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Church’s role in recovery brings new life to congregation

By Doug Ruffle

Stock holding hands in circle

Pastor Peter Mantell knows how to engage his community in a way that brought unexpected blessings for his church. He is a living example of how to #SeeAllThePeople and make a difference in the community.

Mantell is the pastor of the Kingwood and Frenchtown United Methodist Churches in New Jersey. Frenchtown is a quaint little town located on the Delaware River. There are many old, historic buildings, including the one that houses the local United Methodist Church.

Mantell was on vacation in Canada, when, perusing his Facebook page, began seeing posts of a horrific fire in Frenchtown. A restaurant and pizzeria were ablaze. Because buildings are so close together, homes had to be evacuated. From Canada, Mantell contacted members of the church to mobilize a response whereby displaced persons could find a temporary home in the United Methodist church, which was located several blocks away and unaffected by the fire. The members of the church organized a hospitality team that offered food, a place to stay, and kindness. Mantell also started a “GoFundMe” campaign to help persons and businesses recover losses, while still in Canada. The funding campaign ended up raising more than $31,000.

Frenchtown people began seeing the United Methodist Church as a valuable partner to the community that cared and opened its doors in significant ways. People started joining up with Frenchtown church members and before long attendance and participation tripled. They were able to #SeeAllThePeople, making an impact by engaging their community in significant ways. It’s the same message that Junius Dotson articulated in his book, Engaging Your Community: A Guide to Seeing All the People. Frenchtown UMC did so not to gain members or attendees, but to be the feet and hands of Jesus at a time of need. It was an expression of the unconditional love that Jesus modeled. The fact that persons from the community joined them was an unexpected blessing.

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