The Little Church That Could

9/4/2013

 By Bud Kirkpatrick, Member of Parkway Heights UMC, Hattiesburg 

Warren Pittman could not stand to see a church closed. When he became superintendent of the Hattiesburg District of The United Methodist Church in 1975, Edwards Street

Pittman Founders Hall
Building will be rededicated in honor of Warren Pittman.
United Methodist Church had six members. Subsequently the church and parsonage were declared abandoned.

 

Feeling strongly that the church could be useful to the community, Pittman called a citywide group together to discuss possibilities. William Carey College (University) took a survey of the area and found that a child care center and youth recreation were the greatest needs of that area. Pittman presented these findings to the Hattiesburg area United Methodist churches. In November 1978, the Work Area on Missions at Parkway Heights United Methodist Church stepped forward to be a participant in this program. The ministry born of that group was named the Edwards Street Fellowship Center (ESFC). 

 

Edwards Street Thrift
Edward St. thrift store is open to the public Monday through Saturday.
Come forward about 35 years. From that little closed church, today the ministry is centered on the commitment of strengthening families and individuals and meeting special needs in the community. That community is now 14 counties in  the Pine Belt of South Mississippi. There are currently nearly 1,700 active clients and emergency food is provided to some 1,000 families per month through the ESFC food pantry. 

The ESFC Thrift Store opened on Lincoln Road in Hattiesburg in 2012.

 

Recently their board of directors announced an aggressive $2 million endowment campaign to develop a stable economy for ESFC. The proceeds from the endowment will provide funding to meet day-to-day needs and form a secure foundation on which to undertake strategic planning and build a realistic future. In honor of their father and in support of Edwards Street's ministry Warren Pittman's sons, Tom and Bob and their families have made a $125,000 commitment to the endowment. That little church will hereafter be known as the--Warren Pittman Founders' Hall--and continue to be a vital part of the ministry.

 

Warren Pittman and his family will be guests of the Edwards Street Board and friends of Edwards Street on Sunday, September 8, at 2:00 p.m. for an impressive rededication ceremony and reception.

 

The little church, at 1904 Edwards Street, is still in use along with two other newer buildings across the street, plus a vegetable garden and a walking trail. These facilities house the administrative center, a food pantry and program areas of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts, adult programs and a garden project. The ministry at Edwards Street Fellowship Center (ESFC) is supported through the financial contributions of the Mississippi Annual Conference, area churches, businesses and individuals. Hundreds of volunteers give generously of their time, resources, knowledge and experiences to sustain the programs and services of the ministry.

 

Prior to coming to Hattiesburg as district superintendent in 1975, Warren Pittman served as pastor of Parkway Heights United Methodist Church (1959 - 1963). During his ministry, Parkway Heights had a gain in membership of over 200 and the church completed a building program which included construction of a new kitchen, fellowship hall, classrooms and renovation of the original educational facility.

 

During his more than 50 year ministry, Pittman served other pastorates in Monticello, Centerville, Forest Hill, Forest and in Jackson at Broadmeadow and St. Luke's UMC. He served as superintendent for the Hattiesburg and Brookhaven districts. Additionally, he served a stint as director of the Conference Council on Ministries for the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church, based in Jackson.

 

Warren Pittman currently resides in Olive Branch, Mississippi. He is a native of Picayune, Mississippi and shared his ministry with his late wife Lanita Hurdle Pittman of Holly Springs, Mississippi. They met while students at University of Southern Mississippi and lived in Hattiesburg when they were first married. Both are graduates of USM, where Warren was president of his junior class, and was elected president of the Student Government Association in 1944. Warren also graduated from Emory University with a Master of Divinity degree.

 

Tom Pittman and his family reside in Hernando, Mississippi, where he is CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. Bob and his family reside in New York City, where Bob is chairman and CEO for Clear Channel, a leading global media, digital and entertainment company. Both Tom and Bob were students at F.B. Woodley Elementary School when they lived in Hattiesburg.

 

For additional information about Edwards Street Fellowship Center, visit the web site www.esfcntr.org or call 601-544-6149. Persons donating food or wishing to volunteer should call the same number, during normal business hours.