What was THAT all about?

By August 30, 2019

When protesters arrived on the steps of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth last Sunday, they really had no idea of all we do to do live out our mission and commitment to “Love God, Serve People, and Transform Lives,” especially in the areas of homelessness and domestic violence.

“Last Sunday we began our morning as we usually do, with a breakfast that serves the homeless population, and in our worship services we all remembered Vanessa Mayfield and the tragedy that happened to her as a result of domestic violence,” relates Dr. Tim Bruster, Senior Pastor.

Then the protesters began to arrive. Wielding signs, shouting, chanting, and making accusations that revealed a complete lack of understanding of truth, these Dallas-based protesters were not our local homeless community, and they clearly didn’t know anything about our church or its ministries.

“What happened to Vanessa was a tragedy, pure and simple,” Dr. Bruster continues. “Understandably there was a lot of hurt and anger over what happened to her. It’s also important to remember that Vanessa was also part of our community and a frequent participant in the ministries of our church. Our hearts go out to Vanessa’s friends and family and all who are victimized by domestic violence.”

“I think it’s important now to remember and honor the tireless dedication of our faith community to helping those in need, and especially those who are victimized by domestic violence,” Dr. Bruster adds. To recap and celebrate these ministries let’s take a moment now to reflect on the work of our First Street Methodist Mission and Methodist Justice Ministry.

  • First Street Methodist Mission, begun in 1950 and now directed by Linda Murphy and assistant director, Bernie Scheffler, is staffed by an all-volunteer workforce of more than 200 church members and other community volunteers who worked 15,727 Volunteer Hours this past year to serve a wide variety of programs and services.
  • Charme Robarts, Community Advocate, whose full-time job is to work with our homeless community to help them find housing and the services they need, works closely with the Mission to put into action our church’s long and deep commitment to welcoming and helping our neighbors who are homeless
  • Methodist Justice Ministry (MJM), founded in 2006 and led by Rev. Brooks Harrington, a trial lawyer, former federal prosecutor, and ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, has provided free legal protection, counseling, and help toward a loving, stable home environment for the past 13 years to more than 2,000 women and children who have experienced the trauma of domestic violence in our community
  • DiscipleChurch Breakfast, staffed by 20 volunteers each week, hosts, on average, between 50 and 60 people each week, 52 weeks a year for a hot, home-cooked breakfast, prepared and served along with a brief message from Rev. Brooks Harrington, along with an opportunity for communion. “As far as I know we are the only downtown church that actively invites its homeless neighbors into its church buildings every Sunday,” Brooks observes. Following the Breakfast, this unique and close-knit worshipping community rooted in communion and social justice enjoys a full worship service together in Leonard Memorial Chapel.

In addition to these broader facts, take a look at the contents of this “First Church by the Numbers” fact sheet we provided to the media in rebuttal of the protesters’ claims of our indifference to the plight of people who are homeless, including and especially Vanessa Mayfield.

For hungry families and individuals, last year we provided:

26,790 Individual Grocery Visits

11,503 Sack Lunches

2,860 Hot home-cooked Sunday mornings breakfasts

88,673 Bottles of Formula

10,007 Food 4 Kids Backpacks

800 Thanksgiving Baskets

For those in need of clothing and personal care:

4,283 Clothing & Hygiene Kits

383 Winter Coats

422 Loads of Laundry

For those trying to get back on their feet:

204 Career Closet Visits to help gain or maintain employment

426 Home Start-up Kits

$16,481 in grants of Emergency Financial Assistance

For those who need shelter during the hottest and coldest times of the year:

294 stays at Room in the Inn

Since its founding in 2006 the Methodist Justice Ministry has provided free legal assistance to more than 2000 victims of domestic violence. Last year alone, MJM provided legal protection and new hope for:

480 women and children with free legal counsel and advice and

162 separate litigations involving family violence and/or child abuse.

In monetary terms, in 2018 alone MJM’s work amounted to contributions of:

$39,486 to serve court documents, obtain medical records, DNA testing, fees, and citation by publication $18,263 in filing fees, court costs, translation services, certified copies, and other court related costs

$28,463 in professional counseling service fees for clients and families;

$38,135 in emergency financial assistance grants to help clients escape dangerous and abusive situations

Above and beyond providing these services, both the First Street Methodist Mission and Methodist Justice Ministry surround their clients with love, support, friendship, encouragement, and prayer. “To me, the most unjust and upsetting thing about the appearances of these protesters on our campus last Sunday was not the things they said or the signs they waved or the ridiculous accusations they hurled,” says Dr. Bruster. “It was the indifference they extended to this faith community who was also grieving Vanessa’s death personally and deeply. For reasons that are still unclear, they showed up to demonstrate nothing more than their sheer ignorance of who we are, what we have tried to do to help Vanessa and so many more like her, and the genuine depth of our grief.”


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