By Jake Russell
JACKSONVILLE -- Depending on how one looks at it, it’s the same services in a different place or an old church with new life.
The administrative council of Grace UMC made the decision for The Salvation Army to run its services out of the church during construction of a new citadel, said the Rev. Mike Fender, pastor of Grace UMC.
The moving date will depend on the success of The Salvation Army’s capital fund drive. The agency will stay at the church as long as it takes to construct the citadel.
Between church, community and social services programs, The Salvation Army has around 32 different programs on a weekly basis, Capt. Amos Shiels said. The Salvation Army will use three classrooms at the north end of Grace Methodist Church, a worship space and will have open access to the kitchen and fellowship hall.
“We want to allow them to keep their ministry up and going,” Fender said. “We’re doing what we’ve been training to do, and that is serve the people of God.”
In a matter of a month, The Salvation Army has received $7,736 toward its campaign fund to build a new citadel and thrift store. Freedom Communications, the Journal-Courier’s parent company, agreed to match up to $10,000 in publicly donated funds in late May — an amount The Salvation Army hopes to accrue by July 4, although the campaign lasts through Aug. 13.
“We have some other donations coming on that may put us over the top of the match, which is great to hear,” Shiels said.
The Salvation Army is at more than half of its $5 million goal to build the new facility and establish an endowment fund.
The space Grace Methodist Church allotted will allow The Salvation Army to not only survive but to thrive, because it is more space than is now available at The Salvation Army’s facilities.
“One of the neat things I find in this partnership is the statement that it makes to us not just as an agency but as a fellow church that says we’re not afraid of you doing ministry in our building,” Shiels said. “Otherwise, we shut our doors. If we don’t have a place to live during construction, our services are done.”
Some church members have helped cook and serve for the agency and one sits on the board so the seed had already been planted when Shiels mentioned to Fender at a Kiwanis meeting that The Salvation Army would be looking for a temporary home.
“I looked at him and said ‘you’ve got one,’” Fender said. “Maybe that was jumping the gun in one sense, but we cannot lose the services of The Salvation Army in Jacksonville. It seemed like a natural thing to do. You’ve already been here, people know Grace church and we’re centrally located, so I told captain Amos I’d start working on that.”
Church trustees brought the idea forward and church officials met with Shiels to determine his group’s needs. A few minor details have yet to be worked out.
“I just want the community to experience Grace church and I want Grace church to experience the community even more,” Fender said. “It’s important to not only talk your witness, but also to walk your witness. This is a way we can reach out to the community and help do a very unique ministry to someone who does a very unique ministry.”