St. Paul Ministries have been centered in the historic Huffman district of East Dayton since 1883. The building and the activities within have become a major hub and community gathering place for a series of holistic services in recent years.
At St. Paul there is a quality of belonging that begins with a small but vital core membership that extends outward to include numerous neighborhoods, community people, partnering churches and social service agencies. This gathering together is anything but homogeneous. The resulting mix is complex, vibrant and multifaceted. Those coming and going throughout the week are often those who feel isolated and left behind in other settings, but the experience at St. Paul makes it easy for all to feel a sense of belonging. Many initially arrive for very non-religious purposes, but the Spirit entices the community into a deeper exploration of what makes St. Paul special and inclusive.
How can such divergent groups coexist? This begins with the aspect of belief. When not oppressed by a dogmatic approach to the Good News, people are naturally inclined toward open conversation—both formal and informal—regarding belief. RESPECT guides this interaction. St. Paul generously welcomes people to partake of numerous opportunities for worship, study, service or respite without having to first commit to doctrine. Four weekly worship services offer easy entry into a teaching and contemplation of the Bible and its call on life.
The strongest expression of community is service. At almost every exchange, there is an opportunity to bless and be blessed. This is not a one-way street—although perhaps unaware in the moment, the people passing through the doors of St. Paul bring many gifts. The blessings flow and circulate throughout the convergence of those with multiple theological perspectives, educated and non-educated, wealthy and poor, citizens and non-citizens, incarcerated and free, seniors and children, and so much more, weaving a richness of service.
To explore, contemplate and replicate this community and its many ministries, the congregation—with the help of the United Methodist District and the Annual Conference—has adopted a lens through which to look, explore and appreciate this experience. The lens has been envisioned, articulated and even coached by Rev. Eric Law in his work called Holy Currencies. He has offered—to what is likely thought of as a poor church, within a city, community and world of scarcity—a way to see and manifest a cycle of many blessings.
In his book, Holy Currencies, Eric Law* states that our roles as God’s children are to be part of the recirculation of resources, so that all living things on earth may share God’s abundance. For more than 132 years St. Paul has stood on the corner of Huffman and Fourth in East Dayton, offering a place for the people of the neighborhood to build relationships.
Over the years, the people that have circulated in and out of the church have changed, and the mission of the church has changed, but the building remains steady—well-worn but well-loved from the many uses and ministries.
St. Paul has always looked for ways to use its resources, to offer blessings throughout our part of Dayton. Doing so required the sacrifice or letting-go of preconceived ideas, and instead, facing the hard truth of a neighborhood sliding from middle-class to high poverty. There have been times when resources were poor, but still we recirculated what we had out of our abundance, and that is why the church remains here still today.
Our faith in the power of God’s abundance and the gracious life of Jesus has brought us to a new day once again as we take part in the work of Holy Currencies through the West Ohio Conference and the Miami Valley District. Currently we are aligning our ministries and leadership roles around the six currencies:
As formulated by Eric Law, the six currencies form the Cycle of Blessings. This idea goes beyond the common belief that money alone is needed for the support and operation of a viable church ministry. These currencies are considered to permeate the ministry, recirculating, exchanging themselves for other currencies and regenerating more currencies, thereby growing and expanding the ministry.
It is our hope that—together with our congregation and ministry partners—we will continue the work of mission in a neighborhood that has so many needs.
St. Paul Dayton is a seven-day-a-week church, ministering to the Huffman neighborhood and beyond. In addition to English and Hispanic services, it offers a wide variety of other outreach programs. This video shows a sampling of activities of the last year or so, including the food pantry and thrift shop, the Saturday breakfasts and Tuesday lunches, the after-school program, the free tax-preparation program and the seasonal celebration functions. The small church staff is supplemented by a large number of area-wide organizations and individuals, including thefoodbankdayton.org and many Miami Valley churches that donate individual personal time, congregation-donated funds, support services and goods. The recent extensive upgrades and repurposing of the 130-year-old church building itself was undertaken mostly by talented volunteers who contributed their expertise and time.