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3 area places of faith are 1 in building community

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    Search-Lite meets for its 11:30 a.m Sunday services at First Presbyterian’s chapel.

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    Pastor David Kaiser scoops up brothers Hunter, 4, and Aiden Vances, 7, as they arrive at the new location for Mosaic Ministries.

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    Pastor Lee Williams.

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    Pastor Clint Tolbert gives the welcome during a service at the First Presbyterian Church of Maumee.

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Pastor David Kaiser scoops up brothers Hunter, 4, and Aiden Vances, 7, as they arrive at the new location for Mosaic Ministries.

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First Presbyterian Church in Maumee reaches outside the congregation’s doors at 200 E. Broadway to build community.

“We want to be the church family engaging each person to enrich our community through Jesus,” said First Presbyterian’s pastor, the Rev. Clint Tolbert. “Our measure for success is not our Sunday morning numbers, attendance numbers ... but engaging the community around us to share in this mission in whatever form it takes.”

Jack Hemple, a church elder, said that First Presbyterian is five years away from its 200th anniversary. It is intentional about being in the community, he said, and the church turned to a consultant — Kevin Ford, a nephew of Billy Graham — to get help with that.

“We’re going to be calling [it] the 12:31 initiatives, from Mark 12:31, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’” he said.

The church developed three areas for focus: family support, mentoring, and music. Members are finding ways to include those areas in their outreach, working with schools as well as with two other religious organizations: Mosaic Ministries and Search-Lite Community Church.

Mosaic Ministries, renamed from Western Avenue Ministries, is just finishing its move into the former Head Start/St. James School building at 860 Orchard St. that it bought in May with a $200,000 check that First Presbyterian wrote to the title company. Search-Lite Community Church, which accepted an invitation to take residence in First Presbyterian’s chapel in November, is a primarily African-American congregation; most of First Presbyterian’s worshippers are white.

On Sunday during First Presbyterian’s 9 a.m. traditional and 10:30 a.m. contemporary services, attendees will hear an update on Mosaic and its new building from Mosaic’s director, the Rev. David Kaiser. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Mosaic will hold a reception and tour of its building for the Presbyterians.

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Pastor Lee Williams.

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At 11:30 a.m., Search-Lite will have its regular service in the First Presbyterian chapel, with senior pastor the Rev. Lee Williams preaching on “A New Beginning/The Summer of Hope.”

“I’ve been thinking theologically about why are we doing this [outreach into the community],” Pastor Tolbert said. “It’s the incarnation. God takes on flesh in order to reach us, and waits for us to come to him. In a sense we’re trying to do the same thing; we’re going to people where they are with whatever avenues can get us there, in order to help them understand by deed as much as by word that they’re truly loved. That’s our goal.”

Mosaic is “totally supported by suburban churches” and gets about 200 volunteers a month from 16 congregations, Pastor Kaiser said. The new location “gives us the opportunity to continue to serve people in South Toledo in a womb-to-career pipeline,” including restoring some services for children that were moved out of the community when Head Start left.

First Presbyterian has been involved with Mosaic since it was Western, before the building purchase. It has provided groceries to families for holidays, shared the Presbyterian church’s Vacation Bible School with children from Mosaic, and had church members teach in programs for parenting and adolescent confidence. “It’s kind of a comprehensive partnership we have with them,” Pastor Tolbert said.

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Pastor Clint Tolbert gives the welcome during a service at the First Presbyterian Church of Maumee.

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Pastors Tolbert and Williams formed a friendship through the Maumee Churches United group, which Pastor Tolbert leads. “We started talking about the racial barriers that in many of the other aspects of life seem to be improving, but Martin Luther King, Jr., said 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America, and how it's just not right. We started talking about what could we do to combat that. …

“I said to Lee, ‘What would it look like if you planted your church within our building? You would be distinctly your own but, because of the proximity we have together, we could be very intentional to integrate the members of both congregations around the doughnut table downstairs or around a special mission project, Christian education, those types of things.’”

“We’re just a little beyond the lip service because we’re actually doing it,” Pastor Williams said. “With two different churches, two different cultures, there always are some cultural challenges, but I think we've worked through those fairly well.”

He said that Search-Lite is more “celebratory” in worship, and “they say they can hear us down at the end of the hall.”

But, he said, “People have been receptive [to the arrangement]. We know there’s differences. We don’t try to change them, they don’t try to change us, and we try to meet each other in the kingdom building.”

“Five years out from our 200th, what a great enough time that we know we can get some of these things rolling,” Mr. Hemple said.

“The Presbyterian Church historically has always lifted up ecumenical relationships as one of our primary attributes or characteristics,” Pastor Tolbert said. “I think [the work First Presbyterian is doing] falls right in that vein of the Presbyterian Church, forever, to be a leader in a community that draws people together for the common good.”

As its year 200 draws near, First Presbyterian is making every effort to show its neighborly love.

Contact TK Barger at: tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.

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