By Rev. Ritney A. Castine, 2nd Episcopal District
It is said that you can tell the heart of a church based on the ministry outside of the four walls of the sanctuary. For Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C., it means that we most assuredly have a heart for the community. Outreach at Allen is done in so many ways. Our hands, feet, and hearts extend far beyond the vestibule of the sanctuary and have cultivated love in the hearts of the residents throughout Washington, D.C., and particularly to those who live in the southeast quadrant of the city.
The Rev. Dr. Michael E. Bell, Sr., the pastor of Allen since 2006, has passionately pursued the church’s mission to be a community of faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit to give excellent witness to the transforming power of God in Jesus Christ for families, communities, and the world. Since his arrival at Allen, his vision of outreach has inspired the membership to broaden and expand all of its outreach ministries that represent consistent servanthood.
The Allen Chapel Outreach Center and Food Pantry, which began in April 2008, continues to serve the spiritual and physical needs of the residents of Ward 8 and the surrounding communities through a variety of programs. Allen’s Food Pantry serves the largest number of people (7,000 in 2016) and households (2,000 in 2016), under the umbrella of the National Capital Area Food Bank.
The Food Pantry holds monthly nutrition classes, performs blood pressure checks when requested, and delivers weekend bags of food to 75 students at the Children’s Center in Southeast. The Food Pantry holds workshops on various topics such as health insurance, housing, aging, utilities, wellness, and a host of other programs. The Food Pantry is the vision of Brother McKinney Crudup and Sister Velma Speight serves as the executive director.
In March 2017, Pastor Bell and the Allen Family partnered with Dr. Raymond K. Nelson and The Gift of Giving Medical Missions medical staff to offer FREE healthcare screenings to homeless people or those who could not afford to go to the doctor. Homeless people were bused in from across the city to Allen where they were able to receive screenings and treatments for hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, HIV, podiatry, and other services. In addition, ever mindful of the participants’ spiritual needs, the Allen ministerial staff was present to offer evangelization support. Participants were able to leave with personal care items, clothing, and a hot meal. When Dr. Nelson came to speak to the congregation, he stated that he wanted to do a health fair in Southeast Washington, D.C., and the only church that came to mind was Allen Chapel.
Under the leadership of Pastor Bell, the Allen congregation’s heart is truly in the work of outreach ministry and reaching beyond the four walls of the church. It takes seriously the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40, “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”