Centerville church seeks to make difference beyond its walls

Members of Centerville’s Southminster Church conducted “The Church Has Left the Building” last week. Several members served A cookout lunch to residents of the Chevy Chase Apartments. CONTRIBUTED

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Members of Centerville’s Southminster Church conducted “The Church Has Left the Building” last week. Several members served A cookout lunch to residents of the Chevy Chase Apartments. CONTRIBUTED

Growing a church and influencing a community are not mutually exclusive, according to Nancy Birdsong, the pastor/head of staff of the Southminster Presbyterian Church in Centerville.

She recently challenged the members of her congregation to do works of service that will have a positive effect on area residents who are in need.

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The church last weekend had its “The Church Has Left the Building” program in which the motto was “Don’t go to church. Be the church.”

“Instead of having a worship service, our service was our worship,” Birdsong said. “We spent the day worshipping God by fanning out around the community to do works of service. One project is a global outreach called Little Dresses for Africa.”

“My thought was that if other churches saw what we were doing, it might inspire them to do something similar,” she said.

Little Dresses for Africa was founded in 2008 by Rachel O’Neill. The goal of the Michigan-based nonprofit is to provide relief to vulnerable children throughout Africa and beyond. Volunteers join together to make little dresses out of pillow cases or other simple patterns in order to show girls that they are worthy.

Jean Clements, leader of the church team designed to help the nonprofit, said volunteers made dresses and members took material home to make more.

“We had 15 volunteers working on little cotton sun dresses to be sent to Africa,” Clements said. “We have 40 completed, and another 20 went home with people to be finished there.”

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Sharon Boyko, leader of the church team working with the House of Bread, a Dayton nonprofit that endeavors to provide meals for those in need, said weekend volunteers served more than 200 people.

“Our group of 10, ranging in age from 16 to 70-something, lent our helping hands to the dedicated and terrific people who daily serve at the House of Bread,” she said.

Gretchen Cleaves chaired the mission team that organized the church’s community project and was in charge of the team that made 24 large and 24 small casseroles for the Gateway Shelters of St. Vincent de Paul.

“We were very pleased with the 90-plus members who were involved and the many projects completed. It was exciting to see everyone working in service to others,” Cleaves said.

Kevin Dickson was the leader of a cookout that the church did in conjunction with the FISH Southeast Food Pantry. The pantry, which is housed at Southminster but is a combined effort of volunteers, contributions and funds from multiple churches, paid for the food. The cookout was held at the Chevy Chase Apartment Complex in Centerville.

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“The weather wasn’t great, but this was a very good project to help people in the community and we hope to see it continue,” Dickson said.

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