About five minutes from the site where the Barack Obama Presidential Library will be built stands South Shore United Methodist Church.
The area is changing. The church struggles with what to make of the gentrification. Developers are buying up the now-valuable property, putting in new condos and office space.
But one thing that isn’t changing is the church’s commitment to their ministry field.
Its pastor, the Rev. Adonna Davis Reid, has been at the church eight years. From the beginning, she has emphasized prayer as the church’s priority.
I have continued to emphasize prayer through the years. Putting prayer as a priority, the members began to see the miracles that happen all around us.
“When I came to the church I told the people I may not be involved in all the ministries, but I will always be a part of the prayer ministry,” she said. “I have continued to emphasize prayer through the years. Putting prayer as a priority, the members began to see the miracles that happen all around us.”
The more Davis Reid talked about prayer, the bolder she and the congregation became. The more she preached about getting outside the church walls, the more they engaged with the community.
“I totally took to heart the See All the People concept,” she said. “Our people learned to look outside and see who is around us and how we can be influencers for Christ to them. We embraced the fact that our mission field is outside our own doors.”
About two years ago, Davis Reid announced one Sunday morning that the service would take place outside on the church steps. The property has steps that go up to a large landing that overlooks the street. The people lined the steps, some standing, some sitting. Others stood on the sidewalk below.
“I prayed and asked them to join me,” she said. “We looked at all the activity that was going on all around us. People were walking by, engaging in conversation, pushing babies in strollers, rushing to catch a bus. People just living their lives.
“After a short devotional, I began to serve communion to our people. The people began to serve it to others on the street. The communion spread. We served communion to anyone who wanted to partake.”
At one point, two of the church members took communion to a nearby bus stop where several young African American men were waiting. They began to serve.
“I saw a cop car drive up to the bus stop and pull over,” Davis Reid said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my Lord, what is about to happen?’”
What happened was beautiful.
It was a perfect example of the See All the People. We stepped outside and saw the mission field God has given us.
“I saw the cops get out of the car and join the young men and the people from the church in taking the Lord’s Supper,” she said. “It was HUGE! You just can’t understand what a powerful picture that was: Chicago cops with young African American men taking the Lord’s Supper together.”
Davis Reid said it is crucial for the congregation to see everything around them as their mission field.
“It was a perfect example of the See All the People. We stepped outside and saw the mission field God has given us,” she said.
“Every Sunday I try to present the urgency of what we are doing as passionately as I can,” Davis Reid said. “The meeting outside led to coffee, music and prayer outside on Tuesday morning. People pass by on their way to work, taking kids to school. We have a sign, ‘Honk if you need prayer.’ So many honks from cars and busses.”
Maybe none of the people who honk will ever see South Shore’s “Prayer Changes Things” sign inside the church, but at least for that moment, maybe they will be happy to give life another chance.
“We are honored to stand in the gap for these people and our communities,” Davis Reid said. “God will bless our efforts.”