Hope Alert. Church Creating and Sharing Hope During Hard Times
By Lindsay Peyton
When Rev. Katherine Hallam Scott heard that the Stars of HOPE bus was coming to Texas, she made a call and asked if it were possible to make a detour to her church, St. Paul’s UMC in Tyler. After all, Hallam Scott does not take coincidence lightly. Instead, she notices God’s serendipity at work.
In fact, Hallam Scott said landing at St. Paul’s UMC was a bit of a miracle for her. She wanted to move to Texas to be closer to her daughter but never dreamt of finding a congregation so aligned with her values. A former teacher, she became a minister as a second career. She had worked in foster care, assisted living and a library in the past. St. Paul’s UMC sprouted a separate nonprofit organization called St. Paul Children’s Foundation, which provides medical and dental services for children, as well as food and clothes pantry.
Meeting Stars of HOPE founder Jeff Parness was also serendipitous for Hallam Scott. She first met him with her husband, who is an artist, when the couple traveled from their home in Oklahoma to an exhibition in Wyoming. The two remained friends through the years.
Stars of HOPE immediately impressed Hallam Scott with its mission. The healing arts program, started by the “New York Says Thank You Foundation” in 2007, seeks to transform communities impacted by natural and man-made disasters by creating colorful art and messages of hope and healing.
Individuals can get involved by ordering a Box of HOPE, which comes with wooden stars and all the art supplies needed to decorate them. Those stars are then given to those in need of a gift of love and light.
The Stars of HOPE Healing Arts Community Response Vehicle goes to communities impacted by natural disasters and human-caused tragedy in the immediate and long-term aftermath of traumatic events. The 36-foot long bus is a visible platform – and also a mobile art unit, going to communities, schools and service organizations.
When Parness recently heard from Hallam Scott, he steered the bus over to St. Paul’s. The congregation hosts “Wonderful Wednesday,” which started in 1990 as an after-school program for children. What started as a way to provide snacks, fellowship, Bible studies and activities to a handful of kids has grown into a thriving program for St. Paul’s Foundation. About 80 children are now part of the program.
When St. Paul’s learned that the Stars of HOPE bus was on its way, the church quickly changed its Wednesday schedule. Hallam Scott said a ladies Bible study group set everything up right away, even fixing a meal for Parness and his bus driver.
“They completely changed what they were going to do that day,” Hallam Scott said. “When God gives you an opportunity, you can either say yes or no. This is a group that continues to say yes.”
The bus pulled up, and Parness unloaded the stars and the art materials. When the kids showed up after school, they were ready to showcase their creativity.
Hallam Scott started by sharing the story of the Good Samaritan. “It fits perfectly with the Stars of HOPE,” she said. “It’s all about asking, who is your neighbor? And what should you do for them?”
She also told them about how Parness’ Jewish faith was connected to theirs. “I said, ‘He is like your cousin; out of his faith is where your faith comes from. His Father is the same as your Father,’” she explained. “It was awesome, just a tremendous time of fellowship.”
The children sang for Parness, and, after they spent time designing the stars, he took some with him.
“On the back of every star is the name of a child, their age and the town where they live,” Hallam Scott said. “These stars have gone all over the world.”
Parness also left some stars for Hallam Scott to distribute. “I carry them in my car, if I stop at an accident scene or go to a Fire Station or police department,” she said. “I can also take them on a visit to a hospital.”
In addition, Parness gave the congregation a number of blank stars so they can have another creative session. Some of the completed stars will be displayed on the fence across from the church, 215 S. Clayton Ave and Andrews Park and Kidd Field at St. Paul Children’s Foundation, 1358 E. Richards St.
One of the stars honored Dr. Duane Andrews, namesake of the park, she said. Andrews is a founding board member of the St. Paul Children’s Foundation and helped establish the St. Paul’s Pediatric Clinic.
Stars of HOPE provides inspiration for the way love can be spread around the world, even in the midst of tragedy. “It shows how big God is, and how few barriers there are when you come right down to it,” Hallam Scott said. “We’re really a neighborhood, a community. And if you choose to say yes, God is going to use you in an amazing way.”
Serving at St. Paul’s, Hallam Scott has seen a number of examples of how embracing opportunity can have a positive impact. “God continues to use you, as long as you are saying, Lord I’m here, choose me,” she said. “He is more than willing to come alongside you.”