When the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, was elected Stated Clerk of the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of his first acts was to create the Hands and Feet initiative. The idea was to work with organizations in the cities that would host the next General Assembly to address community needs such as hunger and poverty.
For the past year, the focus has been in Baltimore, host of the 224th General Assembly (2020), with special emphasis on The Center, a mission initiative of the Presbytery of Baltimore. The nonprofit organization hosts mission teams from across the country to engage in community services with other churches and nonprofits in the Baltimore area.
As part of the church’s commitment to The Center, two fellowships were established in 2018. Melva Lowry and Olivia Thomas have been working with Center staff to expand programs and work with visiting churches.
“The Hands and Feet initiative helped us branch beyond locations we had worked with and do more of that capacity building,” said McKenna Lewellen, The Center’s program coordinator. “Because our fellows have been here, we’ve reached out to rural communities and met with local leaders on what they would do with mission groups from out of town. Some congregations have responded positively.”
Lewellyn says participation in The Center projects and activities has grown steadily over the past eight years, with just under 30 participants when it began in 2012. By 2015, as many as 250 people participated in the programs. This year, nearly 430 participants have taken part.