By Susan LeDoux
Drive a few blocks south from Empire Boulevard on Winton Road North and you will discover the “Ark of Jesus Ministries” sign standing on the front lawn of what had been Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
Bishop Singleton and his congregation are looking forward to paths they believe God will set before them in their new location. Bible centered and community focused, Ark of Jesus Ministries’ foundation is the Word of God.
The move has taken Singleton on a spiritual journey as well as a physical one. As he and church members looked at churches large and small, or buildings that could be re-purposed, he had one overriding desire — to be where God wanted them to be.
He said he prayed, “God, I want to be where you want us. Please, if it’s under a shade tree, and there’s no leaves on the tree, I’m fine so long as that’s where you want me.”
Singleton knew what he needed: handicapped accessibility, sanctuary space, a room for large group gathering, offices, classrooms, parking, green space, and near major thoroughfares. He wanted to be in a populated neighborhood and near a street where they would be visible.
“God has granted everything I asked for and I know people are coming,” he said. Despite retention issues being common when churches move, most of his congregation remained committed to Ark of Jesus Ministries.
How did he know it was God who put them there? Singleton laughed. “Because I didn’t see us able to do it.”
Finding God’s will in the relocation led him on a faith journey.
“I’m thinking about our readers. In a real way, their situation(s) may be totally different, and in another way, exactly the same.”
Singleton was looking for peace. He needed to know he was in God’s will on this issue, and that God had not abandoned him. That can be challenging when things do not appear to line up in the way one anticipates they should. He prayed, “God, is it that I’m in the boat and you’re saying ‘just step out and whatever you do, I’m going to bless it? You just have to do something for me to bless.’ It reminds me of Psalm 1 in the later part of verse 3 — ‘and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.’ So you at least got to do something.”
Once he made the decision, he simply asked God to shut it down if it was not his will. “Just continue to trust God. God wants us to rest in him.”
He and his congregation will continue their established ministries from their new location. Celebration of Life Community, Inc., a not for profit he started years ago, tutors over 200 students in Rochester City Schools 17 and 45.
“The research shows students have done well. The librarian and multiple teachers said students have grown in their reading. Their behavior is better, and their personal images have improved.”
With 60 plus tutors in School 17, this ministry is an extension of his belief that he should live what he preaches in the pulpit. Singleton said he believes we need to do necessary things, even though not everything we do is necessarily spiritual.
“So to me, tutoring is not spiritual, but it’s necessary. If these kids don’t learn to read, their life is going to be harder. Research says if children have not reached a certain reading level by 3rd grade, and a math level by 4th grade, there’s a prison cell they will build for them. It is called “the school to prison pipeline.”
“So if we want to see our city healed, part of what brings healing is the unity of a community, and unity, to me, doesn’t mean we all believe the same thing or do things the same way. It is that the cause is big enough that our differences won’t keep us from being part of the cause. The cause drives it.”
For example, Singleton and his congregation are looking forward to Global Impact Saturday (September 14) when they will offer passersby the Father’s love from their church’s front lawn. Churches participating in Global Impact Saturday can do health fairs, music, games, anything to attract people. Not only do they hope to reach people on Saturday, they hope to bring them in the next day, on National Back to Church Sunday.
Singleton sees his congregation growing even more. While previously their ministries were located in the inner city, he looks forward to seeing how God will use them in their new neighborhood and beyond.
“Some things we have done, I believe, were training and preparation for where we are (now).” They have already reached out to some in their new community to see what is going on and to learn about each other. “We’re looking forward to developing new relationships.”
“Let’s learn how we can make, not only community, but our greater community larger or better. I believe that the rock only makes a splash where it hits the water, but it sends ripples across the face of the water. I believe I need to happen where I am. I need to be relevant where I am, while making impact in places where I am not.”
Bishop Singleton extends an invitation to their Open House on Saturday, June 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All are welcome at their 9:00 AM Sunday Services, as well as Wednesday Bible studies from Noon to 1:00 PM, or from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.