Urban Mission dream turning into reality

Mission’s 60th anniversary worship celebration set for Sunday at plaza

LOOKING FORWARD TO SERVICE — Representatives of Urban Mission Ministries who are looking forward to the mission’s 60th anniversary worship celebration on Sunday at the Seventh Street Plaza, beginning at 3 p.m., are, from left, the Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director, Debra Bryan, Amber Wade, Vanessa Slappy, Cynthia Lytle and Tiffany Beckwith. The service will include an offering of coats for the mission’s coat distribution Oct. 21-23 at the plaza along with the special announcement of signing for the purchase of the plaza. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director of Urban Mission Ministries, finds it not so coincidental that the wrap-up service Oct. 20 for the mission’s 60th anniversary celebration year will bring a special announcement of a historic moment in the life of the Upper Ohio Valley ministry.

Expectations are to sign Thursday for the official purchase of the Seventh Street Plaza in downtown Steubenville, home to what includes not only the site of the former Kroger and Save-A-Lot grocery stores on the corner of North Seventh and North streets, but also several businesses. “For us, it’s very timely,” Steele said with a smile earlier this week of the impending signing date with a down payment toward the estimated $1.2 million purchase of the plaza. It makes Sunday grounds for an especially celebratory occasion, according to Steele.

“This is the worship service that we had scheduled really at the beginning of the year as we were mapping out what we would like to do to celebrate the 60th,” Steele said.

“We were using a format that was used in years past when Urban Mission was celebrating different anniversaries, and so there was always a celebration at the beginning of the year, then we did tours in the summer and that was something they’d done in the past, and then they also had a celebratory worship service at the end of the year, and so we have been using that template,” she said.

“Love works” has been the year-long theme of the mission’s observance of six decades of service.

The signing means moving forward with renovations and moving the mission’s operations to the former grocery store site in phases.

The mission’s October newsletter message from Steele notes: “It has been a dream of ours to create a thriving community hub where families and individuals can participate in a broad range of programs that provide healthy food, foster social connections, build job-related skills and bring people together for the common good.”

“It wouldn’t be something we can do immediately, mostly because we have to keep operating and work on the plaza at the same time, so we will be phasing everything we do in there from then on out,” Steele said.

“We will have a mortgage for a while that we’ll just keep paying into,” Steele said. “Thankfully, we’ll be self-sustaining for the most part with that because we have tenants in the plaza.”

The timing of the announcement is no coincidence, according to Steele.

“We had planned this at the beginning of the year and then I don’t think it’s coincidental that a few days prior we’ll be actually taking ownership of the plaza, and so it’s almost as if God orchestrated it so we could be able to celebrate at our final service some exciting news,” Steele said. “We had hoped to share that at the initial celebration in the spring, but God only operates in God’s own time. It is really a neat thing.”

The Sunday service begins in the plaza at 3 p.m. “One of the reasons why we wanted to do that there is it would be neat to be in that same space where we’re making the announcement, but the other would be that we are doing a coat distribution there the very next day,” Steele explained.

“We wanted people to see love at work because there will be folks filling that space in the days following, and then also we’re collecting an offering of coats, so there’s not going to be a financial offering but an offering of coats, and that will go right into our distribution for the remainder of the week.”

People who have gently used or new coats for men, women and children to donate can bring them to the service, or in the days leading up to it, they can be brought to the War Memorial Building or the warehouse. Children’s coats are especially needed.

Urban Mission will hold the coat giveaway Oct. 21-23 at the Seventh Street Plaza from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. while supplies last. “We give out more than 500 coats if we have them. It all depends on donations,” Steele said of past distributions.

The service will include a number of participants. “There will be no sermon but really what it will be is testimonies of people sharing how they have seen love at work, and there will be a collection of different musicians from the community who represent different churches that will be performing, singing and leading the congregation in song,” Steele said.

“We realize worship is singing and praying and certainly listening to scripture but also worship can be putting your love into action so it will be a combination of all those different types of worship,” she said.