Loving on One’s Neighbors3 min read

The Gospels’ exhortation to “love thy neighbor” has evolved at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Centreville, to love ON your neighbor. Here’s the story of how the congregation’s newest, closest neighbor has become the beneficiary of an abundance of caring just ripe to be expressed.

The Centreville congregation recently consummated the sale of its former parsonage to Christine’s Early Learning Center. The house had been unused as a pastor’s home for many years; it had been intermittently—often unsuccessfully—rented as a residence, and finally had been in a refurbishment as a proposed early learning center. For a variety of reasons, the congregation came to an acknowledgment that it lacked resources to complete the building’s transition. (Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”)

After prayerful deliberation, and with the encouragement of Vacancy Pastor Robert O. Bartz, within only days, members learned that a respected operator of a decades-successful early childhood center in town was actively seeking a building with appearance as a home wherein to expand her children’s center. Members strongly sensed the Holy Spirit’s intervention as, following a tour, Christine and Jerry Sheteron were moved to believe that the unfinished building was, in fact, exactly what they had sought. A plan of how to divide the property was agreed upon, mutual trust was established, and remodeling restarted.

The St. Paul’s congregation began sharing its Fellowship Hall as divided space: part of the great room for warehousing equipment and furnishings of Christine’s ELC, and part for hosting weekly parenting classes, with learning, snacks, and play spaces. In addition, the learning center has use of side rooms for class preparation, respite/office, and supplies storage.

At an open house of Christine’s ELC in November, members of the congregation, approved for a Thrivent Action Team grant, hosted a bountiful lunch for some 70+ visitors and participants, and registered all for a wealth of door prizes procured through the grant. An “angel tree” at the event allowed all to take tags naming new and used items which may be provided for the children’s center.

St. Paul’s members will continue holding ingatherings for needed brain-stimulating/small motor/educational items at the facility, as well as addressing physical and spiritual needs within the children’s families and households, such as for healthy foods, personal health/household maintenance items, quality picture books, and much more. The congregation also has plans to help stock a “caring closet” for needy families served by the facility.

Members of the small Centreville congregation daily experience the joy of realizing that a large part of its mission field is found in its collaborative ministry with its nearest neighbor. Fresh every morning is a newfound purpose when members participate in Christ’s directive in Matthew 25:40: “…as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.”

Photo of Christine Sheteron (right) with her early-childhood assistant Amanda Johnson. Photo courtesy of Christine’s Early Learning Center. 

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About the Author

Mary Craaybeek, a retired public school teacher, is a 55-year member of St. Paul's, Centreville, serving her home church as stewardship chairperson. She enjoys LWML leadership positions at all levels of Lutheran Women in Mission.

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Judy E. Williams - December 13, 2021

HOW EXCITING!!! May God continue to bless this ministry.