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Rosie Washington and Pastor Alfred Johnson

What a church St. Timothy Community

Contributed By:The 411 News

Enter to worship, depart to serve

A choir was practicing in the church sanctuary. An afternoon aerobics class was just winding up in the community center as Pastor Alfred Johnson walked into his church office to talk about the church and it's 90th year anniversary. Rosie Washington, the anniversary committee chair was scheduled to join him, but her meeting was running over. But Pastor Johnson had to get started since Wednesday evening’s Bible study would follow us and he needed time to prepare for that.

And the next day Thursday would also be busy. Another Bible study and after school, Pastor Johnson said, “The church will be packed with kids for choir practices, praise dance teams, Girl and Boy Scouts.”

Those activities take place in the Rev. Dr. Robert E. Lowery Ministry Center, named for the pastor who led the church for forty-nine years. The Lowery Ministry Center replaced the church’s banquet facility and opened in February 2015.

When the church started planning for the renovation, members were surveyed. “We discovered our main focus was our youth. This new building was designed to minister to youth,” Pastor Johnson said. “Before, we had a big fellowship hall to serve major events in the city. With the new construction, our banquet area is much smaller. We can still serve two hundred for a dinner.”

Multiple events can be held at the same time in the Lowery Center’s six rooms. “And the sounds don’t clash,” the pastor said. “We have a multipurpose area and space for a nursery.”

The church also makes the Lowery Center available to the community. So far, it has hosted meetings for the National Association of Mental Health, Mental Health America, and One Church One School.

St. Timothy’s mission has not changed since its beginning in 1926 as Gary Community Church, growing from a group of members at Gary’s First A.M.E. Pastor Johnson described a community church as serving all. “What a community church does – it focuses on ministering and living within the life of a community. We share God’s love in the community in which we live. It describes our service area. It is not limited to just a denomination.”

Outreach ministries at the church hosts a food pantry, back-to-school and winter coat giveaways for school age youth. The church sponsors an Angel Tree party each year, inviting specific needy families to come in to receive gifts for their children. At Christmas, they do a giveaway.

When Washington joined us, she picked up on the efforts of the church’s missionary groups that donate materials to schools and clothing to school children. Washington is a member of the Gary school board. “Right after we put new computers in all the buildings, our missionary group came back and bought thumb drives for all the teachers in those buildings.”

“On another level, we have servants in our community who are members of our church. So, they extend our ministry even further out into the community in different ways. They are state senators, state representatives, school board members, fire and police chiefs,” Pastor Johnson said.

Even with St. Timothy’s persistent service to the Gary community, Pastor Johnson doesn’t ignore that churches over the world are facing a decrease in participation. “We are experiencing the same thing. Our young adults in this city are not engaged in religious life. They do not see its value or they’re too engaged in other aspects of living. Maybe they’re developing their home life or just trying to exist.”

He also pointed to the young who graduate high school and go off to college. “The majority of them don’t come back because there are few places to make a living.”

“Our congregation, like all, is aging and even transitioning. We have more people coming, but many of our older members are dying,” Pastor Johnson said. In one way, he said, that is why this 90th anniversary is important. “We will celebrate it because some of us won’t be here for our 100th.”

The celebration began in January with each month’s services and programs focusing on the anniversary and will end in September with a banquet at the Genesis Center.

So, what would a church member say when asked “Who do you say St. Timothy is?” Washington answered, "I think they would say we are a family of believers.”

“Some would say,” Pastor Johnson chuckled, “‘Our pastor says St. Timothy is one of the greatest churches in the world.’”

Story Posted:06/01/2016

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