Pastor Will Scott of First Presbyterian Church of Dalton was asked about how his congregation connects with the larger Dalton community and how they have discovered the ways and places God is calling them to join in Holy work. Scott writes:
“I’m not sure any changes in our mission come from the wider Dalton community so much as the radical change in our congregation coming out of a split in 2012. With no existing programs or commitments, the question of how the church would serve the community developed organically through individual member initiative. For instance, one of our members coordinates literacy efforts with the local school system. Since school lunch programs continue to function in the Summer, our church member, in her professional capacity, drove a bus with books to different summer feeding sites. One of these sites was at a park not too far from the church, but in a neighborhood that is radically different from where most of us live. A few summers ago we started showing up at this site to help, offering to read these books with children. We would do this every couple of weeks through the summer.
Our missions team started funding book donations and kept a little free library at the park for a while. Last year we started showing up in the winter once a week, passing out grocery bag with soup and sandwich supplies and, of course, books. Since we started getting to know some of the children, we promoted these “soup and sandwich” days through the local elementary school. Since then, we felt like the school was a natural next step and so, with the help of our member who is connected there, we met with the principal and some assistants to ask how we could help. While there are lots of ideas floating out there, this year we settled on “adopting” the kindergarten class. Once a month, a group of 10-15 splits up to visit five kindergarten classes, read a couple of new books, and donate them to the class. We show up other times, too, like hosting their Valentine’s Day party this year. I’m not sure if we have a goal in all this so much as trying to be neighbors in our community the way that we can. I think it’s good for us to be in parts of town that many of us don’t know. And I think it’s great to see relationships forming there.
Next year I don’t know if we’ll adopt another class, pass out more food, or what. It all depends on what we feel called to do next and what we can commit to. Some new things we’re doing: we’re starting to work with a local apartment complex next to the park to help with the promotion of our “soup and sandwich” days. We’ve also talked to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank about some of their food distribution programs in the area and complied a partial list of what other churches do—the ones who receive supplies from the food bank. Also, as a church we’re trying to encourage more individual member involvement across the board, and whatever springs up from those conversations and new practices are likely to drive any new project as much as anything else.