By Jessica Brodie
TATUM—South Carolina’s resident Church and Community Worker through The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries experienced a “virtual itineration” this year.
Shirley Townsend-Jones, who has served with the Bennettsville-Cheraw Area Cooperative Ministry since 1991, spent time talking with churches and other interested individuals, including South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, about the work she and the ministry do to serve God’s Kingdom.
The Rev. F. Hillary Taylor, pastor of the Bethany-Zoar Charge, Saluda, moderated the event.
“Itineration for missionaries is going to different churches to talk about their mission/ministry, and seeking support from those churches,” Taylor explained. “‘Virtual itineration’ is still itineration, but doing it virtually instead of in person.”
Townsend-Jones spoke about the ministry and the nine churches that comprise it, lifting up the work of its outreach center and partner-churches who work hard to provide hope to all within the bounds of open hearts, open minds and open doors.
“I’m so glad to be there and be a part of that,” Townsend-Jones said.
Townsend-Jones said the churches she works with are all African-American churches, and the ministry serves to connect, equip and empower its member churches in the largely rural area around it. Funds come from the South Carolina Annual Conference as well as private donations.
Currently, she said the ministry has a number of major projects.
One of them, Project M.E.N., which stands for “Mentoring, Educating and Nurturing,” works to provide mentors for young men ages 8-18—especially important, Townsend-Jones said, as the community houses two prisons in the area.
They also have a mass choir and an older adult ministry, host back-to-school drives, support community gardens, have a Sacred Saturday children’s ministry and started Ladies of the Future, a ministry for teen girls.
“Pregnancy is on the rise, so this is for young girls to come together, feel good about themselves, engage in events and letting them work together as a team,” Townsend-Jones said.
The group is also actively raising funds for another bus.
“We just need to practice thinking outside the boxes and do what God calls us to do,” Townsend-Jones said, summing up her work.
To learn more about the Bennettsville-Cheraw Area Cooperative Ministry, call 843-862-5166 or email [email protected].
By Jessica Brodie