Hasson Heights Community Church was like a lot of churches. The Presbyterian congregation located in Oil City, PA, was experiencing a drop in giving and had to tighten the belt in order to make ends meet.
“When I came six years ago they had spent several years in the red,” recalled the Rev. Jamie Fowler. “They had some pretty hard conversations. By the time I came – it was my first call – they were pretty nervous that this was going to be the end.”
Even though times were tough, Hasson Heights decided to not hold back. The congregation felt that it should go forward with what it was called to do, and that was to concentrate on its mission work.
“They kind of decided that if we really trusted what God has said, that God would give us what God would give us in order to do what we were called to do in being the church,” Jamie said, adding “that as long as we were being the church, if we ran out of money, then we would go join with somebody else and keep being the church. As painful as that was, that was kind of where they were.”
Because of its financial situation, the church had been cutting back on missions. Then six years ago, the congregation decided to go all in with regards to its mission work, earmarking 10 percent of its budget for those outreaches. That’s a sizable amount of money for a church that is short on funds. However, the result has been staggering.
“I’m happy to say that in those six years they have finished every year in the black,” said Jamie, who also shares her time at Pleasantville Presbyterian Church.
While money was set aside for global and local missions, and there were also some discretionary funds, one body within the church decided to start its own outreach. A group of runners and walkers, who call itself “Moving with Purpose,” took it upon itself to organize a weekly gathering at the church that consisted of devotions and a short run/walk. This group also headed up an annual “Couch to 5K” community run in Oil City. Every other year, the run coincided with another of the church’s missions, “Music on the Hill,” which involves different praise bands from the area coming together for one evening of music. On the years that both the run and “Music on the Hill” occur, the run is held in the morning and the music program in the evening, creating a festival of sorts for the Oil City community.
Any money raised through those ventures is above and beyond the funds tithed by the congregation for mission. With that being the case at the end of 2015, the “Moving with Purpose” group searched for a way to give those funds back to the community. It didn’t have to look far. One of Hasson Heights’ own members, Jim Fee, lives with multiple sclerosis and struggles to get around. After a conversation with the family, it was agreed that the funds would help pay for a handicap-accessible van for Jim.
“It helped tremendously,” Jim said of the $3,000 gift. “It was a God-send.”
“It sure made our life a lot easier,” added Jim’s wife, Pennie. “It was to the point where we were lifting the scooter in and out of the car every time we stopped somewhere. It was getting very hard for him to continue to help me with that and it was getting hard for me. I started having medical problems from it.”
Jim had no idea how much money he was going to receive from the church and was taken aback by the eventual figure. He also admitted that he felt a little guilty accepting the donation considering there were plenty of other places that could have used the money, including his own congregation.
“I felt like, hey, if the church needs this money, I want my church to survive,” he said. “But they said the church is back in good shape.”
This act of kindness had a lasting effect on Jamie and the congregation.
“For me, the coolest moment was Christmas caroling this year. Jim was with us,” Jamie recalled. “They took the van and he was in and out of the people’s places. He was just so joyful that he could be a part of what he loved to do and that was being part of the life of the church.”
And it all came out of the “Moving with Purpose” group, which – as Jamie put it – “walked so that others can move.” It also lines up perfectly with what Hasson Heights has re-established over the last six years of its ministry.
“Little churches don’t do big things, supposedly,” Jamie concluded. “I think it’s God’s faithfulness when people are listening and willing to step out in faith. God definitely is there. And God is in the midst of it.”