The Social Service Center
From The Journey of a People
[Excerpted from The Journey of a People: The Era of Worldwide Community, 1946 to 2015, Mark A. Scherer, Community of Christ Seminary Press, 2016, pp. 97-98]
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for him. -Isaiah 30:18
Each generation of the church has performed tangible acts to assist the poor and the needy. In the earliest days of the movement Emma Hale Smith considered such important ministry as a personal calling. The creation of storehouse ministry called for in Doctrine and Covenants 42 was expressly for this purpose. During the early Reorganization years careful stewardship of limited resources ensured that needs were met. In the early twentieth century a store house effort emerged in Independence, Missouri. The program for collection and distribution of clothing for the needy was known by many names-the Commodity Shop, Home Arts and Industries, and the Campus Shop. Its location moved from place to place, at first in a room in the Auditorium to the basement of Bartholomew Hall across the street from the Stone Church, and finally to the church-owned Swope Mansion on the Campus.
By the spring of 1950 the Campus Shop moved across Independence to a fireproof building and changed its name to the Social Service Center. Clothing goods and home furnishing stored there were distributed to the poor at nominal cost or no cost at all. Volunteer workers repaired or remade various donated items necessary for living. Under the supervision of the Presiding Bishopric, all proceeds from sales were returned to the Center to sustain the program and benefit the poor.
By the end of summer the Social Service Center had become a big business that included 150 volunteers working in 30 departments ranging from laundry and dry cleaning to quilting, furniture refinishing and repair, a button department, and an apron and millinery department. Volunteers shipped tons of goods to postwar Europe. “The end goal,” stated Norman Hield, director of the Center, “is to help make life [for impoverished people] more abundant…, both materially and spiritually.”
The Social Service Center program expanded from being a one-day operation on the Campus to being open six days per week. The initiative represented the same social awareness felt by each generation of church members. Although located in Independence, Missouri, the Center modeled for other jurisdictions important church values that volunteers hoped would be replicated. The center provided important service to the community until it closed in 1968.
O God, rain down your blessings, wash away our troubles, flow over us with your Spirit.
If possible, sit where you can hear water-a fountain, stream, the sea, (perhaps a recording of water sounds). Listen to the sound as you thank God for the life-giving, life-shaping power of water. Pray for God’s blessing on all the parched places of the Earth where there is injustice, oppression, violence, and disregard for life. Pray for God’s justice to be released, and imagine it flowing over the Earth, restoring righteousness and wholeness. Now, get up and drink a glass of clear, cold water as you pray, “God, let your justice flow through me as a disciple of Christ Jesus.”
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