E. Dale Taylor was a religion major at Trevecca in the late ’60s, and though his studies required him to pore over much of the Bible, he said one verse stands out to him to today.
In Isaiah 58, God admonishes His people for failing to live like Christ, despite the fact that they were outwardly devout.
Taylor credits that passage as the inspiration behind his work with New Day of the Nazarene, a small church in Riverdale, Georgia, that serves the community through a monthly food pantry.
Through the food pantry, food-insecure community members are able to put aside the worry of what will be on the dinner table or in their child’s lunchbox.
“In Fort Worth, we had a church that had grown and done well, but I got tired of wearing my referee shirt, if you follow that. I got alone one day with the Lord and understood that we aren’t supposed to do that. Isaiah 58 fell open in my Bible. God said to me, ‘You want an answer? Here it is,’” Taylor said. “[By my understanding], that passage is a discussion between God and His people about how His people don't feed the needy, break the chains of injustice, take care of those who are broken. Scripture often spotlights places that are in need -- and it will give direction if we let it.”
Taylor, who graduated from Trevecca in 1972, said it was while on campus as a religion major that he initially began to sit with and be moved by Scripture. Passages like the one in Isaiah have since challenged him to act, and one way he serves is by operating a food pantry at his church, New Day Church of the Nazarene.
“Having a food ministry in a church committed to compassion has been who we are ever since we came to Atlanta in ’96. We started the food ministry and also did a camp for battered, abused and neglected children that is still going today,” he said. “We operate the food pantry every Sunday after church and another day during the week. Once a month, the Atlanta food bank sends as many as 19 pallets on a Saturday morning, and we have 30 or more volunteers that break all that down into boxes. We distribute to as many as 350 families in one day. The Atlanta food bank told us recently that we crossed the million-pound mark.”
Jamie Casler is Trevecca’s assistant professor of social justice and director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. Part of his work is to find service opportunities for his justice-oriented students. Casler said he first learned of Taylor’s work while at a Nazarene Compassion Ministries conference and felt it was an easy choice to schedule a visit for his students.
“I met Mr. Taylor at the conference this fall and was so inspired and impressed by his vision for innovative ministry as a means to reach his community,” Casler said. “When crafting the fall TAG trip with The Salvation Army, we wanted to show Trevecca students how the church was also meeting the needs of their neighbors.”
Kayla Williamson, a journalism major at Trevecca, said Mr. Taylor’s work helped her remember exactly why she gravitated toward journalism as a form of service.
“I want to use my writing to help others, and when we were at the church, we talked with the leaders of the church and the pastor. They gave us a tour around the building and showed us where they did the food pantry. It was incredible,” she said. “You don’t need a huge group or effort in order to make a difference. They only have a few people, and it was a pretty small church, but they still do all this service despite that.”
Taylor said it’s not the size of the church, the amount of work or the praise for helping those in need that matters. It’s simply that there is a need that Christ calls His followers to meet.
“We’re by no means the cutting edge, but that doesn’t matter. We’re seeing the needs, and it’s as simple as doing something to help,” he said. “We are not a large church. We’re the little church that can.”