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Bridging Communities: A Church's Vision Comes to Life

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” These words from Amos 5:24 inspired Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball’s sermon at the consecration service for the Synergy Center at Christ United Methodist Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia. What started as a vision granted to Rev. Tom McDowell, has now been brought to life. 

During his time serving as the pastor of Christ UMC, Rev. McDowell had a vision of a walking bridge connecting the church and the community as far as he could see. It was after receiving this vision that he knew that the church “must do more; more than they have done in the past to reach out into the community and connect the community with God.” The church began planning how they could make this vision a reality. 

When Rev. Shauna Hyde was appointed to the church, she continued to lead the congregation in how they could bring the vision to life. By examining the community around them, the church discovered a potential for ministry addressing poverty and addiction. Their community included many people who were transient and in need of resources, and the church was in a unique position to provide those resources. 

Rev. Hyde and the Steering Committee, in order to transform the church into a “bridge for needed resources,” decided to offer the unused educational wing of their church to non-profits who were already working to tackle the issues of poverty and addiction. For a low rental fee, non-profits could rent office space in the church’s educational wing and work collaboratively with each other. The United Way of the Mid-Ohio Valley quickly got on board with this idea and began to help the church identify other local non-profits to partner in this shared space.

In early 2022, Christ UMC applied for and received a grant from the United Methodist Foundation of West Virginia to fund its vision. This grant was instrumental in allowing the first year of transition as the Synergy Center began to operate. On October 8th, 2023, Christ United Methodist Church hosted the official Consecration of the Synergy Center. In the service, they recognized 10 organizations that have partnered with them to bring their vision to life, including We Have Your 6, which provides resources for veterans, and the MOV Health Department, which offers periodic health clinics. The church also provides notary services, printing services, and computer access. Church Secretary, Lori Perri, explained that any way they could alleviate the burdens of those who are trying to access resources in their community, while often traveling on foot, is a way to share the love of Christ with a population who otherwise might feel unloved. 

Christ United Methodist Church is a wonderful example of the innovative ways our grant recipients work within the community around them, reminding a vulnerable population that they are “holy, beloved, and yes indeed, valuable” as Bishop Steiner Ball proclaimed in her sermon. 

Foundation grants are provided from a tithe of The Foundation’s expected revenue each year. If you would like to provide a gift to increase the amount of funding available for grants or contribute to the growing endowment that supports our grant program, contact The Foundation.

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