By Cindy Solomon

Thanks in part to a grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a new concrete ramp at Clark United Methodist Church in McMinnville, Tennessee, gives members Howard Henny, Willer D. McKinley, and Maxine Weeden easier and safer access to the church. It replaces a narrow, deteriorating wooden ramp.

Sometimes blessings come in twos. This is certainly the case for Clark United Methodist Church in McMinnville, Tennessee, when they recently received two grants from the Golden Cross Foundation: $1,000 to start an older adult ministry and $4,500 to help replace a worn-out accessibility ramp. About 40 percent of Clark UMC’s 91-member congregation is 65 years or older.

“Our goals for the older adult ministry program,” said Rev. Gerard Harlan, pastor at Clark UMC, “are to meet the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of older adults within our congregation, the sick and shut-ins, and those in the community.”

Started in January 2019, the older adult ministry program provides fellowship opportunities for older adults outside of regular Sunday morning services as well as support for caregivers and the grief stricken and lonely. For the first community outreach event – a bingo night – grant money was used to purchase food and prizes.

“I think the most important thing is helping older adults realize their self-worth,” said Harlan. “While our program is still in its infancy, we hope it will bring inactive members and others in our community into the church.”

More than half of the older adults regularly attending need to use an accessibility ramp. When a narrow and deteriorating wooden accessibility ramp become a safety hazard, church members planned for a longer-lasting replacement ramp. Using donated block, brick, sand, and mortar from a local builder’s supply company and money from their second Golden Cross Foundation grant, a sturdier and wider concrete replacement ramp was installed.

“Everyone is very proud of the ramp,” said Harlan. “I think they never imagined it looking as good as it does. We had a beautiful dedication service wherein we named the ramp after three of our oldest members using the ramp. Members of our community came to the celebration and were amazed that such a small congregation could make such a beautiful ramp become a reality.”

Both the older adult ministry program and new ramp are helping make Clark UMC more welcoming and accessible for the area’s senior adults.

“I am thankful that the Golden Cross Foundation and the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church recognize a great need within our connectional church to be in mission and ministry with older adults and are conducting educational seminars on their needs and supporting us with grants,” said Harlan.