United Methodist Neighborhood Centers of Memphis, Inc.
Rev. Brent Porterfield, Executive Director
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6: 9-10.
The urban ministries of the Memphis Annual Conference have been connected since 1907 by the resources of what is now called Neighborhood Centers. We have called the organization different names over the decades but the mission has always had at its core the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ and making disciples by serving people and by including them in “the household of faith.”
The heart of our “doing good” centers on serving families, and especially children, in poverty. Miriam Child Development Center is our beating heart. It is our “laboratory” for observing the impact of the external forces that shape the lives of children and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our growing in wisdom and strength together. “Education,” “Health Care,” “Welfare,” “Food Security,” “Neglect,” “Homelessness” and “Public Safety” are terms that have no meaning without the witness of the individuals we grow and develop alongside so amazingly in the transformative years of early childhood.
Along with education and nurture we provide food, shelter and clothing through our connection with local churches.
Our food pantry network includes local churches UMNC supports administratively. We do paperwork and organize. They receive and distribute as grassroots agencies supported by the Mid-South Food Bank. In 2013 our network fed 10,432 people. And yes, we counted and made monthly reports because that is part of our responsibility as an agency that receives resources from the government.
The buildings we own support ministries in a variety of contexts. Our administrative offices and the Miriam Center are located at 3000 Walnut Grove Rd. Two mission congregations, Holy Community UMC and Jacob’s Well UMC, meet at 602 Looney St. Our property at 1647 Dellwood Blvd. hosts a ministry to people reestablishing family relationships by providing mentoring and jobs after serving prison sentences.
Our site on the World Wide Web is www.umnc.org. The variety and depth of our work can be viewed there.
As I reflect on our ministries and our relationships with congregations, mostly United Methodist Churches, I believe our name, “Neighborhood Centers” confuses understanding our mission and miss-labels our work. We do work in neighborhoods. Less abstractly we work in families. And most specifically we work in families that our churches may never otherwise touch divided as we are by culture or geography.
United Methodist Neighborhood Centers and its predecessor agencies have given guidance and structure for generations to ministries local churches could not start or sustain alone. We face new challenges in this generation. We must adapt and change to sustain the work we do in a bewilderingly complex mix of opportunity and need for Christian witness.
We pray our friends, new and old, will take the time to learn with us and grow into a future that requires faith.
May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortunes
and rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
from this day forward. AMEN