Fairview UMC: A growing urban church By Blenda Smith
n urban church in a “changing” neighborhood— how many local churches in Upper New York Conference would fit that description? Fairview UMC in Binghamton, NY, is just that. We are also a growing church with baptisms, confirmations, and other new members in the last six to seven years. We don’t measure the strength of our beloved community with metrics. Rather, we have come to see so many opportunities to reach out to our neighbors with God’s love. We are not simply situated in the neighborhood; we are part of our neighborhood. We are in ministry with (not to) our local neighbors. That’s one secret to our congregational vitality and growth. People joining the church want to be part of something meaningful and beyond our building and Sunday morning services. Welcoming diverse community members of various races and socioeconomic levels is an important “culture” for our church members. We share our building with a Haitian congregation. Our street corner is a hub for meeting people in the neighborhood. We give prayers/ashes on Ash Wednesdays, hot soup on cold winter days (and at
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the laundromat as well), popsicles to school children as they walk home on the last day of school and again in September with invitations to Sunday School, and we share “Hear a Story – Take a Story” for children’s summer fun with free books to take home. Soon, we will offer an outside free book lending library. These are some ways we call out to the community that we have open hearts, open minds, and open doors.
Hot soup on the corner at Fairview UMC.
Photos courtesy of Blenda Smith