Beyond our regular 10:15 worship, we gather and serve in the joy of becoming God’s Beloved Community, a loving multicultural and multilingual people. Our ministries include…
Children and Youth Ministries
Although the pandemic has certainly been disruptive to families’ attendance and children’s ministries, West Charleston continues to cherish our children as a vital part of our life together!
Children are recognized with a simple prayer or blessing each Sunday in worship. Preschool and elementary-age children are welcome to remain with their parents for the entire worship or leave during sermon time to join in crafts or other children’s activities. (There is also a nursery with several cribs available for infants.)
We also regularly send youth groups to our denominational National Youth Conference and National Junior High Conference. Locally, our youth enjoy participating in our District’s Creative Arts Camp. We appreciate our youth taking part in diverse ways: with gifts of leadership, music, translation, providing sermon topics, and service.
Finally, as our youth graduate and head to college as young adults, we’re thankful to be able to offer scholarships through the Studebaker Scholarship fund to our active attendees to support ongoing education.
Spiritual Formation Opportunities
Like many congregations, West Charleston is still changing and adapting since the pandemic derailed any sense of “the old normal” before the pandemic. However, we have kept up a range of opportunities for fellowship and spiritual formation, and are in the process of adding and experimenting with more!
- On Monday mornings, the Quilters meet in the church from around 9 AM to 11:30 AM. This is ostensibly to make the blankets, prayer shawls, and other items that are donated to a variety of causes, but it’s also just a good excuse to get together! The group has tended to be composed of senior women, but they have permitted a millennial male pastor to join too… 🙂
- Tuesday evenings at 7:00 PM, a book study group meets on the church’s Zoom, using the same link as for joining worship. This group has been meeting during the school year since late summer 2020, beginning with books such as The Color of Compromise, investigating the church’s role in society’s conversations on race in the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Recently, the group has read fiction in Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Do the Work! An Antiracist Activity Book by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz, in addition to special topics led by participants.
- On Wednesday mornings, a “Sunday School” group meets at 11:00 AM for Bible study following the Church of the Brethren’s quarterly curriculum. This group also meets using the same Zoom link as worship. Closed Captioning, available during worship, is made use of here also for accessibility.
Immigrant and Refugee Accompaniment
Spanish and Swahili speaking individuals and families are an integral part of the West Charleston family of faith. From these meaningful relationships, a growing network of local and international connections has led to a ministry of accompaniment and support for immigrants and refugees.
The congregation has assisted with basic practical needs of families moving into the community. Pastors and church members also accompany persons by providing transportation and going with them to appointments as needed. Additional ways of offering support include encouragement through the complex legal process as needed, serving as translators, and providing spiritual support. Pastor Irv traveled to Guatemala to support one member in his application process for residency. This member is now a US citizen.
The congregation has also arranged to provide some financial support for the challenging legal process of seeking asylum and residency. For this, a legal aid fund has been established by the congregation and generous donations from members and persons outside the congregation have made significant assistance possible. Grants given from this fund help persons with connections to the church meet the high costs of pursuing permanent status.
Emotional and spiritual support through multilingual worship and the loving social network of friends made in the congregation provide an important foundation of support and encouragement. The congregation is committed to being a sanctuary community for immigrants and refugees. Without them, the congregation would not be the beautiful community it has become!show less
One unique ministry over the past several years began organically after one of our member families had a chance to return and visit the remote region of Guatemala where their relatives still lived. During that visit, they found that due to climate change, it had become impossible to control “la roya” (“the rust,” a fungus) that blights coffee. Therefore, several remote villages where most families depended on income from working in coffee plantations were suffering extreme poverty as the plantations shut down.
Seeking out a partnership with a local community development worker, Juan Pablo Morales Miguel, plans were made in coordination with local leaders. In the year 2020, some land was rented in the most remote areas for growing corn. Beyond the reach of cars, this land was affordable at a rate such that one year’s investment in the rental, seed money, and tools allowed some 30 large families in Estrella del Norte to then renew the land rental, re-plant, and continue independently for the future.
Now, in 2021, another 30-some families in Tochosh and Nueva Villa are raising pigs in the limited areas that they have adjacent to their own homes. If all goes well, this project will also transition into being completely self-sustaining, providing food security and some economic opportunity.
We are so grateful for the support of Rock Run Church of the Brethren, in Northern Indiana, who helped raise about a third of the funds used in these projects, and for another significant portion that was a grant from the Global Mission Office of the Church of the Brethren, alongside contributions from West Charleston’s own members.
This October (2021), we will sponsor a flight for Juan Pablo to come visit us in person, and hear from him not only about our small project, but broader themes of the work: all the factors that create such hardship in Central America, the reasons so many choose to migrate, and what that migration does to the communities that people are leaving.show less