Projects reach out at McAlester


Children’s Director Peggy McBeath, at back, oversees the painting of bookshelves for a men’s shelter in McAlester. Photo by Laura Neff

'Be the Church Sunday'

By Charles Neff, Pastor, McAlester-First

On Aug. 8, more than 100 members of McAlester-First UMC participated in "Be the Church Sunday" for the second year.

Modeled on the national Faith in Action campaign, members were encouraged to choose from among several community service projects that began at 8:30 that Sunday morning. At 10:30 a.m., all the teams gathered back at First UMC’s Grand Avenue campus for worship and to celebrate the work accomplished. Worshippers showed up in their work clothes; that was part of the joy of the morning’s experience.

It was an incredible amount of work in a very short time. There were projects for all ages. We had so many people show up that we were able to get all of our projects done in that two-hour window.

The main focus was Good Samaritan Outreach, a shelter being built in McAlester for homeless men. One team from the church assembled more than 60 toiletry kits to give to future residents, another team painted the restrooms in the shelter, children painted bookshelves and other furniture that will be donated, and the UMMen moved an entire kitchen.

Establishment of the shelter coincides with the decommissioning of First UMC’s Wesley campus.

Ceremony on Sept. 19

On Sept. 19 in McAlester, the former Wesley UMC will be decommissioned as a house of worship, to make way for construction of a new facility, totaling 35,000 square feet, on the property at the corner of South 13th and MacArthur Lane.

The special service will be conducted by District Superintendent Darrell Cates and First UMC Pastor Charles Neff.

Members and friends will gather at 5:30 that evening for an ice cream social. The decommissioning will begin in the sanctuary at 6:30 p.m., followed immediately by groundbreaking on the new building.

Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church was charted in 1960 with 46 members. The first service in the A-frame church building was in early 1962. Grand Avenue and Wesley churches merged on Jan. 1, 2009, to form McAlester-First UMC.

When made aware of the shelter’s needs, First Church’s trustees voted unanimously to donate any and all Wesley campus furnishings that could be used by Good Samaritan Outreach.

On "Be the Church Sunday," the men took to the shelter a 10-burner gas stove, stainless steel sink, 40-gallon water heater, residential refrigerator, pots and pans, and a library of books. Later in the month, kitchen cabinets, under-the-counter water heaters, and rooftop heating/cooling units will be donated, too. Instead of ending up in the city landfill, these items will find renewed use in helping meet the needs of the people who will reside at the shelter. Another church will reuse the pews.

Other service projects on Aug. 8 included writing care cards for the homebound and for troops deployed overseas, knitting for a new prayer-shawl ministry, sorting clothes at a local outreach, and removing graffiti downtown.

Prior to the workday, appliances had been prepped for the move, and supplies were purchased for the toiletry kits, knitting, and other projects.

Participation in "Be the Church Sunday" both years has surpassed that of workdays on weekdays and Saturdays. There’s something about Sundays; people reserve that for church and, if church is outside the building, they will come. We plan to do it a third year.

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