help paying their rent, utility bills, or purchasing food.
THE FREE STORE at Grove Ave UMC started July 2018, born out of a desire to connect with the Moxham neighborhood since most Grove members no longer live in the neighborhood. Driven primarily by 3 members, more volunteers have come to know and love this ministry and are present every week.
The store provides free clothing for the taking and each household receives up to 3 household items that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits. Items handed out weekly include toilet paper, diapers, shampoo, soap, deodorant, laundry soap, dish soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, bleach, garbage bags, house cleaning liquid and more of whatever we may have on hand.
We serve about 50 families every week and weekly supplies cost at least $150. The store is completely funded through personal donation and receives no funding from the church. We recently partnered with another church that did a 1000 roll toilet paper drive that supplied us for almost 3 months. We are looking into doing more of these types of drives to build partnerships and expand the sense of community for which we are striving.
It has taken time to build trust with our neighbors about our motives. We have no agenda except to connect with each other. Most of our residents have their own churches they already attend. They are very appreciative and when they can, donate a few dollars themselves or donate clothing as well. It’s also a time for community where neighbors get to know each other and we get to know each other. Frequently there is also a need for pastoral counseling. Pastor Carol, Pastor Deb and I usually field those conversations.
Just recently we have started to invite resource guests to set up an information table about what their organizations do. Johnstown District UMC Human Services has participated as well as Goodwill and in the next few weeks, St. Vincent de Paul will be visiting. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of making more connections and providing useful resources for our neighbors.
Hope-filled Relationships began with the idea of a few Grove Ave. UMC members who wanted to reach out into the neighborhood where the church is located.
What was once an elegant neighborhood full of families working at the steel mills slowly over time has turned into a low income, drug-ridden rental neighborhood with abandoned homes, absentee landlords and a few faithful residents who refuse to leave. Families come and go, rent is low, jobs are scarce, hope is lacking. Yet the spirit of Moxham remains. It is considered a historical district. Many organizations work to make lives better for the people in Johnstown – St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, Catholic Charities, UMC Human Services, and many other church, city, county and state organizations. There are a lot of people doing a lot of good in Johnstown. But it’s a B I G problem. Just like so many other towns across America, when industry left, so did the people, opportunity and hope.
What is left? What is there to work with? These few faithful members at Grove Ave. UMC know that the Church is not contained in the walls of the building. Most members no longer live in the neighborhood, but they still come on Sundays. But the Church is more than just Sundays. Grove Ave. UMC is a typical church in this part of the country – a small ageing population, just trying to stay above water. It is hard spot to be in.
But God is alive and at work – in the members of Grove Ave. UMC and in the Moxham neighborhood.
Here’s the thing: poverty is COMPLICATED. It’s not just about lack of materials things. It gets into you and tells you are worthless and useless. It heaps shame upon you to have to ask for help. It teaches you that you have nothing to offer and the odds are stacked against you (which, in reality, they are). Whose fault is it? The fault is both personal and systemic. Fault is everywhere around us even in our hearts as we see the plight of those who struggle and we blame them and everyone else and we do nothing. The problem is we live in a broken world and we are broken people. Therefore, as a broken people, anything (and everything) we create (churches, systems, governments, corporations) are also broken.
The devil is at work too. Let’s not be naive. The powers of darkness overwhelm this place. It’s a little weird to talk about things in this way. But it’s easy to see. It gets to me sometimes. The condemned houses. The needy nature of those who struggle for some kind, any kind of affirmation in life. The multi-generations of public dependency. Everything is so much harder for so many of my neighbors. How do you keep your chin up? How do you know that the world does not have to be like this? But it pounds you in the ground day after day, year after year, generation after generation. How are you supposed to see yourself and the world differently? It is a very daunting challenge even for those of us well-equipped with the tools and resources to make our lives work.
HOPE -FILLED RELATIONSHIPS A Ministry of Grove Ave. United Methodist Church, Moxham Neighborhood Johnstown, PA, part of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference.