1 Corinthians 12:4-7: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

It has been my privilege this past fall to pursue a project seeking ways our congregation, and the faith community as a whole, can more powerfully energize the Spartanburg community for the common good. I have spent much of these last six months listening to individuals and groups, asking over 200 community members and leaders to share their ideas on how we can strengthen our life together.

Almost every person has spoken about healing our racial divisions and helping our fellow citizens caught in poverty. The unanimity with which people have spoken about these concerns resonates like a calling to us all. We know what our challenges are.

But though there is broad consensus that these issues must be more deeply addressed, many of us are at a loss of what more to do. Great energy is already expended on financial assistance, education, health care, and community building—but what would push us further, to change these problems and transform us as a whole people?

Paul offers us a way. He says that when we have the courage to share our gifts (1 Cor. 12:15) and the humility to receive the gifts of others (1 Cor. 12:21), a community of love and power steps forward (1 Cor. 12:26). This is no less than a vision of God, the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

That's a nice idea, but what do we do with it?

As I have listened to folks, again and again, speak about race and poverty over these past months, a strange thing as happened. Four people connected with our congregation have stepped forward, independent of any prompting, wanting to deal with these issues:

  • Jimmy Edwards began Transparent Men with his friend Dr. Ben Snoddy, a monthly breakfast gathering for men to know one another across our racial divide (https://sparklecitytransparentmen.wordpress.com/)
  • Marlanda Dekine began hosting a discussion group on race the first Monday of every month in our Chapel, to which people from 5 cities across SC come (http://www.spokenwordspartanburg.com/poetry--conve...)
  • Gloria Close initiated the CAST program, supporting children and their families who live in motels throughout our city. This program now reaches over 60 people, and has helped one family exit their motel, move into an apartment, and stabilize jobs for both parents.
  • Starting this past November, Jerry Kiehl leads several veterans organizations to host a meal for homeless citizens the second Tuesday of every month in the Arthur Center. Over 30 people are served and given basic supplies each month.

These leaders saw a need, felt a passion, and have used their gifts to act. They were called and they answered. Each of these programs is about encountering and knowing those different from us, to care for them and to learn from them. All four are about forming relationships. All four are about the giving our gifts and receiving of gifts of others. And our congregation has stepped forward to support them. Through them, we are answering the call to address race and poverty.

This is a small but direct beginning. Who knows what will happen now?

Give your gift. Receive the gift of others. See what the Spirit will do.

About the Contributor

Scott Neely serves as Pastoral Executive at First Presbyterian Church. You can read more about the Project for Community Transformation at http://neelyprojects.com/category/project-for-community-transformation/.