Reverend Geraldine Daniels came to Alabama 14 years ago from Houston, Texas, to pursue her calling for ministry. After working outside of the church for over two decades, Daniels heard the call and graciously accepted. She was well prepared when she began her position as senior pastor of Southside Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in the north Titusville community and saw the impact of ministry in her own life. She commented on the church’s influence in its community, saying, “you have to experience ministry to do ministry.”
Southside CME Church has a diverse and active congregation with people from Calera to Trussville who pour into the pews each Sunday. Southside CME Church received their “Life is Calling” grant award from the Samford University’s Center for Congregational Resources (CCR) shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the nation. Life is Calling is part of Lilly Endowment’s nationwide Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose grant initiative. Southside CME were able to maintain their congregation by using the grant to make technological upgrades throughout their church, and the congregation began attending many services online. Locals and congregants frequently sat on their porches and watched the church services that were held outside on the parking lot. Reverend Daniels commented on locals and nonmembers pouring into the church saying, “Everyone needs to experience worship.”
The church felt prepared for the pandemic, but they also felt called to use their grant in other ways. While Southside CME provided the ministry of worship to people outside their congregation, they recognized another area of need in their community: Washington Elementary School.
Rev. Daniels had a phone call with the CCR to see how the church could utilize their grant funding during these unprecedented times. They wanted to shift their focus to help those in immediate need in their community. The CCR agreed that Southside CME can use their grant for ministry purposes. Rev. Daniels believed their call to help the children met those requirements. She said, “Ministry means getting outside the walls of your own church to help others.”
The Life is Calling grant helped Southside CME church provide technology for students who were attending online school at the height of the pandemic. Although this was not the original intent for the grant, Southside CME church shifted their idea of ministry and were able to support the local school. The church provided headphones and other technological needs to the local students from the school, as well as lunches and behavior rewards for the children. Southside CME church also helped teachers as well by offering them small stipends for staying after hours for tutoring sessions.
Rev. Daniels commented, “We wanted the community to feel supported. This is what the church does. The church does ministry.”