“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” —attributed to John Wesley
When John Wesley shared the message to do all the good you can by all the means you can he likely didn’t mean all this doing should be a solitary job. He saw the power of connectionalism and how the whole of many parts could make the greatest impacts around our communities and the world.
United Methodism is built on the power of connectionalism. Our systems and processes, clergy appointments and resourcing are all based on the notion that the church can do more together than an individual can do alone.
“Our church wants to show how connected we are,” said Pastor Sungduk Kim of Dingmans Ferry UMC, a church in Pike County who is doing its best to feed, clothe and nurture the youth in its community [see sidebar]. Dingmans Ferry was one of 15 GNJ churches who recently donated the value of 10 percent of the funding it received through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) of the CARES Act back to the COVID-19 Relief Fund for congregations who were denied funding.
“We believe God is not only going to take care of our local church, but God is going to take care of everyone.” “We envision a Dingmans Ferry United Methodist Church family who will reach out with Christian compassion, certainty and a sense of peace, and who will joyfully welcome, mutually embrace and wholeheartedly support them as our own—in a spirit of Christlike Faith, Hope and Love.”
The people of Dingmans Ferry UMC value the connection within the church and also throughout their local community. “This community needs help, and we’re doing our best to help them,” said Pastor Kim who added that at the onset of the pandemic, he and his church packaged lunches for more than 40 families in need for three weeks.
Although its Baby Blessing Pantry, which normally provides formula, clothes and other supplies to young families with young children, has had to close its doors because of the pandemic, Dingmans Ferry UMC collects donations to give to the nearby pantry at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Dingmans Ferry is also filling the emerging childcare needs caused by the pandemic.
Kim noted that its “Tree of Life” preschool is operating at half capacity with newly installed touchless faucets and soap dispensers and other innovative social distancing measures. “Our church is very strong in mission, and we intend on staying that way,” said Kim.
GNJ churches and Hope Centers received more than $7 million in PPP Funds as a part of the CARES Act. And while hundreds of churches were able to access these funds, others, particularly churches in urban settings were denied. Fifteen GNJ churches who received funds under the loan program, heard the call of the connection and donated a representative portion to the COVID-19 Relief Fund to benefit other GNJ churches. These churches, who shared $58,000, witnessed the connection.
Another church who made a donation was Tuckerton UMC in the Northern Shore District. “With the pandemic, we were thinking about those small churches who were struggling and couldn’t continue their ministries and missions,” said Pastor Jason Rios who moved to New Jersey from Puerto Rico three years ago to lead this rural church.
“We wanted to bless the COVID Relief Fund, and we wanted to bless others.” Rios and his congregation continue to bless others at the Manna’s Farm Market, a business the church helped to reopen after it was forced to close amid the pandemic. Since July 21 the people of Tuckerton UMC have been fostering business for two local farmers and five vendors, who are in turn helping to feed the community
Christ-like Faith, Hope and Love in Pike County
Dingmans Ferry UMC, located near the Dingmans Falls and the Dingmans Ferry Bridge near the Delaware Water Gap in Pike County, PA, was once inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. Although the demographics have changed, it still carries a strong sense of community.
Ministry at Dingmans Ferry happens both inside and outside the church. Outside the main building there sits a “Prayer Grove,” which was built four years ago so that the church could host events like confirmation class, weddings and prayer groups.
“At times, we even had baptisms in the Prayer Grove,” Pastor Kim said. Today, the beautiful outside area is preparing for the start of the “Personalizing the Faith” Small Groups. Led by a lay member, the Small Groups of about seven to eight people designed to foster spiritual development, meet every Sunday afternoon using social distancing. They had hoped to make it a larger gathering, but with social distancing, they are doing the best they can.