Since 1879, Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ has ministered to folks in the heart of the city. Its weathered stone walls house a congregation who take seriously the call to care for “the least of these.”
On Oct. 10, the church will host Jam for Bread, a benefit concert for Crosswalk, an emergency shelter and school dropout prevention program operated by Volunteers of America. Scheduled performers include Six Foot Swing, Ashe West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and the Spokane Area Children’s Chorus.
Organizer Barb Borgens said, “The church has a longstanding tradition of giving.” For instance, they established the original Tree of Sharing as well as the first food bank in Spokane.
For the past six years the congregation has held a benefit concert, formerly called Manna, to raise funds for area charities. In addition to ticket sales, gift basket raffles provide a fun way to give to a worthy cause. Borgens said, “One hundred percent of funds raised go to the charity.” Last year the event raised $3,000 for Meals on Wheels.
“The church is full of musical people,” said Pastor Andy CastroLang. “We decided to use our love of music and our beautiful sanctuary to benefit the community.”
Church members don’t have to look far to find those in need. Located on the lower South Hill next to the freeway and the skate park, CastroLang said, “All you have to do is walk out the door and the need hits you in the face. Often our members have to walk by a homeless person sleeping under a bush on their way into church.”
Reaching out to Crosswalk makes perfect sense to CastroLang and her congregation. “Teenagers are desperately vulnerable and wonderful at the same time,” she said.
Bridget Cannon, director of youth services for Volunteers of America, oversees Crosswalk. “On any given year, 1,000 kids walk through our doors,” she said. “Most of them we’ll see over and over for months, if not years. For the most part, these kids have no home to go to. If we weren’t here, they’d be sleeping under a bridge.”
Money generated from Jam for Bread will be used for things like bus passes and school supplies. Cannon said discretionary funds like these are especially welcome because often government grants and private donations are earmarked for specific uses. “Our priority is to use these funds for the kids,” Cannon said. “We are very excited about it.”
That excitement is shared by the congregation at Westminster. After more than 130 years in existence, its members are still finding ways to be relevant to the community.
“In a conscious way, the people of Westminster believe they should be the voice for the people around us who are not heard,” CastroLang said.
“Westminster, in one way or another, has always felt like it is a church for the city.”