From Our Pastor

Caring for the Community

Posted 8 November, 2018 by Pastor Keith Ritchie

This past Saturday, for the third consecutive year, First UMC hosted the Martinsville Community Care Collaborative. The event was different this year, in that the upper, unfinished area of the Uptown Ministry Center was cleaned so as to provide space for dental and medical care in that area.

I thank all who volunteered to help clients find their way from one service to another during this event. I thank all of you who provided food for the volunteers, students, and clinicians who served throughout the day. And I thank all of you for your prayers and gifts that made such an ambitious, far-reaching ministry possible. As your pastor, I find great reward in serving those in this community - and beyond - who have need. I also find great blessing in working in partnership with other clergy and service agencies in this community, along with leaders and students from Liberty and Averett Universities. Again, your prayers and your gifts make it possible for such ministry to be provided.

So I share with you a portion of an email of appreciation I, and others, received Sunday morning from Dr. Kathy Bogagz of Liberty University. Dr. Bogagz, who coordinates this ministry, writes: "So many were served yesterday! Ministry to patients was accomplished on every level - physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. From haircuts to foot washing, medical, visual, dental, and psychological care, and then lunch and prayer, patients were cared for on just about every level. Having the space to place all the amazing volunteers was a true gift." I hope you share the gratitude I feel in receiving this kind note.

Related to the MCCC, I helped a dental clinician pick up some her equipment from the Ministry Center on Tuesday. As we spoke about Saturday's event, we spoke of the agencies that provided materials and information by way of their resource tables that day. This clinician shared her observation that those at the resource tables shouldn't just passively sit and wait for visitors to come to them, they should get up from their chairs and reach out to the visitors. As soon as she said this, I said to her, "What you are saying about those at the resource tables also applies to the church."

This is why we now offer the "Donuts on the Corner" ministry the first Monday of each month, as we did this past Monday (and received affirmation on social media from a lady who was blessed by this ministry.) This is why we will share in a prayer walk before the meeting of Church Council next Thursday. This is why we will be present during the Christmas Parade on November 17, offering hot chocolate and hospitality to our neighbors.  This is why the 145 food bags packed this past Sunday will be delivered to local schools in order to help feed needy students over the holidays. All of this, because we know it is not enough to sit still and wait for people to come to us: we are to get up and go to where the people are - just as Jesus did.

All of which brings us to our worship this Sunday: we share scripture from Revelation 22:1-5, scripture in which John the Revelator witnesses to God coming to his people and dwelling with his people. It is God, creator of heaven and earth, who always takes the initiative to go to his people; to locate himself amongst his people.

We do well, as people who belong to this God, to hear again this good news, and in hearing this, to find even greater ways to align our lives with this witness.