People start gathering early in front of the United Methodist Church for All People for some words of hope and worship before they dive into the free store for clothes and household items.
Behind the counter, Kim Hairston is eagerly waiting to hand out what she calls “little bitty miracles” that sometimes look like a washcloth and others times might be a coffee cup or an outfit to go on a job interview.
She said people always seem to find exactly what they need.
“We pass out grace every day,” she said.
The church was one of several sites where about 2,600 United Methodist women volunteered.
They arrived early from around the world to the 2018 United Methodist Women’s Assembly for a day of service and advocacy. Dressed in bright orange T-shirts, volunteers sorted clothes, planted vegetables and engaged with the community before the assembly officially opens on May 18.
The congregation for a Church for All People grew out of the free store and is in a covenant relationship with United Methodist Women through National Mission Institutions. In addition to the free store, a market across the street offers fresh produce to the community in a building that was once a drive-through beer market.
“We teach people who shop here that God’s grace is free,” said the Rev. John Edgar, pastor of the Church for All People.
The market is part of the church’s Healthy Eating and Living initiative, Edgar said. “Instead of beer and wine now they can get cabbage and fresh fruit.”
Janet Jonas (right) and Freedom Scholar Rico prepare a garden bed for planting with Rico, a student at the All People Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School at Lincoln Park Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Ubuntu Day of Service at the United Methodist Women Assembly 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
See more images from the 2018 United Methodist Women’s Assembly on their Flickr page.
Harriett Jane Olson, top executive of United Methodist Women, said 600 women signed up for the community service projects and another 2,000 women signed up to participate in a rally calling on the Ohio legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15.
The women joined Columbus-area faith, labor and community organizers to build momentum for Ohio’s HB 575, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to a living wage from the current $8.30 an hour.
Olson told those attending the rally that The United Methodist Church called for a living wage in 1908 as part of their Social Creed.
“In 2018, it about time to do that,” she said to roars of approval from the crowd.
In a press briefing at the end of the day, Olson said the next few days will be filled with community gatherings and town halls where women will learn to turn their faith into “bold action.”
“The Power of Bold” is the theme for the assembly, which comes as the organization is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The gathering is focused on climate change, maternal and child health, economic justice, mass incarceration and interrupting the school to prison pipeline.
“This day demonstrates service and advocacy, United Methodist Women turning their faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women, children and youth for 150 years and counting,” Olson said.
Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at 615-742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.