“We are travelers on a journey, fellow pilgrims on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load….”
This old Sacred Harp song has been playing in my head for several weeks, as I have begun the process of transitioning from Executive Director of URBAN Ministry to pastor of Lesters Chapel UMC. Many of us have traveled these last five years together, and I am thankful to have been on this journey with you. Together we have worked hard, made plans for surviving – even thriving – through the recession, and in the last two years, our Board and Staff have charted a strong course for URBAN’s mission and programs and future sustainability. All of us – volunteers, funding partners, Board, staff, and neighbors – have helped each other, and we have in turn offered deep compassion and wholeness to thousands of people, even as we have offered these gifts to one another.
Tremendous growth and development has occurred in our programs, staff, Board, and within each of us. Through WE Eat programs, people receive healthy organic produce and greater access to other sources of healthy food. Last year, WE Community Gardens gifted more than 5,000 pounds of produce and sold over 4,000 pounds of produce. Courageously, we are turning our Community Kitchen into WE Eat, An URBAN Community Café, where everyone will eat a healthy meal regardless of ability to pay. WE Grow programs are making an even greater difference in the lives of children and youth, as we plan to implement a formal Youth Interns Program in areas of education, agriculture, and culinary arts. In the midst of it all, URBAN is a safe harbor for several hundred people who receive emergency assistance through our WE Care programs, including Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing, Senior Emergency Assistance, case management for seniors across Jefferson County, and exterior house painting through our Joe Rush Program, which enables many vulnerable homeowners to remain in their homes and have dignity.
URBAN’s relationships with the leadership of the Community Church without Walls, the West End Community, and hundreds of congregations, organizations, corporations, and institutions have been intentionally strengthened. While URBAN remains a safe harbor for vulnerable people from across our area, we more readily understand our role as a catalyst for community development in our West End neighborhood. We invite you to visit us, especially if you have never been to URBAN before or if it has been a while, because you will be amazed by the vibrant and faithful people you encounter and the excitement of a community in transformation.
It has been a deep blessing for me to work and minister among you all these last five years. I will glean wisdom and understanding from my experiences here for the rest of my life, and I am a better person and pastor because of URBAN and its people. Thank you for being a partner with us. Your financial support, prayers, encouraging emails and notes, and steadfast presence have enabled us all to sustain and continue to build a community of compassion and wholeness that lasts.
With Gratitude –