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The Pastor’s Ministry More Than Just a Church | Local News

Whole Truth to celebrate its fifth anniversary

Keith Burley already had a church. But he wanted something more.

Burley started Whole Truth Ministries five years ago in a single rented room on Sampson Street. The following year, the congregation worshiped in a rented space at the former Hadar Israel Temple on East Moody Avenue.

However, when Whole Truth celebrates its fifth anniversary with a special service on May 15, it will be at the former Wesley United Methodist Church on West Washington Street, which Burley bought shortly after it closed in 2019.

Since then, the pastor’s vision has taken off.

“I’m going to be a community hub,” Burley said. “I grew up here. I lived on Lee Avenue.

“The goal is to wake up this neighborhood, this community. I’m going to be a community center that happens to be a sanctuary. »

Just the fact that the building is going from empty to occupied, Associate Pastor Dwyane Evans said, is a godsend. Evans has operated a hair salon for 26 years just across Round Street from the church.

“I think it reassured a lot of neighbors in the neighborhood, knowing that the church is very active,” he said. “I think it will reduce a lot of mischief and crime and things like that because there’s always something going on in the ministry, every day.

“We have Spanish classes, we have arts and crafts classes and financial literacy classes. We cleaned up the area a lot. We did some cleaning where we cleaned up the West Side. We have opened our church to all needs. »

One of the needs Burley recognized was for fledgling entrepreneurs to gain their financial footing. So he opened up some of the church’s classrooms to new business owners looking for office space.

“It’s an incubator,” he said. “Right now I have five businesses in this church; five who are here regularly, but I probably have 12 in all here.

Each company that moves from its rented room to its own facilities is encouraged to help the next tenant who may occupy the freed up space. Burley calls him “Next Man Up”.

“If you furnish this room, I would like you to leave the furniture for the next person who comes,” he said, noting that a local drywall installation company was the first to do so. “Experiencing Eden (a mental health services agency) moved in, and there was office stuff in there already.

“It’s a launch pad. I tell them, ‘I don’t expect you to stay here for long periods of time. I expect you to be up and running, and if you decide to expand and to go somewhere else, leave it to the next person trying to get up and running.

OTHER AWARENESS

Whole Truth also offers 15 programs that are all open to the community, Burley said. The arts and crafts class, open to all seniors, meets on Fridays and includes dinner. Financial literacy and Spanish classes alternate on Mondays and are free. Burley is also working to start the PTSD class.

Whole Truth has also partnered with the City Rescue Mission to offer a midweek youth program, LIT (Living in Truth), at the Sankey Center on West State Street. It’s also free and all children are welcome at the gathering from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The evening includes activity (like dodgeball, volleyball, or basketball) in the gym, food (like the free pizza that Speedway offers once a month), and a short Bible lesson.

A special fund from which Burley draws $200 a month to reinvest in the community has helped revive LIT with donations to the Rescue Mission. Money was also donated to the Salvation Army and other entities, as well as Go Fund Me needs to benefit people who lacked the money to bury a loved one.

This is not information that Burley brags about.

“I never told anyone,” he said. “I just gave them a check and let him go. People say, ‘Why don’t you let people know what you’re doing?’ I say, ‘I don’t need to tell anyone. I’m on a mission.’

Indeed, Evans said, it is difficult even now for Burley to talk about the initiatives he has implemented.

“There’s a lot he does, but he’s not looking for credit or publicity,” Evans said. “I know it was difficult for him to do an interview; he doesn’t like to do that kind of stuff.

“He does what he does because he’s trying to do his part in the community. He’s not trying to have a mega-church or anything like that. He tries to do what needs to be done in the community, especially to help these young people.

For Burley, that can mean anything from building faith in the pulpit to chopping down trees in a field.

CLEARANCE

After buying the church, the pastor went to work with an axe, chainsaw and maddox to clear an overgrown area behind the church.

He also reclaimed what was once a ballpark and converted it into a park, complete with self-built wooden pergogas and seats. All are welcome to enjoy the bucolic benefits of the park, and children from the community are invited to participate in the church’s recurring Feast Sundays, where food, a bouncy house and a slide are available to all. passing.

An enclosed area of ​​the former ballpark has been named Serenity Park and serves as a space for outdoor camaraderie gatherings.

Overall, the church has 3½ acres of land, much of which has not yet been cleared.

“Beyond this ballpark,” Burley said, “there are probably two more ballparks before you get to the end of the property.”

Additionally, the church owns land behind Evans’ barbershop, as well as two vacant lots across West Washington Street where Wesley United Methodists had its church from 1903 to 1955, when it opened the building that the Burley congregation now occupies.

That’s a lot of land, and some people, Burley said, have offered to buy it from him. But he does not sell.

“I have things I would like to do here,” he said. “Ultimately, I’d like to put some emergency housing here, so I can catch up with the overflow from the rescue mission and the women’s shelter.”

Evans, who has been with the church since his Sampson Street days, is not surprised at the pace of his growth and expansion in the community in just five years.

Burley, he said, “has always been the kind of person who, if he tells you something, you can guarantee he’s going to honor his word.

“Regarding his vision,” Evans continued, “one quote he had was, ‘If you help his vision, he will help your life.’ That’s certainly what he did I’m a successful businessman known here for years but what he taught me through the Word of God is just faith to believe the impossible; that it is possible.

For Burley, the focus remains on the community rather than himself.

“I’m just trying to get to the point where this community is going to wake up and see that we’re here to help you,” he said. “We can help you in many areas, not just from a Christian point of view. When you look at this community, it needs help, and it needs help in more areas than just the church.

“The ministry is called Whole Truth – it suits the community, because I try to make the man whole.”

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