Women in white: Women’s Missionary Society serves church and Durham

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 03:21 PM

This Sunday morning, April 14, at St. Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church, you’ll recognize the Minnie S. Pearson Women’s Missionary Society because they’ll all be dressed in white. They’ll sit together and take communion together as they do first Sundays of the month. This Sunday is special because it is the annual Missionary Day. About 120 women at St. Joseph are in the missionary society, and their service goes beyond the church doors.
“Their impact is enormous, you know,” said St. Joseph AME associate minister the Rev. Valerie McIver. “These are the ladies to visit the sick and shut-in, go to nursing homes, take packages, and reach out and provide hope to those who may have lost their hope. They go abroad. In Durham, the missionary society is well known,” said McIver, who will preach Sunday on the Missionary Day theme, “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?”
In McIver’s sermon, she will look at missionaries as ladies called to serve the least of us, and focus on their calling to serve, she said.
Sandra Rogers Alston is president of the Minnie S. Pearson Women’s Missionary Society, named for its founder more than 100 years ago. Its 120 members are divided into four units named for influential missionaries in the church. Units take on projects like winter coat drives for local elementary schools. A unit may also adopt a whole family at a particular school, making sure the children have clothes and school supplies, Alston said. The society also gives four families gift cards so they can shop for holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. For its winter giveaway of clothing, household items, books and decorations, just putting up a bilingual flyer at the adopted school results in people coming even before the giveaway start time, she said.
The Missionary Society at St. Joseph will cook and serve two meals at Urban Ministries of Durham this summer. They meet regularly throughout the year. Alston has been part of the society almost 25 years. She spent her career as a public school educator in 1966, teaching in Warren County, High Point and Winston-Salem before coming to Durham. She taught driver’s education and other classes in several Durham junior and senior high schools during her 35-year career.
Alston grew up in Durham attending St. Joseph. Family members have also been in the Women’s Missionary Society.
“I first joined basically because my sister was in there. My mother, too – she’s 92,” Alston said. “When I was a little girl, I thought only really old people did it, but they’re not all old. We have a Young Women’s Initiative for ages 26-40. There is also the Young People and Children’s Department, with children of all ages up through college to age 25, being trained to take on roles we have,” she said.
Other outreach by the Missionary Society includes providing meals for an AME shelter in Raleigh, reminding worshippers about voter registration, funding a child’s summer camp tuition, providing backpacks for children, providing purses filled with cosmetics for domestic violence victims, providing Christmas gifts for children of incarcerated parents, and providing comfort to families of the deceased.
McIver said she thinks it’s important that the Missionary Society’s work starts at home.
“You should start at your home church and those who need assistance. We can all fall on hard times at any time for any reason. They reach out past the church congregation to the community and other families in need,” McIver said. They also introduce people to Christ, she said.
“What I believe our true mission is, is to point people to the one who is able to do anything for them, and that is Christ,” McIver said.

WHAT: Annual Missionary Day at St. Joseph AME Church. The theme is “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?” The Rev. Valerie McIver, associate minister, will preach.
WHEN: 11 a.m. Sunday, April 14, worship service
WHERE: St. Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church
2521 Fayetteville St., Durham
INFORMATION: 919-683-1379 or 919-688-6767