Westminster Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg
Music is a cornerstone of our Westminster church family. The children’s choir and the adult choir serve an important role in worship services. Hymn singing and beautiful organ music fill our hearts with praise. The adult choir welcomes students from USM and William Carey. They sing with us from year to year, and sometimes those students become members of our congregation. Music majors from Southern Miss and William Carey perform recitals in our sanctuary. The Meistersingers community chorus rehearses and performs at Westminster. These events invite musicians and community members into our building. If you would like to be more actively involved in the music of our congregation, speak to Connie Roberts.
Men of the Church
Westminster’s Men of the Church are a behind the scenes, hands on, group of men who come together to support and encourage one another and who are ready to roll whenever a need arises. They meet for breakfast and fellowship once a month, except during the summer, are heavily involved in maintaining the physical plant of the church, and are first on the standby list for helping the Diaconate accomplish its tasks, both within the church and beyond. These are the “master chefs” of the congregation who prepare meals for the church family's Red Hot and Blue picnic, Fish Fry, Youth Dessert Auction, Rally Day pancake breakfast, and other gathering events throughout the year. The MOC maintains its own budget and funds special projects, most recently purchasing a new gas grill for the church. At Christmas time they may be found at the top of ladders in the sanctuary decorating the Christmas tree—which they have put up and will take down after the holidays. Last year, in response to the shooting of two policemen in our community, MOC hosted a First Responder breakfast for police, fire, and ambulance personnel to acknowledge their appreciation for all these individuals do for our community. Next year, they plan to include families along with the first responders. In short, the MOC is a service-minded group of guys who put the interests of the church above their own. Contact: Eric Reidenbach. LN
The Breadbasket ministry began as a project of the Mariners Sunday School Class in the 1970s. Jane Rayborn and Lynn Hartwig designed a program to provide a three-day supply of food for individuals or families in need. Today twelve Hattiesburg churches participate in the ministry, with each church accepting calls for assistance one week at a time. Volunteers help with shopping and distribution of the food. Each year in December, members of Breadbasket churches pack and deliver 100 boxes to local families. These include a frozen turkey and the usual ingredients for a Christmas dinner. Frank Whitesell and another volunteer manage the inventory for the food pantry, which includes shopping and organizing the items to be donated and doing the record keeping. In 2015, 760 households received food baskets: 2,731 individuals; 1514 adults and 1217 children. The cost of the groceries was over $27,000. Communion Sundays at Westminster are Breadbasket Sundays. Please continue to support this important ministry with your tax deductible donations. To learn more about what Breadbasket volunteers do, contact Margaret Lochhead.
Improving Health and Showing Compassion
Westminster has a long tradition of supporting better health and showing compassion for others through budgeted benevolences, special offerings and local projects. Our financial support of agencies such as Rivers of the World, Medical Benevolence Foundation and Living Waters for the World helps to implement projects that improve the health of people living in communities around the world. Special offerings, such as the PW Thank Offering make grants available for medical ministries and other projects in the U.S. and abroad. The Healthy Women Healthy Families Mother’s Day Cards project raises funds to purchase mosquito netting to combat malaria. For many years our congregation has collected used eye glasses to be donated to the Lion’s Club for international distribution. Our members also offer financial support and ongoing donations of clothing and supplies to the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter and the Mississippi Children’s Home Services Shelter in Hattiesburg. To learn more, or to become more actively involved, contact Althea Jerome.
Clean Water Projects
Clean Water Living Waters for the World is a Christian ministry that provides sustainable clean water, fostering long term and mutually beneficial relationships between volunteers and communities in need. To that end, Clean Water University, a Living Waters program, offers formal training on how to evaluate a site for a potential clean water system installation, how to train residents on the importance of how and when to use clean water, and how to install a system. WPC members Erik Graham, John Turner, and Karen and Eric Reidenbach are trained in each of the areas and are primed and ready to reach out. Putting their training into action, the Reidenbachs and members of other Mississippi PCUSA churches recently returned from a working trip to El Salvador, identified as the most water stressed country in Central America. The trip had two purposes, they said. They visited five sites that currently have a clean water system and helped with replacing parts and cleaning of the systems. They then visited three communities in need of clean water. Each of the three potential sites has interim work to do before a final determination can be made on whether or not to install a system. Conversations among leaders in those communities, the LWW in-country coordinator and representatives from one of the MS churches are ongoing. They hope that through fundraising events and other donations the Mississippi Team can travel back to El Salvador to install a system in each of these communities at some point in the near future. We believe that the systems are a gift from God and we seek His guidance for moving forward. To learn more about this important project, please contact one of our Clean Water University “graduates.”
The Furniture Ministry is a community outreach project of Westminster that came about over six years ago out of our church's support of the Christian Women’s Job Corp, housed in the old Wright House. Often graduates of that training were found to be homeless or housed but with little or no basic furnishings. This Men of the Church project became an effort to gather donations of good, used, basic furniture and household goods and supplying them to help needy graduates restart homes and lives. From its start with a small trailer and storage locker, the ministry has grown and has assisted over 330 families and individuals referred to the church by 31 community groups, churches and governmental agencies. A growing number of our members are making time in their schedules to assist in this ministry by collecting and delivering donated furnishings, spreading word of needs to friends and neighbors, and repairing and contributing useable household items. This outreach effort has raised community awareness of Westminster and has been recognized in the news and on TV. One of its lead workers, Richard Potin, was featured by the Hattiesburg American in 2015 as one of its “Twelve Who Make a Difference” in Hattiesburg for his leadership in the ministry. For more information about becoming involved with this project, please contact Richard Potin or David Arnold.
Share Care Ministry to Caregivers
ShareCare has called Westminster home since its founding in 2001. It began with a three-year grant written by Stella Fair and administered by the USM Institute for Disabilities Studies. At the conclusion of the grant period, Westminster chose to adopt the ministry, committing both financial and administrative support. ShareCare was established to assist people with disabilities, individuals with long-term care requirements, their family members and care givers. On the first Thursday of each month the group gathers for a potluck luncheon in Montague Hall, providing fellowship for the members. In addition, each member of ShareCare has a time bank account that allows members to earn or spend credits for services. No money changes hands. Rather, one person contributes an hour of service for another member and, in turn, receives an hour added to their own time bank. That hour of credit can be spent on a service offered by any member of the group. The exchange of services can be a life-line for people who make many personal sacrifices on behalf of their loved ones. Our own Bob Buckner was introduced to ShareCare when he moved to Hattiesburg in 2006. Now he directs the work of this ministry of fellowship and service.
Supporting Our Church Family and Community
Westminster has a long tradition of loving, nurturing and supporting the members of our church family. Here are a few examples. When a member plans to marry, or when a new baby is welcomed, Presbyterian Women host a shower to celebrate the occasion. Our PW Circle members provide a meal following the memorial service for family members of a deceased loved one. We honor our high school graduates with a gift to celebrate their accomplishment. Last spring, PW members baked cookies that were sent to our congregation’s college students prior to the week of final exams. From time to time, we host a reception following a recital or an event held at the church, such as the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service or a public music performance. One more way we love and support our church family is through the Casserole Ministry. Casseroles or home-made soups, made by our members, are kept in a freezer at the church. When a member is dealing with illness or some other challenge, we can take them a meal to help out. You can learn more by viewing the Casserole Ministry display in the Narthex or speaking to Mary Dayne Gregg or Mary Clare Shaw. It is through acts of love and service like these that we build up the body of Christ.
Reaching Others in Thanksgiving and Joy
Reaching out during the holiday season is a natural response to God’s bounteous goodness to us. In November we gather with friends from other churches for the annual Community Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service. The offering received supports the Breadbasket ministry. In turn, participants in the Breadbasket ministry prepare and deliver approximately 100 Christmas boxes filled with food for families in need in our area. Each year Westminster provides nearly 200 Christmas gifts for men and women at the Boswell Regional Center and fills shoeboxes with gifts that are sent to children around the world through the Operation Christmas Child/Samaritans Purse project. Closer to home, WPC members man the registration table for the Salvation Army Angel Tree, and Sunday School classes designate a portion of their offerings during December to purchase Christmas gifts and clothing for children whose names are selected from the Angel Tree. Appropriately, children from Westminster do the shopping for these children. Caroling and small hand-crafted items made during the annual Advent Workshop are gifts we deliver to our own shut-in members as expressions of our love during this season of giving.
Ministering Through Education
Westminster is a church that encourages and promotes education. There are Sunday School classes for all ages. In addition, Bible study occurs through a weekly Brown Bag study and monthly Circle meetings. These are ways that we support the spiritual growth of our members. In addition to these regularly scheduled classes, Westminster offers hands-on assistance and financial support to local agencies that emphasize education, such as the DuBard School, The Dynamic Dyslexia Design (3D) School, Osceola McCarty Youth Development Center, and the Christian Women’s Job Corp. Presbyterian Women’s budget includes support for higher education at two denominational institutions: Stillman College and Columbia Theological Seminary, via the Columbia Friendship Circle. Other schools receiving financial support from our congregation are Belhaven University in Jackson and a Seminary in Northern India. Through these means, and the efforts of many individuals in our congregation who work in the field of education, our church is not only promoting Christian education, but it is also making an impact on the education of others locally, regionally, and abroad.
Children and Youth Ministry
The Children and Youth of Westminster actively reach out to serve others both within the church and beyond. Close to home they participate in such activity as worship services at Boswell Regional Center, visiting shut-ins and those in nursing homes, preparing Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, doing lawn work and other home projects for church members, and shopping for Angel Tree children. The Youth have had the privilege of serving others through missions in several U.S. cities and other countries—in Birmingham, AL, Jacksonville, FL, Savannah, GA, Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, and farther afield in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Through their efforts they have helped with Kid's Clubs, done yard work, dug holes, finished roofs, worked in a rock quarry, built dormitories, planted coffee, refinished canoes, broken up concrete, moved trash and other debris, cleaned houses, worked in food banks, fed the homeless, helped clean and organize warehouses, helped with worship services, and eaten a lot of rice and beans. These young people, and their leader Amy Ruff, are Westminster’s ambassadors into the world.
Mississippi Presbyterian Cursillo
Westminster participates with other churches in our Presbytery to host Mississippi Presbyterian Cursillo in October and April each year. This three-day spiritual renewal event is designed to rekindle, deepen, and strengthen the desire to live the Christian life. Led by lay members and clergy, its purpose is to inspire and equip individuals for Christian action in their homes, their churches, and their communities. Adults of all ages and in all phases of faith and discipleship are invited to attend. The weekend includes conversation, music and laughter, fellowship, worship, communion, devotional time, small group participation, and reflection. At Cursillo, participants have an opportunity to listen and learn, to relax and be free of the distractions of the world, and, most importantly, are given time to focus fully on God. The goal is to guide participants (pilgrims) into a closer and more personal relationship with Jesus, to heighten their joy, deepen their faith, and invigorate their life in Christ. Over 75 members of Westminster have participated since Mississippi Presbyterian Cursillo was formed in 2007. The retreat takes place at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman, MS (20 miles south of Jackson). We invite you to come share the joy! For more information, contact Dean or Mary Cromartie.