In 2015, Emanuel UMC in Union City faced the possibly of closure due to declining membership and financial struggles and had to scale back on their feeding ministry for three months.
Since the early 1990s, the church has faithfully served the downtrodden in their community through a consistent feeding ministry. Through the years, the endeavor has faced challenges, but the possibility of closing the church would also close the feeding ministry.
“In every difficulty faced we have seen the hand of God providing for people,” said Emanuel UMC Pastor, Rev. Pedro Cesar Miyares, “God is always working for God’s people.” Miyares and his congregation knew they needed to take bold steps of faith to create a future for their mission.
Emanuel UMC merged with Lafayette UMC in Jersey City, combining their ministries and keeping their doors open to those in need for Christ. In addition, the church’s breakfast ministry program received support from The North Hudson PAC (Parish Action Community) which included volunteers and supplies.
“That is an example of how our connectional Wesleyan heritage allows us to be relevant and transforming agents of change within the church and for the community in a real, tangible, visible and practical way that makes a difference in changing the community,” said Miyares, who believes the practical meaning of God’s grace is an invitation to share with others the abundance of the Kingdom of God.
“This is the miracle that we have been seeing every Sunday in our community at Emanuel UMC in Union City,” Miyares added. “That the abundance of the Kingdom of God among us provides enough for sharing even for all the deep scarcities inherent to human beings.”
Church leaders discussed and searched out different ways to maintain their homeless ministry with a clear Wesleyan understanding of social concerns and personal holiness. The ministry leaders decided to flesh out their mission by asking themselves three questions: What are we doing? What do we have to share? What new actions should we plan?
Every Sunday the ministry feeds approximately 50 people and attendance is rising. The ministry has etched a reputation as a weekly oasis for the disadvantaged.
“For us, grace’s meaning is linked to the church ministry and to the Kingdom of God because we have a deep and practical vitality that can be implemented in terms of sharing hope, collaboration, compassion, service, and love and salvation for everyone who is in need, despite their material or human conditions,” said Miyares.
Emanuel UMC’s homeless ministry in conjunction with Lafayette UMC invites people to participate, give, and engage in their efforts. Many who receive from the ministry have asked to collaborate, volunteer, and have even brought humble offerings to help provide for the needs of other homeless people. Some ask for prayers and others remain for the church’s worship service. Several express gratitude not only for meals but for the ministry’s openness to meeting physical and spiritual needs. Presently the ministry provides breakfast, prayer, thanksgiving, Bible study, and a time for exchanging insights and opinions regarding their circumstances. Through open doors, minds and hearts, the ministry provides a place for a few hours where people can feel welcome.
“So even when we’re improving the materially deprived conditions for the ministry of vulnerable people, we are receiving feedback for learning how to be more open to the changes God is encouraging us to implement in our lives,” said Miyares. “We as a Christian church are learning how to manage deprivation and scarcity to create hope and unity in a broken situation because we learned the lesson from our Master Jesus Christ and from all the Christian people that preceded us.”
Miyares expressed that Emanuel UMC is stronger because of their merge with Lafayette UMC. The ministry is alive for the service of God’s Kingdom in a broken world.
With a vision to reach and engage people for Christ through the ministry service of the church, Miyares and his congregation seek to use human and physical resources from their community to create spaces of material, emotional and spiritual relief for the benefit of the disadvantaged in Union City.
“We believe that the miracle of multiplication of food performed by Jesus is a sign of the abundance of God’s grace in the middle of a world with all kinds of scarcities,” Miyares said, “but with an eagerness to receive love, justice and hope.”