November will mark a decade since Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic held its first intake session at Southeastern Church of Christ. Russell Brown, current Secretary for the Board of Directors and former law student volunteer/law clerk for the Clinic, was moved by a sermon series at the church about utilizing one’s unique skill set to serve the community. An idea took form in his mind for a new intake site for first-time clients, and he met with both then Executive Director Abby Kuzma and the leaders of Southeastern Church. “I recruited some church members to serve as ‘greeters’ at the site, and asked some of my law school classmates to consider volunteering,” Russell says. “At that point there were really no intake sites in the [southeast] corner of the city, so the void along with the idea of having the site completely staffed by volunteers was intriguing to Clinic leadership.”
Many of Southeastern’s programs begin in this manner, with a member of the congregation championing a cause they care about. Preaching Minister Greg York says of this philosophy, “So much of that stuff is better if you let it grow organically than if you try to impose it from above.” He loves when parishioners become excited about a new project. “If someone has recognized a need and is willing to lay themselves down to be part of the solution, then I want to support that,” Greg says. “And Russell clearly had a passion when he came to us.” Indeed, Russell still serves as a regular volunteer attorney at the intake site, along with several other loyal volunteers. He enjoys getting the chance to interact with clients one-on-one. “The hands on part of intake is important to me,” Russell says, “because it allows me to personally deliver services to those in need. “
Although Southeastern Church of Christ is nearly 100 years old, they have only been at their present location since 1964. “Some of the exact motivations for starting the church are perhaps lost in the mists of time, but when we originally came out to this site they had a dream of starting an orphanage that would be connected with the Church,” Greg says. Although State laws changed, making such an orphanage unfeasible for Southeastern, they began to allow families caring for foster children to stay in the two houses located on church grounds. “I think that shows in the deep history and in the DNA of the congregation there was really a desire to be of service to folks who maybe did not have a natural advocate in the culture at large,” Greg says.
In addition to the Children’s Homes, a food pantry, and a pre-school, Southeastern Church also focuses on the health and healing of those going through divorce with their Divorce Care Program and Divorce Care for Kids. “If you’ve experienced divorce, here is where you can come to enhance or, if necessary even, begin your recovery process,” Greg says. Started by members of the congregation who saw the damaging and isolating effects of divorce, the programs continue to grow and develop. Their ultimate goal, Greg says, is “that you can move on with your life and be a productive person and a productive follower of Christ.”
Never a church to rest on their laurels, Southeastern’s leadership continues to examine programs and their Bible classes and to make changes if necessary. “We may not be perfect; we may not have it all together, but the one thing that we’re really, really committed to is figuring out how to get better,” Greg says. “It’s not just about filling heads; it’s about changing hearts.”
To learn more about Southeastern Church of Christ, please visit their website.