Hope Community Church reaches out to diverse crowd in Montgomery’s multihousing areascomment (0)
March 23, 2006
By Alicia Morris-Atcheson
"Whether a person is clean or dirty, the same love is shown at Hope Community Church.”
At least that’s what Cathy Hall, who is active in the ministry there, said of the Montgomery church, adding that the level of respect given to each individual in the congregation is what keeps them coming back.
It was that respect Neal Hughes sought to take to Montgomery’s inner city when he left the pastorate of McGehee Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, in Montgomery Baptist Association to minister to residents in the city’s multihousing areas.
He wanted to bring hope to the projects — thus Project Hope began as a ministry geared to reach those who weren’t connecting with formal churches. Through a variety of means, Project Hope made contact with people in apartments and housing complexes.
The first area Hughes and his assembled group of volunteers entered was Smiley Court housing project. They began by simply walking through the area and praying. After a short period of time, they began to meet residents, which led to weekly Bible stories with children and teenagers. After a few years, they saw five professions of faith and even held a tent revival in the area.
Members of the team also visited Cleveland Court housing project. Because there were not as many children in the area, team members would go door to door to give five-minute sermons when someone answered the door.
Over the past five years, all of this slowly evolved into the establishment of Hope Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation and member of the Montgomery Baptist Association.
In May 2005, Hughes left to devote his time to launching the Project Hope ministry across North America with the North American Mission Board. He currently serves as a national church-planting missionary for multihousing and is working on 20 missionary labs across the country.
Pat Galloway, a member of the volunteer group who had experience as a church planter in New England, assumed the pastorate of the multiracial congregation in December 2005.
Hall was asked to take over Project Hope’s community ministries outreach as development director in Montgomery. This transition established two clearly defined ministries: Hope Community Church and Project Hope.
For its first four years, the congregation of Hope Community Church met in the Caring Center of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, in Montgomery Association. In November 2005, an anonymous donor gave the congregation use of an empty Wal-Mart on Southern Boulevard, where it currently holds Sunday services.
Galloway said he and co-pastor Mack Crum are excited about having the large amount of space at the Wal-Mart building. He added that being in such a visible location where so many have not been reached by traditional churches is an asset to the ministry of the congregation — reaching out to the unchurched.
“Through years of going out into the community, our core group of volunteers has learned that these unchurched individuals are not that different,” Galloway said. “By spending time with them, they are not shocked by the problems they present or the environment they may be living in, and they’re coming out able to deal with any situation and to just show the love of Christ.”
The demographic of the congregation is approximately half Caucasian and half black. Galloway said the racial differences do not affect how each individual is treated at Hope Community Church.
“The people we are connecting with are looking for someone that cares, and by us showing genuine concern, they’re willing to listen and eager to see changes in their own life,” he said. “By presenting the gospel and helping them begin to grow as new believers, we’re seeing definite progress.”
Galloway said the 45-member, nontraditional congregation meets in nontraditional ways as well. The group meets at 2 p.m. each Sunday for prayer and heads out into the community by 4 p.m. Sunday School starts at 5 p.m., followed by worship at 6. They hold prayer meeting on Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
“We’ve seen really good signs of growth. We’ve had 28 visitors since the first of the year. We have six awaiting baptism, added two additional adult Sunday School classes and now have children’s church services,” Galloway said.
As a new church plant, the first ever created by Project Hope, the congregation does not have funds readily available to equip its new sanctuary. But Galloway said his congregation has been blessed with assistance from many churches in the area.
Church of Living Water, Prattville, donated 100 chairs; First Baptist Church, Prattville, donated 60 children’s chairs; Heritage Baptist Church, Montgomery, donated six portable walls; First, Montgomery, provides a van and driver on Sundays; and Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Montgomery, also provides a van for their Sunday service.
Galloway said Ridgecrest Baptist also agreed to partner with the congregation in sharing some of its utility expenses and providing volunteers to begin the church’s furniture and food-pantry ministry.
While the donations have been given generously, he said the congregation still needs some additional assistance.
“Our big desire in the coming weeks is to make contact with churches in the area to locate mature believers who would volunteer to mentor these new believers,” Galloway said. “It’s exciting that we have people who want to be mentored.”
He said the congregation’s second need is help with construction.
“We’re in an 18,000-square-foot building with no walls, which is good because it gives us plenty of room. But we need to build a nice children’s area and nursery area and move the children out of the storage room. We’d like to slowly build classrooms. We need 8-foot 2-by-4s and someone with a hammer and nail who knows how to use it,” Galloway said.
Hall said Project Hope continues to minister alongside Hope Community Church in the community and that the ministry’s core group of volunteers “has a heart for the lost in Montgomery.” She said if the number of contacts grows in other multihousing areas, then Project Hope would consider planting an additional church in Montgomery.
“We train Hope missionaries to build relationships with area residents. Once those individuals accept Christ, we refer them to Hope Community Church. These two ministries really work hand in hand. We’re also partnering with the church in their food pantry, clothes closet and furniture ministry,” Hall said.
She said she witnessed a moment at Hope Community Church recently that reminded her what this ministry is all about. “We had circled up to pray, and I saw a homeless man holding hands with a college professor. These folks aren’t used to being shown respect but here, it happens. To me, it was just a glimpse of heaven.”
For more information on Hope Community Church and how you can help, visit www.seek-hope.org. For more information on Project Hope, visit www.community-of-hope.org.