By Fred Koenig
The Unity Award celebrates the spirit and work of an individual in light of the values of the Conference with particular emphasis on inclusiveness, justice and worth. This year’s recipient of the Unity Award goes to Rev. Melissa Bailey-Kirk.
Bailey-Kirk has been the pastor of Grace UMC in Springfield since July 2016. Grace UMC is a massive facility with a small congregation, traditional worship and a neighborhood that was changing around them.
The church is bordered on one side by campus housing and Missouri State University facilities. The church is three blocks south of the Springfield downtown core, with many friends who are homeless wandering the streets. The church is bordered on another side by smaller homes, often rentals, and folks who live on the edge.
When Bailey-Kirk arrived, she learned of a community meal the church was offering to neighbors living on the streets and/or without stable food resources. That meal was opened once a week. She began to build significant relationships with those coming to the meals and worked with church members to set up a resource “store” that provided “interview” clothes for those who have that need, clean underwear, transportable protein foods for other days on the street, and miscellaneous self-care products.
Working collaboratively with other pastors and churches, both within the UMC circles and beyond, the meal has now expanded to three nights a week and provides a place for interaction, unity and diversity.
Additionally, upon learning that the laundry option for friends living on the street was closing and knowing Grace UMC has lots of unused physical space, she began working with community partners, individuals and churches to consider a laundry ministry.
Bailey-Kirk exhibits care, dignity, openness to diversity, and justice in her work and ministry. She shows excellence and collaboration in what she is offering through Grace UMC and longs for the day that unity is a value in our communities. Her voice, witness and contributions to the Missouri Annual Conference celebrate the values of inclusiveness, justice and worth.