With Open Arms
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
September 2021 • Newsletter
Chuck Foreman (center), Teaching and Mission’s Pastor at First Christian Church, welcomes the men and women of Along Side Ministries into the congregation.
Some churches would balk at the idea of welcoming ex-convicts into their congregation.
First Christian Church (FCC) isn’t one of them.
Chuck Foreman, FCC’s Teaching and Mission’s Pastor explains, “FCC isn’t about having a religious party together on the weekend. We’re about serving and making a difference in our community. God has transformed this church into a place where the previously incarcerated can find a home, be welcomed, serve, grow in their relationship with God, and continue their journey of recovery.”
But it wasn’t always this way. For FCC, that inclusive spirit started with a Sunday School request.
“As a congregation, we financially supported the work of Along Side Ministries for a long time, but that was about the extent of our relationship. Then one day they came to us with a request: their men and women needed a church home, and wanted to know if they would be welcome at our Sunday School. To be honest, I wasn’t sure! The only Sunday School we had at the time was filled with an older crowd, a demographic you wouldn’t think would mix well with these pierced and tattooed wonders right out of prison – but they received them with open arms!”
It wasn’t long before the rest of the church followed their lead – and Chuck couldn’t be happier for it.
“I love being able to go into the men’s prisons and share with these guys what my church is like,” says Chuck. “I tell them that when they get out, if they’re in this [Along Side] program and come to my church, we will love them unconditionally, and accept them with open arms.”
He continued, “I sometimes get that look, like, ‘Whatever, that will never happen.’ But a few weeks after they come, I hear, ‘It’s true, and I can’t believe it! I’m so happy to be here!’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”
It’s a beautiful thing! But FCC’s conviction hasn’t come without a cost.
“We’ve honestly lost some people, some families who did not want to go to church and sit by an ex-con. And, for the most part, that kind of attrition is absolutely fine with me. We’re not going to back down from what we think God wants us to do. You’ll definitely sit by an ex-con if you come to FCC, and we love that, we’re proud of that, that’s a joyful thing to me.”
On behalf of all of us at Along Side, thank you FCC for welcoming the men and women we serve into your family. We love you too!