Congregations adopt local businesses

By Audrey Stanton-Smith

A group of small community churches in the Southern District of the West Virginia Conference is “feeding the multitude one business at a time,” according to Rev. Dan Lowther.

The United Methodist churches in Pineville, Matheny and Wyoming have always been concerned about the local economy surrounding them. But when Covid struck, that simple regular prayer concern became a serious issue.

“We were wondering if they could sustain and recover,” said Lowther, who serves the three churches and their surrounding communities.

Then, things got worse. On a Sunday evening this summer, a local furniture business caught fire.

“Luckily, some employees of Stat Ambulance Service noticed the fire, broke in and extinguished the flames with a fire extinguisher,” Lowther said. “Light damage was done.”

Lowther — who also runs disaster response services at New Vision Depot with his wife, Rev. Sue Lowther — stopped by the furniture store the following Tuesday to check on its owner and employees.

“The owner was thankful it wasn’t any worse, but made the statement ‘it could not have happened at a worse time,’ ” Lowther said, explaining that the business had been having trouble getting inventory due to Covid issues. Even after the fire damage, vendors informed the owner it would be next April or May before new inventory would be available.

The local pastor wondered if other local businesses faced similar problems, so he began asking them. It didn’t take long for him to learn that the small businesses who served these communities were hurting. As a result, Lowther’s churches started a prayer campaign.

“My three congregations took a business in the community a week and began praying for them,” Lowther said. “We are praying for the business, that they could get inventory to help the community and sustain the business; praying for the owners, the employees and families.”

One of the congregations, Wyoming, took it a step further. One day each week, they do more than pray for a business; they provide lunch for its employees.

“We bring the food in for them, have prayer with them, and spend some time in fellowship with them,” Lowther said. “It has been a great experience.”