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Faith United ministry looks to plant roots in Sharpsburg

| Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Pastor Tom Parkinson talks with sisters Madeline and Abagail Jones after outdoor service at the Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel. The church is opening a new location in Sharpsburg.

Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel hopes to bring the Sharpsburg community together with its newest venture.

Roots of Faith, a ministry from the Fox Chapel church, opened earlier this year in Sharpsburg.

The location, at 800 Main St., has hosted community programs for the church.

It is styled as a coffeehouse-type place for people to stop in and chat with their friends and neighbors, the Rev. Tom Parkinson said.

“There's something about sitting down with a cup of coffee with someone else where you begin to get to know them and begin to get to know their story,” Parkinson said.

Two programs — Neighborhood Table and a Friday night youth coffeehouse — have quickly become popular, Parkinson said. The first coffeehouse night brought in about 30 children.

“It was really designed on a Friday night to be a safe place for teenagers in the community to come,” Parkinson said.

Sherrie Rizza of Aspinwall volunteered at the first coffeehouse night. She said the event was a success.

“Everybody just had a great time,” she said.

The Neighborhood Table, a free meal served on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 6 p.m., have averaged between 80 and 90 people. Parkinson said the meals aren't a “soup kitchen” and have brought out a diverse group of people.

“There are folks who come here who have plenty of means but they enjoy the opportunity to connect with their neighbors,” Parkinson said.

Ginger Thomas of O'Hara has volunteered as a cook at the Neighborhood Table. She said it's refreshing to see children turn out for the events.

“What I love to see is that the same kids and teenagers are coming back time after time after time and they're bringing some of their buddies,” Thomas said.

Parkinson also hopes to bring the program “Circles” to the space. The program helps families who are living below the poverty line and surrounds them with new people to provide support.

“What we want to do is create a space for somebody to have some people they can turn to,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson said the church plans to hire an associate pastor this month who will mainly work out of the Roots of Faith location. A vacation Bible school will be held at the site June 23 to 27.

Parkinson said he is looking forward to working with the businesses in Sharpsburg and being part of the borough's revitalization efforts.

“We want to contribute something positive to Main Street,” Parkinson said.

As the church's new location continues to grow, Parkinson said he hopes it becomes a way for people in the community to join together and get to know each other.

“What we see here is a way for us to be the church in the sense of actually loving our neighbors by getting to know people and taking down the barriers that kind of separate us,” Parkinson said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513, or

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