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March 15, 2003

Church reaches out to its community

From: Roanoke Times, VA - 15 Mar 2003


   Nearly four years ago, a church in Radford changed its name and pursued what its congregation saw as a mission from God. Rather than demand that government agencies fill the many needs of the people, the congregation decided to make it its responsibility to help.

    Since Radford Pentecostal Holiness Church changed its name to Radford Worship Center, it has continued to develop a number of outreach programs, including an after school program for latchkey kids, a ministry for the deaf and hard of hearing, a food pantry, a free Christian counseling service, and, beginning in April, a free medical clinic.

    "We're more a ministry than a church," pastor Hal Adams said. The name change was important, he said, because some people had preconceived notions about the Pentecostal Holiness denomination.

    The church has existed in some form for the past 90 years, office manager Brenda Moore said. Although the congregation is still under the umbrella of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church and still believes in its doctrine, Adams said he decided to stress discipleship, rather than denomination.

    It worked. The congregation continues to develop outreach programs, and the name change has drawn people from many other mainline Christian denominations.

    One of those new members is Amy Glisson. A native of upstate New York, Glisson has worked for most of her adult life with the deaf and hard of hearing.

    When she was 16, she took off with a teen group called The Tenth Coin on a mission to educate hearing churches about the needs of the deaf among them. Her goal is to "reach deaf people and get them excited about the gospel," she said.

    Now Glisson is a sign language interpreter certified through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, a national membership organization. Glisson works at New River Community College and also serves as the director of the deaf ministry at Radford Worship Center.

    Volunteer interpreters staff as many church events as possible, and this coverage has brought into the church a group of about 15 deaf students from the college.

    "It's a real team effort. I couldn't do it without [volunteers] Drema Bagley and Deb Oliver," Glisson said.

    But Adams believes there is "a great need in the New River Valley for a deaf church with a deaf pastor and deaf leadership," he said. "That would be my hope, that we could one day help grow a deaf church."

    The Worship Center's food ministry feeds about 7,000 people a year through a joint project with Radford's Community Resource Center. Adams' congregation distributes groceries to families and serves hot meals.

    In April, the center will open a free medical service with help from Carilion and the New River Valley Free Clinic. About 30 center members work in the health care field and will help with the clinic, including a Carilion physician. It will be open twice a month and coincide with food distribution.

    "Our part is to make a difference," Adams said.

© Copyright 2003 THE ROANOKE TIMES