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Pastors extending a hand

Outreach programs offer help beyond church to those with personal needs

POSTED: January 7, 2012 1:00 a.m.
BRANDEE A. THOMAS/The Times

The Rev. Wendy Cordova of Gainesville First United Methodist Church will be leading a six-week discussion group on the book, "My Single Mom Life," written by Angela Thomas. Cordova says the book helped her in her role as a single parent after her divorce and she's hoping it will help other moms.

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Instead of focusing strictly on Sunday morning sermons, more worship leaders are reaching out to the community to help those around them improve their overall lives.

The Rev. Wendy Cordova never expected to be a single parent, but after her divorce, that's the role she found herself in. She's turning her new journey into an opportunity to help other single mothers in the area with a uniquely themed book club.

"Being a single parent wasn't something I'd really thought about preparing for. Everything becomes your responsibility. It's not just the parenting, everything - budgets, maintaining a household - rests on your shoulders," said Cordova, a pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church.

"I read a book, ‘My Single Mom Life,' and it was extremely helpful to me in the early part of my journey into this new way of life. As I was reading it, I had a vision of women sitting around, sharing their thoughts and being a support system for one another."

Cordova decided to turn that vision into a reality with a six-week discussion and support group. The Saturday morning sessions will begin Jan. 21 and include free child care.

"What I appreciate about this book is that it takes a positive spin on it. It doesn't sugarcoat anything, but it is very positive," Cordova said. "It's a great book for moms who are trying to balance it all and do it all.

"We really want to invite the whole community to participate. I'm very aware that there are a lot of single moms out there who may not have a church home, but they still need support."

Many churches, including Redwine United Methodist Church, are establishing soup kitchens and thrift stores to help struggling families in their communities meet their basic needs. Redwine's thrift store will open next month at the church, 3285 Poplar Springs Road in Gainesville.

Sometimes, reaching out to the community means pulling folks in for service. To accomplish this task, the Rev. Ben Haupt of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church has planned a special, "Our New Start for the New Year Sunday" program.

Sunday's program is set for 8:30 to 10:45 a.m. and will include the first installation of a pop-culture referenced sermon series.

"I like to read old books and I came across one that was written by an old German pastor who basically describes the scriptures in terms of God being on a mission to save humanity," Haupt said. "As I was reading that and saw a commercial about the new ‘Mission Impossible' movie, I thought that would be a perfect combination."

The series is designed to relay biblical teachings in a format that's easily accessible to everyone, even attendees who may have been on an extended hiatus from church.

Just like the lead character in "Mission Impossible" is given an assignment before the movie's action commences, the same could be said for Jesus, Haupt says.

"The baptism of Jesus is kind of where God the Father gives Jesus his assignment," Haupt said. "After the baptism, Jesus begins his mission."

Sunday's program will include skits designed to encourage adults to participate in the small group sessions for singles, couples and families, like Sunday School. Gordy the puppet, who begins children's Sunday School hour every week, will drop in.

Reaching out to the community, holding programs to draw in new visitors and encouraging participation in small groups is about achieving one, important goal, Haupt says.

"The main reason we exist is to share the good news of Jesus with everybody," Haupt said.

"We really believe that Jesus went on a mission to save humanity, now we have the great joy of telling people about the great rescue mission of Jesus."



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