Why We Give: Transforming through relationship
“Our idea of evangelism is to love someone until they ask you why, and only then mention Jesus’ name,” says Pastor Mike Albro of Centennial Memorial UMC, Frederick, quietly but firmly, as he speaks about the church’s ministries.
In partnership with several area churches, the congregation has been a foundation for providing critical services and showing that unconditional love to various communities in downtown Frederick, including the homeless and recovering communities. Since 2002, both the number of persons and the types of programs has been growing.
Albro, who worked at the Frederick Rescue Mission for 11 years before coming to Centennial, guides an array of ministries to those suffering from poverty and addiction. Four years ago, the church launched a Saturday evening service complete with a meal cooked by a professional sous chef who had recently come to Christ; 150-200 people now receive a meal every Wednesday and Saturday night.
Additionally, the church offers a variety of recovery programs, including Celebrate Recovery; small study groups on the 12 steps; an open share evening with praise, worship and teaching; and sponsors for all those in the recovery process. All these ministries, says Albro, are part of the church’s intentional focus on radical, genuine hospitality and evangelism. “We often talk about welcome, but our posturing frequently says differently; here, we’re trying to line up our welcome with our posturing.”
As these ministries grow, the church is also finding new opportunities to reach out in the name of Christ. The congregation has produced two local pastors, one certified Christian counselor, and one Stephen Ministry from its midst, and will soon be launching a children’s ministry.
The primary focus, however, remains on the poor, particularly those impacted by generational poverty. Albro is well aware that the task before them will take time and effort. “We have to roll up our sleeves – this can take a long time, but we are committed to being with them until they heal or die. The pain of poverty is not that you’re poor, but that no one wants you.”
The work truly begins, Albro believes, when one moves beyond material assistance to building relationships, to “bending the elbow and asking about their story. When they finally tell the truth about where they really hurt, that’s where ministry starts.”
For more information, visit the church’s website.