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Joe Costephens is the pastor of The Passage, a young church that has emerged as an organizer of community service in Ferguson, Missouri, during the unrest that has gripped the city since a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man on August 9.
Last week, Costephens’ church organized cleanup crews and a flash food drive that donated 250 bags of groceries to another local effort. After continued violence erupted Sunday night, The Passage is planning additional cleanups alongside other efforts with churches throughout the city (see the list below).
— Joseph Costephens (@JCostephens) August 18, 2014
The Passage is sourcing urgent needs via social media accounts (you can follow or contribute here), but Costephens says that so far his church “just did what we were already doing” — street cleanups have been an ongoing cause for this mobile church that meets in a high school on Sundays and otherwise “pushes our people out into the community. We want our people to be a presence in the neighborhoods.”
That momentum has helped bring together other churches, from long-established congregations like First Baptist Church in Ferguson to networks of other young churches (especially via Send North America and Plant Midwest), to respond to community needs. Cleanups of last night’s violence are happening today, and Costephens says four or five churches will be putting together “cleanup buckets” — five-gallon plastic buckets stocked with cleaning supplies to be dropped off around the community.
Churches are also gathering food, school supplies, offering criss counseling, and more.
Here are three other churches doing work in Ferguson, with some notes on how you might help whether you’re in the area or following the story from afar. We’ll update this list as we hear from more local congregations involved in the area. (Send tips to [email protected])
Pastor: Reverend Steve Lawler
What they’re doing: St. Stephen’s Food Pantry is open to the public Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
How to give: Canned goods and boxed food can be dropped off at 33 North Clay in Ferguson. Call 314-521-0138 to find out how you can help support financially.
Pastor: F. Willis Johnson Jr.
What they’re doing: Offering free lunches, educational games, and crisis counseling as part of “Healthy Play Time,” a safe alternative for youth from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on the days school has been closed.
How to give: Donate here or call 314-521-4217 for more information.
Pastor: Dave Speicher
What they’re doing: Going door-to-door to distribute storybooks, small teddy bears, and notes expressing sorrow, love, and prayers to children throughout impacted neighborhoods in an effort called “Teddy Bears for Tots.”
How to give: Call the church office at 314-522-3388 or mail/drop off donations to 1309 N. Elizabeth Ave. Ferguson, MO 63135. Note “Teddy Bears for Tots” in the memo.
Lead image courtesy of R. Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com.