By Kate Foster Connors and McKenna Lewllen, The Center
What happens when you invite two people, 15 years apart in age, of different races, and who have never seen each other before, to live together in a city they’ve never lived in, and work together in a shared office? We had no idea what adventure was ahead of us!
In the fall of 2017, when J. Herbert Nelson first shared his vision for Hands and Feet, and asked whether or not The Center would be able to serve as the first full pilot site for the PC(USA)’s new initiative, we answered unequivocally, “yes, of course!” A year and many zoom meetings and phone calls later, we had gone through a search process and hired two Hands and Feet Fellows, Mel Lowry and Liv Thomas. They arrived in September of 2018, Mel fresh out of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Liv a recent graduate of Rhodes College. With funding from the Office of the General Assembly, The Center’s operating budget, and Catonsville Presbyterian’s Envision Fund, Mel and Liv came on board The Center’s staff to support J. Herbert Nelson’s vision for Hands and Feet.
During their time in Baltimore, Mel and Liv quickly became an essential part of The Center’s staff. They often took the lead in hosting our visiting church groups, serving with them in neighborhoods and communities all over Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, and Baltimore City. When they weren’t hosting groups, they spent time supporting the neighborhood ministries of some of our partners, most notably Dickey Memorial’s Golden Eagles after school program and the Glenwood Life Counseling Center in the Woodbourne-McCabe neighborhood.
As a skilled administrator with financial management experience, Mel helped The Center establish a database to track donors and other constituents, kept track of donations and helped with donor acknowledgement. She was a lead organizer of our first annual Silent Auction, and helped organize and lead other fundraisers, including one in Charlotte, NC. Most recently, Mel was an instrumental member of the General Assembly’s Youth Rising planning team.
Liv’s skills and passion for art led her to become the lead creator of the Hands and Feet sacred art project, which contains everyday objects collected by all 760 of our participants during the 2-year hands and feet project, along with objects from each of our church and community partners symbolizing their community engagement ministries. Liv also stepped into the role of facility manager of The Center’s dormitory, keeping track of maintenance and repair needs, and recruiting and organizing volunteers for building work days. Liv also researched and drafted a new, weeklong eco-justice curriculum that we piloted last spring.
Both Mel and Liv made numerous contributions to The Center, but they also were involved in the wider Presbytery and denomination. They spent time in many of your churches across the whole presbytery, listening to your hopes for engagement and mission in your neighborhoods and wider communities. They spoke at presbytery gatherings, and preached at Ark and Dove, Chestnut Grove, Granite, Havenwood, Hope, Hunting Ridge, Light Street, Madison Avenue, Maryland, and Northminster Presbyterian; they regularly contributed to OGA’s articles and news feeds about Hands and Feet, and they spoke at the 2019 Big Tent gathering in Baltimore.
As it turned out, these two women who answered God’s call to Baltimore to live and work with a complete stranger, ended up fast friends. They have left indelible marks on The Center, on the Presbytery of Baltimore, and on Baltimore City. We give thanks for them and their ample contributions to The Center’s work and ministry!