By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Every Sunday, The Worship Center Christian Church (TWCCC) Founding Pastor Van Moody, starts each of his two Sunday services the same way: he has members stretch their arms across the aisles and join hands with those next to them.
“You might be holding hands with someone who is different than you, whether it’s in age, racially, or socioeconomically,” he says to the congregation.
While hands are still connected, Moody prays. Afterward, members sit back down as he begins his message.
TWCCC has four campuses: Derby, Bessemer, Anniston, and an online ministry. And Moody said he “absolutely” believes there is a duty for churches to address social issues.
“Jesus did,” he said. “His ministry was not just about people being saved and going to heaven, it was about them living a kingdom life, which is the language he uses often. He often refers to the Kingdom of God.”
Moody’s first message when TWCCC opened in March 2006 was from Luke, chapter 4, he recalled: “Jesus goes through several things [in the verses], and those things are social, spiritual, and nature.”
Many churches are expanding their ministries now more than ever, and TWCCC is a prime example. With more than 6,000 active members, TWCCC offers services that address several issues in the community, including life change, economic education, and empowerment, as well as educational enhancement and improvement.
“[We meet] … people where they are in the community and try to meet needs,” Moody said. “We find a need and fill it.”
Economic education and empowerment are not exclusive to the church. Moody has been vocal about social issues through various news articles, special statements via the TWCCC website, TEDx Talks, and even working to pass legislation.
“My legislation with the Community Foundation wasn’t passed, but we got it through the [Alabama House of Representatives]; we didn’t make it through the Senate,” he said. “It was legislation designed to get at the issue of payday lending.”
TWCCC also hosts financial conferences, financial-literacy classes, and teaching sessions geared toward economic empowerment.
“Right at the end of the [Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s] life, he realized that civil rights without economic rights are really no rights at all,” he said. “That’s where the Poor People’s Campaign originated.”
Another area TWCCC addresses is education, via programs like Einstein’s Playground and Freedom Schools.
“Einstein’s Playground encourages creativity, confident thinking, individuality, communication, exploration, invention, trying-out, and enjoyment,” while providing “a secure, warm, and loving Christ-centered atmosphere where students are taught the Word of God through daily Bible time and weekly chapel services.”
“[Former Gov. Robert Bentley] started the Ready Day One and pre-K initiative because, particularly in Alabama, the hardest hit area for disenfranchised and impoverished families is access to early-childhood education for children,” Moody said. “Studies show that if kids don’t get that pre-K education, they are already behind. That’s why we started Einstein’s Playground.
“The next generation of our educational efforts is the Freedom Schools [because] the summer slide, [the tendency for students to lose achievement gains they made during the previous school year], most directly affects kids from low-income families.”
Part of the Children’s Defense Fund, the Freedom School program “seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation, and world today.” It provides summer and after-school reading-improvement opportunities for children who might otherwise not have access to books. Freedom Schools also play a role in helping curb summer learning loss and close achievement gaps.
Ariel Worthy attends TWCCC.