ad·vo·cate –tr.v. ad·vo·cat·ed, ad·vo·cat·ing, ad·vo·cates
To speak, plead, or argue in favor of.
1. One that argues for a cause; a supporter or defender: an advocate of civil rights.
2. One that pleads in another’s behalf; an intercessor: advocates for abused children and spouses.
My last newsletter article introduced the idea of Neighborhood Centers being an ADVOCACY organization, grounded in the example of Christ and the apostles, touching the lives of people living on the margins of society.
My last article reviewed the work Neighborhood Centers does and summarized our core programs. If you did not read that article, or this newsletter is reaching you for the first time, see our web page…www.umnc.org.
This article, I hope, will help Christians consider WHY the United Methodist Church is connected to this agency and HOW Neighborhood Centers is different from the hundreds of other agencies and programs doing similar work. The MOST important distinction is our Wesleyan heritage and the history of our movement as it shapes our work together. The people called Methodists were pioneers in all of the programs we currently operate.
Prison Ministry, Food and Shelter Services, Clothing, Counseling, Jobs
Skills Training, Childhood Development and Education are all an expression of our understanding of Christ’s claim upon our lives. To
share the good news of the gospel and to share our blessings compelled
Methodists to establish thousands of institutions to manage the outreach of the church as we experimented with new ways to transform society into a more blessed place for God’s children.
What Neighborhood Centers does in greater Memphis goes largely
unrecognized because our work happens on a person to person basis.
We may gain recognition through media exposure and be famous for
urban ministry someday, perhaps soon, but that is not our goal. Our
goal is to make a difference in the lives of people one soul at a time,
one family at a time. That is work that depends on prayer and gifts and presence and witness from people who have a different way of
dreaming about our future as a people.
My fear is we have lost much of the sense of connection to our heritage
and we are abandoning institutions because we do not see what about
them is extraordinary! Some people claim denominations are dying, that history and the shared story of churches connected to their
institutions are redundant in our fast moving age. I fear our youth and
young adults and middle aged members don’t understand the dreams and sacrifices made so we can take up the work and recreate ourselves as we carry on this wonderful responsibility as Christians.
Our denominational strength IS the power of our work together. We
offer a place for individuals and groups, circles, troops, packs, guilds, agencies, and coalitions to launch out into the adventure of meeting neighbors we would otherwise never meet and discovering ways to
advocate for a city to make it more like the Kingdom of God.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Brent Porterfield