By Doris Sullivan
NORTH CHARLESTON—In fall 2016, I was asked to write a news article for the Advocate about the happenings at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, North Charleston. At that time, I had been pondering what I was seeing in our congregation. So I wrote my first article in November 2016. If you missed it, check it out here: https://advocatesc.org/2016/10/a-church-on-the-move-aldersgate-umc-in-north-charleston/
Our motto is, “We exist for the glory of God and the good of the city.” Since 2019, we’ve become increasingly aware that to serve families of Aldersgate UMC and the underserved in our community, we must establish two separate campuses. After dreaming, praying and researching how to make this vision happen, in 2020 we came up with a plan and started on this long journey.
In early 2021, Holy City Missions was granted IRS 501(c)(3) public charity status and registered as a South Carolina charitable organization, both recognized with nonprofit status. After much prayer, we decided to purchase property and raise a new building. We launched a capital campaign, “Envision,” with a project goal of $2.5 million with plans in place for continued funding. Our building and grounds will be in close proximity to current church to allow expansion and separation of mission work from the life of the church. We will continue to maintain all we do for each, with additional services planned.
A larger facility will promote continued growth, as we have already seen a rise in number of persons joining in our mission work (a net growth of approximately 25 new church members).
We feel the pendulum is swinging back toward helping “the least of these,” and our plan is to guide our guests into taking their next step toward becoming self-sufficient.
Nonprofit status allows us to pursue grants and perform fundraisers to expand ways we serve. We look toward our government agencies, business leaders and community for assistance and donors.
During the past five years, we have stayed active doing the work of and for our heavenly Father. We remain blessed to have the Rev. Erik Grayson leading us in our endeavor to make the world a better place for those forgotten members of the family of Christ.
We have continued, under his leadership, to accomplish the following:
In February 2015, we did an initial trial run of our winter warming shelter, only opening for a few nights. Volunteers agreed this was a mission we should undertake as we were touched by people we encountered. So we moved forward with a plan to establish a warming shelter for January and February 2016. With limited cold weather-related resources in our area, our mission was to serve the homeless and underserved when temperatures dropped below 35 degrees. Guests were provided a bed, optional devotion, dinner, clean clothes, showers, breakfast and lunch for following day.
In 2016, because of the warming shelter’s trial success, it was evident that running our shelter on a bigger scale would require help. We reached out to other churches for volunteers and, without hesitation, many stepped up to help and have remained our partners throughout the years. Volunteers staff our shelter by providing, preparing and serving meals. Over the years, we expanded our shelter season to four months. (The exception was in 2021; given COVID-19’s increased cost and additional restrictions, we were only able to open in January and February. We look forward to this upcoming season and pray it will be business as usual.)
In Easter 2018 until Christmas 2019, we added The Gathering, a multiethnic contemporary service in partnership with Enoch Chapel UMC. Pastors and members from both churches worshipped in unity.
In June 2019, The Connection, an evening Bible study, was established for those eager for the word of God. Each Bible study lasted 8-10 weeks and repeated 3-4 times during the year.
In 2019, a new youth minister was selected, serving to revitalize our program and encourage youth participation within our church and ministries. Participation continues to increase.
In 2020, we, along with everyone in the world, were hit by the pandemic, setting us all on a path like none other we had ever traversed before. In a few short weeks, we were nearly all homebound, a condition none of us were used to. No church, Sunday school or meetings for this or that. Our worlds were upside down. Social distancing, masks and loneliness became the norm. What of our friends and many others who would need our help?
Thankfully, where there is a will there is a way—how many times in life had we heard those words? In John 21, Jesus said; “Tend my lambs,” “shepherd my sheep” and “tend my sheep.” Three times. His instructions were very clear, and we knew we couldn’t stop. As Pastor Erik has said more than once, when something is repeated in the Bible three times, we’d better sit up and take notice. So we did! Our mission work did not suffer as a result of the pandemic. Amazingly, as we entered the pandemic era, our mission became even more relevant.
In May 2020, we started planning the warming shelter, not knowing with so many restrictions how we would make it work. After numerous attempts to procure an off-site location (so as not to bring COVID-19 to our people), we hit a wall. But with God’s help and a willing congregation, we set up our shelter within our facility. We were, but should not have been, surprised at the outpouring of volunteers from partner churches and the community that came on board with donations of money, clothes, bedding, food, hygiene and paper products. During January and February, we served 274 men and 47 women—321 total.
With overwhelming giving of items needed, we started “Community Give,” going into our community to share food, clothing, hygiene products, etc., with those who couldn’t travel to our facility.
On a regular basis, Zoom and telephone technology were utilized to allow for Sunday school and meetings. Facebook Live streaming of Sunday services was initiated when we couldn’t meet in person, with contemporary services added once we began meeting again in person.
We expanded our food pantry (serving 60-70 families) and clothes closet visits (serving 30-40 families) from bi-weekly to weekly. We added a to-go soup kitchen, serving hot meals for shut-ins and neighborhood friends (serving 100-125 weekly).
In June 2021, we will launch summer Play Maker Day Camp for ages 4-12. This new ministry provides involvement with our community, giving families a faith-based option for childcare, as well as a fun camp experience with a new playground installed and participation in Bible lessons, games, crafts, outdoor play, songs, skits, etc. It will be a summer of fun!
Our ministries continue to thrive with an exceptional pastor, loving congregation and community volunteers who continuously step forward. We are always welcoming new members to our ever-growing circle.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you whatever you have done to the least of these my brother, you have done it to me.”
You can reach Holy City Missions c/o Aldersgate UMC, 1444 Remount Road, North Charleston SC 29406.
By Doris Sullivan