Pastor of Small Baptist Church in High Point, N.C. Has Had Big Impact
Jim Summey has spent 30 years serving the homeless and vulnerable populations in the area.
When Jim Summey came to High Point, N.C., to pastor English Road Baptist Church in 1992, he made his church members a little uncomfortable. He looked out the church window and saw a population of drug addicts, criminals, prostitutes, and homeless people that was almost as thick as big cities like New York and Atlanta where he’d interned.
He wanted to help them but was told church members were “scared to death.”
So Summey started talking to neighbors and men and women on the streets, inviting them to church, and urged the church deacons to do the same.
Some responded, but he also received his share of threats. “There was a point that they shot out 58 windows in the church,” Summey told the Greensboro News and Record.
Still, Summey’s persistence paid off and led English Road Baptist Church to become more mission-oriented. He recalls urging an older woman in the back of the church to slide down so some street girls could share the pew.
Now 68, Summey has a balding head and graying beard. A divorced father of three grown children, Summey admits he did his share of “bad stuff” in high school, which helps him connect with people who are troubled. Over the years, he has earned the reputation of helping anyone in need, even using his own money to buy medicine, diapers, and groceries. He has mentored young men, earning nicknames like “Uncle Jim” or “Dad.”
He contrasts his own childhood raised in church by nurturing parents to those he serves who have had hard upbringings.
While Summey tries to show them he cares, he also is honest with them.
“If you don’t confront people pretty hard with some matters, they can’t even wake up to see their own situation,” he emphasized.
In 2000, Summey and other area ministers founded West End Ministries to serve the hungry, poor, and homeless in the High Point area. It offers food, emergency assistance, temporary shelter, a community garden, and senior activities.
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West End Ministries has faced increased pressure in recent months to serve those who can’t afford housing due to inflated rent costs. Its food pantry has also seen increased use because of inflated grocery prices.
In 2007, Summey helped open Leslie’s House, a shelter for single women, after meeting a drug addict named Leslie who would come to worship services at English Road Baptist now and then.
At the time, no shelter for single women without children existed, and after Leslie died of an overdose, Summey was determined to develop an option for women in her position.
Leslie’s House is operated under the West End Ministries umbrella.
One recent resident at Leslie’s House expressed her gratitude for the help she received: “I thank God for West End Ministries. The opportunity to participate in bible study and discussion with Christian women gave me hope to stay the course. My faith in God increased as I learned patience to wait on His perfect timing.”
In 2003, Summey also began working with High Point Citizens Against Violence to help police reduce violent crime by helping program participants find jobs and other resources. In 2009, he became its executive director and served in that capacity until December.
During that time, Summey earned a reputation for having a “servant heart.”
“He’s the type that’s on the scene, working with people, asking people to come in and change their life,” said program participant Roy Autry. “Jim was the heart of this place.”
The work hasn’t been without risk. Some altercations got physical, Summey says, but he’s thankful he never had to use the 9mm he carries.
Summey says the ways he has served High Point are a reflection of the Gospel he preaches to his congregation each week.
“Learn to live the gospel instead of talk about it. Maybe it’ll make a difference,” he said. “You’ll actually start being Christian instead of just wearing a label. There’s a difference.”