For weeks now various members of the St. Andrews congregation have been sharing thoughts about faith. Recently I had the joy to experience firsthand where faith really matters. I traveled to Detroit with the mission team to Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) for two days of hard work and the joy of seeing the “power of one” at work in one of Michigan’s hurting cities.
Rev. Anne so clearly reminded us of the power of one in a recent sermon–our Lord God doing marvelous things through the hands and works of many disciples. At Cass that power works so wonderfully through the great faith of the one called “Faith.” The Rev. Faith Fowler, the pastor of Cass United Methodist Church and the Executive Director of CCSS, not only bears the name but also lives the meaning in everything she does. In a 2014 Detroit Free Press column, Mitch Albom had this to say about Faith:
She is the most important currency of our city, a loving, egoless, inspiring leader who doesn’t see color, doesn’t see class, who looks at our poorest, most neglected citizens and sees only hope and opportunity. . . .
She ignored people warning her to stay out of inner-city Detroit, to stay away from the poor, the addicted, the developmentally disabled.
Instead, she embraced them all. She offered them dignity. . . .
Eight years after coming to the church, she founded Cass Community Social Services, which has blossomed into one of Detroit’s most effective and original charitable agencies-creating everything from apartment buildings for transitional clients to a green warehouse turning the city’s garbage into retail products, from floor mats to sandals that are selling, online, around the world.
When Rev. Faith met our small mission team, she was practically jumping up and down in excitement about the tasks she had for us to do. CCSS had recently purchased a building in the neighborhood of the other Cass properties where the administrative offices could move thus opening space for more housing for the homeless, where the green industries could move thus providing heat and AC to keep the workers comfortable year around, and where the potential for more industries could become reality. She led us through the building running stairs and twirling in joy as she described the vision she had for this new space. After a top to bottom tour, she put us to work preparing the new office area. We all worked hard. Two days later we had painted 5 rooms, dismantled huge steel shelving that needed to go, stripped a map off a wall (kind of like stripping wallpaper) making a space for a new one, taped two rooms in preparation for painting by the next mission team, tested key after key from a box of unmarked ones finding the right one to keep each office door secure, helped set up a small store for selling the green industry products, and smashed junk furniture left by the former owner to prep it for disposal.
In addition to the hard work, we had the opportunity to visit Cass United Methodist Church, where it all started and where Faith has served as pastor for twenty years. This grand old church has clearly seen better days-creaky floors, chipped paint, etc., but with gorgeous Tiffany stained-glass windows still filling the sanctuary with a rainbow of light. Next door we had the joy to walk into a rousing dance time at the Activity Center-50 to100 developmentally disabled adults of all ages bouncing to a great Motown beat. I was especially touched by the woman who instantly ran up to me, took my hand, and pointed to her shoes-shiny, white, new shoes-that she said she had bought. This is one of the blessings of Cass: those who might be considered the disposable of the city are given an opportunity to have a job at the green industries where they earn money to buy the things they need and want, and at the Activity Center they have a fun and safe place to go in a city where safe places are sometimes hard to find.
It’s easy to see that faith matters when one visits the many programs of CCSS. It’s easy to see that power of one at work when you’re part of a mission team at CCSS. And it’s easy to be caught up in a contagion of faith and joy when around Rev. Faith Fowler.
Check out the website to learn more about CCSS: http://www.casscommunity.org But better yet, join the next mission team that heads to Detroit.
Dianne Stephenson, Author