Mission Moment – May 2016

April 28th, 2016 by Kali Lewis



By Barbara Dunlap-Berg  : Submitted By Norma Johnson                                                                                                                           January—February 2016 United Methodist Interpreter Magazine

Cass Community United Methodist Church (founded in 1881) is in a changing community, explains the Rev. Faith Fowler, who has served the congregation more than 20 years. First, it was home to Detroit’s well-to-do-families. Next, it accommodated migrants from the South who moved north for assembly work in the automobile factories. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, it was  associated with widespread use of illegal drugs, crime, prostitution, and poverty.

Ministry with the poor, then, has a long history at Cass Community. “Cass Church established a soup kitchen during the Great Depression by gleaning from what were rural areas and are now Detroit Suburbs”, Folwer says. “The food program has never been interrupted. Today Cass makes and serves 1 million meals annually.”

Over time, other programs were added as unmet needs were identified, including day programs “with and for individuals who had mental illness, developmental disabilities, as well as poor seniors and youth.” In 2002 a separate but linked nonprofit– Cass Community Social Services—expanded to include residential and employment programs. More than 300 men, women and children experiencing homelessness stay in a Cass facility each night, and 85 formerly unemployed adults have permanent jobs in Cass Community’s Green Industries. At Cass Community, Christ-centered ministries offer balm for the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the unemployed, and others in crisis.

“We have eight community gardens and a greenhouse,” Fowler says, “so we grow most of our own vegetables in the                   summer. The program cooks and serves meals for people in the community and homeless individuals living at Cass.’

Cass operates two free medical  clinics staffed by volunteer doctors and medical students from Wayne State University. The agency also has Michigan’s only residential program for homeless men with HIV/AIDS and housing for homeless men with mental illness. Finally, Cass operates a five day a week program for 125 adults with developmental disabilities.

Two other Cass programs assist homeless people with mental illnesses. Teams of staff members go out seven days a week to engage people with mental illnesses . Teams of staff members go out seven days a week to engage people living on the streets or in abandoned structures. The church operates an overnight warming center November  through March, two emergency 90-day shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing.  This year, Cass will build 25 no0interest rent to own tiny homes.

Since the 2007 recession, Cass has created jobs by employing people to recycle wood, tires, glass and other items .                     Eighty-five adults currently work in Green Industries, making products sold in the United States and six other countries. A publishing house and Cass Communi-tea (herbal, organic teas) also provide employment. Interest free microloans benefit individuals starting a business or struggling with a personal crisis.