Cass Community UMC: Ministry With

Sandy Devoid, a United Methodist Christian Educator, shares about her experience at Cass Community UMC in Detroit.

In Luke’s parable of the Great Banquet, the Kingdom of God is compared to a feast to which the master invites the “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame,” bypassing the rich and privileged who ignored the master’s invitation (Luke 14:21, NRSV).

I thought of this parable recently when I attended Cass Community United Methodist Church’s Regional Experiential Training in Ministry with the Poor, held in Detroit, Michigan in May 2015. In the midst of Detroit’s abandoned buildings and bleak empty lots, like “the streets and lanes of the town” in Luke’s parable, there is a feast of hospitality going on thanks to Cass Community UMC. And like in the parable, it is “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” who are being invited in.

After all, what else should we call it when people are fed, housing is found, jobs are created, the lost are remembered, human dignity is respected and understanding as well as compassion are given away freely?

Whether we were learning how to cut glass for beautiful coasters or make a mud mat out of scavenged old tires or witnessing adults with developmental disabilities working at the shredding business or hearing how a kind gentleman began his own business with a micro-loan, Cass UMC illustrated how it practices radical hospitality in all that it does.

At Cass, the Holy Spirit invites all in. Old tires dropped off in empty lots are sought after because this community sees purpose and value in the discarded.

They know that these are not simply old tires but treasures ready to give new life by creating employment and community. Yet people are sought after even more. Everyone has value, gifts, and something to offer.

As we learned the intricacies of making one of those sturdy, beautiful doormats, what looked like it would be a task we could easily handle turned into something a bit more complicated that required concentration and one’s total attention. We found our teacher to be a skilled craftsman, full of patience and helpful tips for weaving these mats.

Mistakes were pointed out and guidance was given for making these right. Laughter and work danced together and no one was left out.

Our teacher shared bits of his life, once having a good job that gave security and support. Then the job left for other shores and he faced unemployment, which eventually led to so much loss—first his job, then his car, then his home. A tale all too familiar in our land.

Yet he was not bitter. He shared that Cass had given him purpose, not just because he had work or had learned this craft, but because he was respected and needed. He spoke of the Wednesday Evening Worship at Cass’ Warehouse and how that filled his soul. After worshipping there just one time, I knew what he was talking about. It filled my soul, too.

This is Cass UMC. It’s a feast where everyone is welcome. No one is left out. Lost? Come in. Sick? You are welcome. Tired, hungry, lonely, cold? You are needed. You are respected here.

In a city where the time for celebration seems to have passed, Cass knows something else.


God is present here, and through the Cass Community UMC, God’s love and grace are shared with everyone.


What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Cass Community UMC: Ministry With?

Ministry With the Poor

Cass Community UMC in Detroit, Michigan excels in ministries with the poor. Reflect on their community-based ministries here.

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Cass Community UMC has several ministries with the poor. As you read through their ministry offerings, consider what makes each community-based and successful and ways that our own communities can emulate these ministries.


  • Cass Green Industries, a collection of environmentally-friendly, job-creating endeavors including Detroit Treads, a company that produces sandals made from illegally dumped tires. The company provides steady work for over a dozen people and produced 3,000 pairs of sandals in just five months. Green Industries as a whole employs over 85 people.
  • Two Free Clinics on Wednesdays at the World Building and on Saturdays at the Activity Center, offer medical care and medications to patients free of charge.
  • Street outreach, emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing for over 300 people through Cass Community Social Services.
  • A food program that serves a million meals a year. Matt Prentice, a well-known and respected restaurateur, trains staff, supervises volunteers, and prepares food.
  • An urban gardening program that began in 2010 comprised of garden beds and plots all over the Cass campus as well as a hydroponic greenhouse. The program grows more than 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables for use in Cass’ commercial kitchen.
  • Cass Community Publishing House, which produces books on social change that traditional publishing companies might not embrace, including Rev. Faith Fowler’s memoir about her first twenty years at Cass, This Far by Faith.

What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Cass Community UMC: Ministry With?

Take Action

Engaging in Ministry with the Poor

Cass UMC provides an example of ways to be in ministry with the poor. Find actions you can take in your own community to enhance ministry with the poor here.

  1. Support Cass Community Publishing House and Cass Community Social Services by buying Rev. Faith Fowler's book, This Far By Faith.
  2. Learn more about Jane Addams, one of Rev. Faith Fowler's inspiration for ministries at Cass UMC.
  3. Encourage your community to creatively engage resources to be in ministry with the poor, as Cass UMC does through Cass Green Industries, two Free Clinics, Cass Community Social Services, a food program that serves a million meals a year, and an urban gardening program. 
  4. Attend a Ministry With training:

What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Cass Community UMC: Ministry With?

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