Highland Park United Methodist Church celebrated 100 years this February of discipleship and staying true to its mission: “helping people become deeply devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”
Looking toward the next century of service, last year the church launched a greater partnership with CitySquare, a front-runner in the fight against poverty in Dallas since 1988.
It all started when Rev. Paul Rasmussen, HPUMC’s senior pastor, and CitySquare CEO Rev. Larry James met over a year ago to bounce ideas off of one another and explore what could be done to make a difference in Dallas.
HPUMC had been a local outreach partner of the charity since 2001, so it wasn’t long before the two were formalizing an agreement.
Since then, the congregation has been welcomed with open arms by CitySquare. They have played bingo with individuals at CitySquare’s low-income, high-rise apartments, CityWalk, and have volunteered with the group’s financial literacy program, the food bank, and anywhere their skills could be utilized.
For HPUMC’s director of outreach Lisa Stewart, these personal interactions are vital to the mission of educating the congregation on the issues facing the community.
“When they understand what the real situation is with poverty in Dallas, they will become more concerned about it,” Stewart said. “They’ll be motivated to work. If we put the resources of these organizations together we can just multiply the impact.”
When Rasmussen and James met, they also thought of creating a Methodist congregation at CitySquare.
The Church at the Square now serves neighbors from the Cottages at Hickory Crossing, collaborative homeless housing project, on Sundays at 11 a.m. with the support of HPUMC. The North Texas Conference appointed Rev. Jonathan Grace to CitySquare, and he has led this budding congregation from the start.
“What [Rasmussen] envisioned is happening, and we think we’ll only grow stronger,” James said. “I was in a large Sunday school [at HPUMC], and people were just eager to find ways to help us. It’s great to be associated with such a great church. Everyone at CitySquare is very thankful and excited about it.”
James said there are some other big projects in the works, including building more housing for the chronically homeless who are also disabled. That’s a task HPUMC congregants are familiar with, having helped build Habitat for Humanity homes for 19 years. They’re currently finishing up cottages for CitySquare located on Malcolm X Boulevard, a project that HPUMC donated $100,000 to help build.
During this centennial year, HPUMC worked to identify its seven core priorities. The partnership with CitySquare exemplifies the church’s dedication to keep community stewardship and outreach at the top of that list, Stewart said.
“We just feel like that’s one of the things that we are charged to do as Christians,” Stewart said. “We’re supposed to serve. For us, we don’t want to just put a Band-Aid on a problem. We want to work with organizations that are doing sustainable work. Work that makes real change and helps people become self sufficient.”