For many people, Saturday mornings are sacred. After a long week of work or school, Saturday mornings are a chance to sleep in late, watch cartoons, and eat cereal in bed. This is an unwritten rule everywhere in America, right? What could possibly be better than messy hair, Captain Crunch, and binge watching your favorite tv show on Saturday mornings?
For the members of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, located at 1465 Burton Avenue in Macon, Georgia, there is something better: community service.
About two streets over from New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, at 1463 Cardinal Place, there is a small green house with white awnings and a white door. The yard is well-manicured and the shrubs in the front are always nicely trimmed. There is a small sign that reads “Mary E. Thomas House.”
During the late 1980’s, a member of New Hope by the name of Mary E. Thomas cared for all people, and so she started a clothing ministry out of her home. Her mission and goal was to clothe and feed those less fortunate in the community.
Her ministry moved to Elm Street at one point, before finding its present permanent location, which is at Cardinal Place in Macon. The house was donated to the church by a member of the community who moved out of state. For New Hope, the house on Cardinal Place could not have come at a better time for their growing church.
The Mary E. Thomas House is open every third Saturday of the month. Each month, a different ministry of the church hosts the event. Every weekend that the Mary E. Thomas House is active, so is the church’s Taste of Hope ministry.
Taste of Hope is a food ministry that provides groceries to those in immediate need of food. Together. the two ministries are able to provide food and clothing to the community at the same time, making it a “one stop shop” for individuals and families in the greatest need.
This past month, the Scholastic Success Ministry hosted the Mary E. Thomas House event. The theme of the event was Books and Bagels. Members from the community received free breakfast, clothing, groceries, and books.
While there, kids had a chance to sit in on story time led by different volunteers from the community. Among the volunteer readers there were local teachers, a representative from the United Way, and other local pastors who came to donate their time.
Upon my arrival to Books and Bagels, I got to see the pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Christopher E. Cabiness, leading story time. He read to the children, reviewed the story with them after he read it, and then gave them encouraging words. Pastor Cabiness was not done though: when story time was over he stayed and talked with the children, he joked around with them, even giving the little ones’ hugs.
It was refreshing to see, to say the least. The pastor did not come, speak to everyone and leave. He did not come for a photo-op or attention. He participated in the day’s events, giving a helping hand wherever needed. He wore no fancy suit or collared shirt, only a blue t-shirt, black jeans and tennis shoes. The members of the Scholastic Success Ministry were dressed accordingly, in relaxed clothing, t-shirts and jeans. The way that everyone was dressed made it clear that everyone came to do the work, not just look the part.
The event was very laid back. Macon residents came, received food, clothing, and books, and left. No person who received food or clothing was questioned or made to feel awkward. They were welcomed in a spirit of community.
Through its Mary E. Thomas House, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church has been able to make an impact not only in the neighborhood around the church but also in poor neighborhoods all around Macon.
When speaking with one of the volunteers of the Mary E. Thomas House, Mrs. Shereka Smalls, she noted that the economic needs in the community are high but “by providing clothing and food to those in the community, we are able to at least make sure children have clothes and are not hungry.”
Mrs. Smalls also said that the volunteers get gratification from providing food and clothing: “Just knowing that we’re providing a service for the community and actually seeing someone’s self- esteem rise because they have clothing now to go to job interviews or sufficient clothing for church, and it’s just good seeing that we are helping them in their day to day lives,” Mrs. Smalls explained.
New Hope hopes to one day have a shelter to house those who are homeless. For now, they find as many ways as they can to fill the needs of our community.
Mrs. Smalls stated that the Taste of Hope also has a bookbag ministry. Every Friday, they fill bookbags with food and send them to a local elementary school so that children who may not receive meals over the weekend have a chance to eat on Saturday and Sunday.
“We want to be able to have a chance to engage in the community–that’s what we are about, we are about community” says Pastor Cabiness.
One can truly see that New Hope Missionary Baptist Church is just that, a community about “the community.”
Notable members of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church who have worked with Mary E. Thomas over the past 30 plus years include Susie Hart, Ophelia Harris, Renelda Greely (The Late), Estella “Grand Ma” Jackson (The Late), Diane Childs, Bobby Pointer, and Shalanda Lamb. Today’s volunteers continue the work of those who have gone before, and they will not stop until all of the needs in our community are met.
New Hope continues to do an excellent job at keeping Mary E. Thomas’s mission alive, not only through the Mary E. Thomas House, but also through the many ministries of the church. New Hope Missionary Baptist Church continues to provide hope for the community while living up to its name as a “Church Without Walls.”
Anyone interested in donating to or volunteering at the Mary E. Thomas House or the Taste of Hope ministry can contact New Hope Missionary Baptist Church at (478) 743-8413.