The Church For All People is located in Columbus, Ohio at 946 Parsons Avenue. As indicated by its name, this church is intended to be a home for all people. It is a Methodist church, grounded in the Methodist (Christian) tradition, yet its leaders go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. The church is in a location that I believe is most beneficial for fulfilling its mission. It is in a neighborhood that looks old and a little run down; you can tell the buildings have not been upgraded in years. But the church itself is huge and draws large crowds. The church really aims to have a positive impact on the surrounding community. In addition to offering daily worship services (except Thursday), the church offers a number of services that are beneficial for the people of Columbus. Its social mission makes it unique. The church has a free store where people are welcome to come grab essentials items like household goods, clothing, and food. They also have many volunteers who help out with their affordable housing program, after school program, and even offer job opportunities. They offer free bikes for people who have trouble getting to work. They offer a healthy eating and living program that helps people improve their mental and physical health. In all these ways and more, the church is trying to change its community for the better. That is why so many people love it and volunteer their time to it.
There are many factors that make the Church For All People successful. The pastor, John W. Edgar, is very important because he sets the tone and encourages everyone to come together. In a recent interview, a volunteer at the church named Rochelle told me, “We’re about people; we’re not about judging people.” The statement is very important because it conveys how the church aims to make people feel comfortable at all times. Another person I interviewed described the church’s community in this way: “They come to us because they didn’t feel welcomed anywhere else.” The Church For All people has a great environment and strong community. Being at this church feels like being surrounded by a bunch of your friends. When I first went to the church, everyone was around the breakfast table, and people were asking me to sit down with them and eat breakfast with them. I didn’t know one person, but by the end of breakfast I knew a lot more people. People are very respectful and talkative at this church. This church welcomes anyone. I’ve seen people come in shorts or pajama pants; people dress however they are feeling that day. You are not judged by what you dress or how you look. All types of people come to this church, and the feeling of unity is what makes it so amazing.
The sounds I recorded are some of the ones I noticed as being very important. In one clip, the pastor begins by thanking the saints. That helped to set the tone for congregants to be ready to accept the body of Christ. I also included music on one of my clips. This was important because it was the last song of the day, and it prepared people to go out and show God’s love to others. It offered another way to express god. When I interviewed a woman named Molly, she gave a wonderful analogy of what sound is to the church: “Drums is like the heart beat, rhythm and beat of life.” Singing brings members of the church together in a special way because people are singing and dancing along to the music. People at the church often pray with their hands, and many kneel down, as well. If music is important, so is scripture and the voices of the church. When I asked Molly about the words spoken during worship, she explained, “Hallelujah means we acknowledge him and we are saying thank you.” Scripture is also important to the church because it teaches followers to be like Jesus and to treat everyone with respect.
This project was an incredible experience because it was my first time contributing to a research team. When I first was assigned to this site, it was a little frightening because I was asked to enter a new environment of which I had never been a part. But I realized you just have to be yourself and talk to people. I found out how important it is to network with people and share contact information. I have become so close with a few people from the church, and it is very nice to make new friends from school research. I also learned to feel more comfortable talking to people whom I never met, which will be really valuable in life after college. Most of the time when you go for a job interview, you won’t know who is interviewing you until you get there. I realized how important religious diversity is and how many people are affected by the church’s actions. In my experience it was wonderful to see how the church was changing the community. The research part was really fun and enjoyable once you were accustomed to the people who were there because then you felt more comfortable asking questions. This research project was a very positive, experience and will help me in the long run.
Fieldworker: Michael Francati