Sometimes you go do a story about a church being dismantled board by board and come back with something much more.
Ok, this is my first story about a church being dismantled, recycled actually. But my point is this – Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church is doing more than gracefully razing its 123-year-old clapboard church.
Shiloh is branching out, forming a new nonprofit organization to expand its food distribution and community outreach programs.
“The goal of Manna Harvest is going to be to reach the community and the needs of the community and support this community in a way that we can go after poverty, that we can educate on poverty and that we can build support systems that will enable us to be better than we are today,” said the Rev. Dr. Terrence Moody. “I hope that by the work that we do, that people will see that this endeavor was never meant to be…to build a mega-church, but to build a sovereign and caring community that other communities could look at and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to do that to our community.’”
If you’ve wandered through Old Town Warrensburg (west of Main Street) on the first or third Saturday of the month, you’ve witnessed the great work of this church. Cars stretch around the corner of Main and Market streets some two, long city blocks to Second Street with families waiting in line for groceries.
That’s Shiloh’s Harvest of Hope Food Distribution program, also known as Manna Harvest. Between 200 and 300 families queue up each Saturday to receive free food. Not only that, Shiloh’s Nehemiah Feeding Project feeds up to 75 people every Monday and Tuesday restaurant-style inside the church’s fellowship hall. Shiloh also partners with Harvesters for its BackSnack program to ensure that kids on free or reduced lunches have something to eat over the weekend.
These are certainly faith-based programs, but they are open to people of all faiths (or no faith). They do not discriminate by race or the type of car you drive. You need help? They are there to help, not to proselytize, question your situation or stare you down.
“Most of all, I believe in hope,” Moody said. “And I believe in a country that has been prosperous all these years, and it’s prosperous because of their ability to look after one another, share with one another and when need be cry with one another and support one another during difficult times.”
Back to the old church. Shiloh has the $10,000 to dismantle the sweet old building. It does not have the funds to build a new facility – one with a walk-in cooler and freezer. That push will come shortly after its Manna Harvest program receives its nonprofit status. The idea is to put the church in the background so Manna Harvest can truly reach out with no strings attached. Volunteers can only do so much, and Moody said Manna Harvest is likely to require some permanent jobs once it’s up and running.
Eventually, Moody said he’d like to see the program expand to a 20-acre tract somewhere where all of the city’s and county’s support resources could be better leveraged under one roof.
In the meantime, the floorboards from the old sanctuary were sold to a church in Kansas City. Moody said other churches will benefit from the recycled lumber.
I remember nine years ago when Shiloh tore down the old Anderson House, the church parsonage, at 202 N. Main St. to make way for the new church at 212 N. Main St. It was the oldest house in town at the time, and a history of Shiloh that Moody provided notes that the parsonage was purchased and remodeled in 1889 – the year the original church was built.
Tearing down that old house in 2003 to build a large metal building for a new church in 2005 was a little controversial at the time. But it was necessary to move forward, and it turned out OK. Shiloh is thriving, and their outreach programs are extremely popular.
So, here they are tearing down another old building in Old Town. Well, let’s face it. There’s no denying the old building needed many thousands of dollars of work. The electrical system was unsafe and the plumbing was shot. And the bathrooms were sizeable for a home, not a public facility.
Moody said the old church was significantly altered some time ago, apparently foiling any chances of being listed in the National Register. Dismantling the building and reusing the materials elsewhere is a graceful way to close the final chapter for the old church.
But it also marks a new beginning. That new beginning requires some tough choices that are practical and rational. As cliché as it sounds, Shiloh has grand plans to help those who are hurting. And there are clearly plenty of folks around who are.
“We said (the new church) would be a facility that would minister to the community and we would make sure that it wasn’t about having church but it was about how we would impact families and how we would impact this community,” Moody said. “We’ve looked to make sure that we are sensitive to needs, not just homeless (needs), not just individuals without work, but we want to focus on helping people not get homeless, helping people not go upside down.”
For more information, visit smbctoday.org or call 660-747-5685. Financial donations to the church food programs can be sent to 212 N. Main St., Warrensburg, MO 64093.