The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner
Marion First Presbyterian Church has always been interested in missions and community outreach. In the early years members supported missions through donations made to the national denomination. They supported Scout activities, visited hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and rolled bandaged for local needs. Then members began to take a more active part in the missions of the church.
During the 1970s the Hearing Impaired School met at the church. The school now has its own building on Boulevard Street and serves students in the south 17 counties. Also during the 1960s and 1970s, FPC children participated in Treat or Treat for UNICEF, visiting neighborhood homes raising money for international needs.
The Right to Read program, 1982-1999, began as an adult literacy program. The reading program ministered to developmentally disabled as well as advanced students with an average attendance of forty. Kay Pape was the coordinator of the program with seven regular volunteer helpers and also per-teen and teenage volunteers.
Dr. Olive Haynes created the Christian Learning Center in 1986. The state-licensed afterschool program provided a place for children to learn, play, and study in safety until working parents could get them. The program had six paid employees and several volunteer workers. The church discontinued the program after the school district
developed “latch key” programs.
With a grant from the Department of Children and Family Services, the church provided Parents Helping Parents in 1982-1983. The self-help program provided parenting information and counseling for people who were insecure as parents and feared they were at risk for becoming abusive.
An additional grant from the Department of Children and Family Services helped fund the Homemaking Workshop held on Saturday mornings for parents in need of life skills. Since “the beginning of time” FPC members have been involved in Camp Carew, the Presbyterian camp at Little Grassy Lake. Members have volunteered their funds and time.FPC youth have enjoyed the camping experience, meeting youth from other churches in
the presbytery, worshiping and playing together. The PW organization has funded scholarships for FPC campers for many years.
Marion Medical Mission started in 1985 as a response to the deep needs of the African people. Tom and Jocelyn Logan, members of FPC, along with other leaders in Marion, organized MMM as an ecumenical Christian organization. It is hands-on, self-help, and emphasizes sustainable development and appropriate technology. Tom is the president of MMM; Jocelyn the treasurer.
The main thrust of the mission is to provide safe drinking water for rural villages. Much of the disease in developing countries comes from unsafe drinking water. Since 1990 over 5,655 wells have been installed serving over 1,400,000 people. In 2007, 1,289 wells brought safe drinking to rural villages in Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia with 200 more ready to be installed by the end of the year.
Well costs are kept at $400. MMM provides only what the villagers cannot—the cement, pipes, and pumps. American volunteers pay their own way (former members Martin Logan, Marie Logan, Linda Allen, and Robin Allen Scott were volunteers). No money to MMM is used for administrative purposes unless so designated.
In addition, the mission also provides funds for five mission hospitals and works in schools in and around the Embangweni mission station. MMM funds rehabilitated crumbling school blocks and teacher homes, built new school blocks, teacher houses, and libraries. MMM provides books, educational resource materials, and secondary school scholarships for needy students. MMM volunteers conduct teacher training workshops.
The organization helped create the first school for deaf children in all of northern Malawi.
FPC youth provided the funds for the first classroom at Chizimya, where students and their teacher met under a tree. Church members support MMM with donations and prayers.
On May 29, 1982, a massive tornado destroyed large areas of Marion and killed nine people. The next day our church members responded in a short term mission, Tornado Recovery. After a brief worship service, they went to work clearing Shawnee Village apartments and helping members Jean and Ailene Otey and Jackie Giles, whose homes were destroyed. Volunteers provided child care for victims and volunteer workers at the church. The national denomination gave $25,000 to assist in the recovery program. Members collected household goods and distributed them at the church for those who lost possessions in the storm. Dr. Haynes and Rev. Marlin Otte of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church were leaders in the recovery effort.
FPC has opened its doors to fledgling churches. FPC was the first home for St. James Episcopal Church (known as All Saints in the 1920s) and Our Redeemer Lutheran from 1976-1979. The Good Fight of Faith congregations met at FPC during the 1990s before they had a church building in Marion.
Prisoner Family Support grew from Karl Maple’s class at John A. Logan Junior College. Rev. Dave McChesney pastor at FPC was an early board member. Other members of the congregation served as volunteers and the church gave financial support to the program.
Hospitality House in Vienna provides a place to stay for people visiting family members in Vienna and Tamms prisons. FPC provided funds for the home and built desks for the rooms.
Since the 1980s FPC has supported the Shawnee Crisis Pregnancy Center with funds, volunteer work, and baby gifts. The center provides free, confidential pregnancy testing. If the test is positive, the center offers counseling options for keeping the baby or information on adoption. SCP gives new mothers packets of pre-natal vitamins until she goes to the doctor. They provide information on resources for keeping the baby, staying in school, or returning to school. They provide maternity wear and, two or three weeks before the birth of the child, a layette including diapers, new baby clothing, shampoo, even little holiday outfits, and other infant needs. CPC provides donated baby monitors, cribs, car seats, and other equipment if available at the center and the new mother needs
them. In 2008 the CPC in Carbondale will provide free sonograms.
An important part of CPC is abstinence education. They work in twenty different schools (mostly high schools, but also some middle schools) educating young people during a five day program on the physical and emotional repercussions of sexual activity and the dangers of relying on birth control procedures which may not prevent pregnancy or STDs. The center is supported by donations (money and baby items) from churches and community organizations. The abstinence program is partially funded by a grant from the federal Department of Human Services’ program, Abstinence Only.
Hands of Hope began as a medical clinic for people who could not afford standard medical treatment. It now includes dental treatment. It is staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, as well as medical students from SIU. It is supported by donations. In addition to financial support, our members save empty pill bottles for the clinic and PW serves a hot meal to the workers for a month each year. This is on a rotation plan with other local churches. Member Mary Lindley is a volunteer counselor with Hands of Hope. Hospice of Southern Illinois celebrated 25 years in Marion in December, 2006. Marion FPC has supported it for the entire twenty-five years. Mary Lindley is employed as a counselor for Hospice.
During the 1990s Yvonne Whitfield and Linda Allen provided Parents Night Out on Saturday evenings once or twice a month to give FPC parents a safe place for their children to play, snack, and fellowship. Other FPC members volunteered their time also. The Lighthouse Mission is a mission for homeless people. Pastor Dan Whitfield was a leader in the organization of the mission. The church supports the mission with
The Weigh Down Workshop, organized by Jean Johnson, was a Christian based weightloss program. It met in our church for four years and had 35 to 50 members from multichurches.
Sue Riggle and others at FPC organized SHARKs (Student Hungering After the Righteous Kingdom) in 1997 as a Wednesday evening program for school-age children. Youngsters gather to study the Bible, learn worship skills, play, do craft projects, and have dinner together. The program fosters fellowship between the children and adults of FPC and integrates youngsters into the life of the church. The Christian Education Committee heads up the program today.
Youth Mission Trip. In recent years the church has worked through the Son Servants organization to provide opportunities for our youth to participate in mission. The organization helps with refurbishing homes for needy families. Pastor Dan took FPC kids to Virginia in 2001 where they painted and helped rehabilitate homes.
In 2003 Susie and Dan Selock took four young people to an impoverished area in West Virginia. They worked with a team of churches (150 volunteers). They slept on a school room floor. The team arrived after a flood and their jobs included shoveling mud and wheel-barrowing it away, roofing, jacking up houses, re-flooring them, and laying tile and linoleum.
The Selocks took four youths to a border community in Mexico in 2005. Again they were part of a team of about 150. They helped construct concrete block houses (10 by 20 feet for a family) and put concrete roofs on them. Locals taught them how to do the work with sign language. The group reported having a “wonderful time” and learned to appreciate and respect the culture and community of the Mexican town. Youth programs part of Christian Education and Church on the Grow Missions include. Souper Bowl Sunday. Young people collect food and money for the soup kitchen for this annual event on Super Bowl Sunday.
Friday Night Lights. The church opens up for high school students after home basketball games with music, food, and fellowship. This project began in 2006.
Band Camp Ministry. Church volunteers minister to the band during their hot, August band camp, with drinks and snacks. FPC is known as the “church with the frozen grapes.” Homecoming. The church opens its doors again for the homecoming court to get ready for the big event. The young people use the parking lot to decorate cars.
Peacemaker Award. Beginning in the fall of 2006, First Presbyterian joined ranks with Longfellow Elementary School PTO, Heartland Regional Medical Center, and the PBIS team from Longfellow to sponsor the Peacemaker Award, a six year program which includes all grade levels. Pastor Dan Whitfield proposed the plan as a way to encourage respectful behavior towards one another. Peacemakers are described as caring and respectful, provide positive role models, try to handle disagreements and conflict with peaceful means, and participate in school activities and/or community service that promote peace and harmony.
Teachers and staff nominate the recipient. The Award consists of a $25 Savings Bond, $25 in cash, and his/her name on a plaque, which is updated yearly, and hangs in the school. The student’s picture is sent to local newspapers with a description of the award. The award will be presented on Awards Night at Longfellow School in May of each school year. Small Peacemaker prizes are awarded each month to a student from each grade level to encourage peacemaking and help build anticipation of the end of year award. FPC donates a portion of the Peacemaking offering each year to this project. Sunday School has been one of the most important programs of the church from the very beginning. Classes provide opportunities to study the Bible, fellowship with other
members in small groups, and encourage new memberships through outreach. Today’s classes include three for adults and three for children and young people.
Throughout the life of the church, Vacation Bible School has been an exciting summer event for FPC adults and children. Volunteers teach Bible lessons, serve food, help with worship, recreation, and craft projects. The church and other local churches (among them: Marion First Christian Church, Herrin and Carterville Presbyterian Churches) have joined together on occasion for this effort.
The Marion Ministerial Alliance is an ecumenical and collaborative effort of churches in the Marion community, which desires to meet the most basic and fundamental needs of those in the Marion area. MMA operates a soup kitchen, Monday-Friday, where a noon meal is served for “anyone who shows up.” The food pantry offers boxes of food once a month for clients who reside in the Marion School District area. MMA serves an average of 300 client families each month through the pantry. Meal counts range from 60-120 per day. Emergency financial assistance is available to help supplement existing social programs in utility and rental assistance. MMA works with the local police department to help meet the needs of transients and networks with local shelters for the homeless. Clients may come to the MMA facility to qualify for a voucher to receive furniture and household items from the Community of Christ Church. And most important, MMA holds a Bible Study class every Thursday, which has tripled in size since its inception one and a half years ago.
Since 1997 a Health Ministry with parish nurses provides intentional, wholistic care of body, mind, and spirit to our members and people in the surrounding community. Yvonne Whitfield and Ken and Elinor King were our first parish nurses. Marion Presbyterians pioneered parish nursing across southern Illinois where 43 churches from Centralia to Ullin now have Health Ministries with parish nurses. Because of a seed planted by our church and blessed by God, thousand of people have experienced the love of God through many caring hands and hearts. It has taken the form of educational programs, health counseling, referrals to agencies and/or physicians, establishment of care teams, health screening, visitation, cards, calls, meals, transportation, training and empowerment of volunteers, bereavement care, support groups, and the list goes on and on.
Conversations began in our church in 1998 about the need for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Marion. Today, this Christian ministry to provide decent affordable housing is building one to two homes a year. Members of the First Presbyterian Church have served as Board members, financial supporters, builders, and speakers for Habitat. Our church has provided meeting space, meals for the builds, as well as funds budgeted for ongoing
operations. Our pastor, Dan Whitfield served as a member of the steering committee and on the Board, and two terms as President.