Recently the United Methodist Church celebrated “Human Relations Sunday”. It is always celebrated on the same weekend as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Human Relations Sunday, we reflect on issues that impact our society and what role we can play in alleviating the suffering in our community, country and world. “The ultimate measure of a man (or woman) is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.) I think we can all proudly say that we stood up even in difficult times and took care of our neighbors abroad and nearby whether it is through our special gifts, our church apportionments, fundraising efforts or volunteer hours.

Within the groups of our church, we support financially or with volunteer hours such community programs as: Elijah’s Pantry, Teen Challenge, Top of the Bottom Ministries, Association of Christian Athletes, Loaves & Fishes, Boys Scouts of America, Richard’s Memorial Thrift Store, Washburn Center, Ronald McDonald House, HER Foundation, Safe Harbor, local hospitals & nursing homes, United Methodist Girl’s home, Gulf Coast Kid’s House, Angel tree, free tax assistance through AARP, the Myrtle Grove Revitalization Group, the Neighborhood Watch, “Love” packages of literature to Christian missions and churches overseas, Prayer Shawls and more!! We have answered the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he spoke of love & light. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” We can only drive out darkness and hate in our community and society if we combat it with the love and light of Christ.   

For a few weeks now I have been asking our members for reports of what they do in the community as families or individuals. I just wanted you to know how you are impacting the community we live in. I received responses from approximately 54 people. According to their numbers, they spend about 760 hours a month in this community. The responses included school mentors such as Pre-K Reading Pals, being scout leaders, working with the Lion’s Club, participating in walks for Autism, Cancer and Alzheimer’s,  participating in Human Trafficking Summits, packing birthday boxes for kids at the Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen, donating requested items to Gulf Coast Kid’s House, working at thrift stores such as St. Vincent DePaul’s, Goodwill and Richard’s Memorial, Mission Fishin’, Re-imagine, Water Boys, participating in the Sheriff’s Department Civilian Academy, building wheelchair ramps, playing the piano at nursing homes and other organizations, singing with the Pensacola Opera and a barbershop quartet, serving the community through a Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star programs, serving food at Ronald McDonald house, working with the Genealogy Library and the Historical Society, tray favors to lift the spirits of patients at Baptist Hospital, fundraising to send patients to the Hadji Shriner Burn Hospital, making stuffed bears for first responders to distribute to children, backpacks for people going into Favor House, Christmas cards to NAS/military,  HAM radio work with the Emergency Response system, docents at the Naval Air Museum, serving on boards for the Art’s Council, Wesley Foundation Board and other agencies, volunteering with the Symphony, Saenger and museums downtown, First City Arts fundraisers & Guild members, Pensacola Museum of Art volunteers and Guild member, Master Gardeners and those who teach classes to the west side through our programs on Wednesday Nights. This year a couple in our church added an “egg” ministry. They boil 100 eggs every week and deliver them in bags with salt and pepper and a scripture to the Washburn Center. They started it to combat the isolated feelings over COVID! These are just the ones who responded. I am sure there are many others. As individuals, you have chosen to visit hospitals and nursing homes and members of the community who may be suffering. We also have a few young volunteers who do lawn care and other tasks for disabled or senior members of our community. One member even brings food to the fire houses once a month. Another packs bags with sandwiches, water and snacks and passes them out randomly to people and workers on the street. Some of you were interested in seeing what we are doing in our area to get inspiration for what you can do. Even if you cannot leave your home, you are not limited. Of course the number one thing you can do is to pray for others. You can also reach out to others with emotional support through letters, e-mails, social media and old fashioned phone calls. Thank you Hobey for your bad dad jokes everyday that keeps our families and community laughing in a difficult time.
I had someone say this past Sunday, that they felt bad that their volunteer work wasn’t like they were serving food to the homeless. This is how I feel about that. God calls us all to do different things. Some of us may be doing big events to feed people and some of you may be coaching little league. Anything that you do in this community helps our church become a more productive and accepted member of this community. So whether you cut lawns for free, feed the homeless or make tray favors at the hospital-you are making a difference!
So, my favorite MLK quote is “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I am so proud to say that we are doing many and mighty things for others at MGUMC!

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:14-18.