It was Joint Board night at Palmer Moravian Church in Easton, Pa., one week after an awesome event. “What were God’s gifts that you experienced from our ‘…Be The Church’ program,” asked Pastor Missy? These were some of the responses:
* “Wow! It involved almost 200 members and friends all in one day!”
* “It brought people together from each of our three worship services in a common mission.”
* “Members of the community asked us about what we were doing, and it was a great opportunity to tell them who we are and why we were there.”
* “People had FUN!”
* “It really positioned us as a ‘Mission’ church!”
These are just the type of comments one hopes would come following an event that sent an entire congregation out into the community for a day of service. The event, held on May 18, helped the Palmer Moravian congregation Be The Church.
A challenge to engage
Palmer Moravian’s “Don’t Just Go to Church — Be The Church” effort started many months ago when our Missions in Action Committee felt challenged to engage a much broader component of our membership in mission outreach to the community. Our goals were to:
* inspire our church members to express their faith in actions;
* provide opportunities, and to equip members, to take action;
* meet real needs of our community; and
* demonstrate Christ’s love and our Christian devotion to the community through loving actions and kindnesses.
We recognized that few are able to travel to far off places, others have physical limitations, and many simply don’t know how to go about getting involved in service outreach. We also knew that studies show most people want to be involved in meaningful service, so we needed a way to make that happen.
We reviewed many types of service projects with the goal to develop projects with varying activity levels, differing special interests, local as well as national or international causes, and an intergenerational activity. After much discussion, we chose 12 projects and acts of kindness that we felt provided everyone with something they could do, a niche for everyone in the congregation.
The next step was to identify individual project leaders, and these gifted leaders quickly added their enthusiasm, additional ideas and expertise to further develop the projects. Task lists, time ables, communication plans, contacts with community organizations and other details were established and implemented.
A key element of the program was to ground the program in our faith, and to make a very clear connection between faith and actions. To that end, there was a 6 week rollout, during which weekly devotionals, written by one of our laity, were included in the Sunday bulletins. The church’s monthly newsletter, sermons and pastoral commentary, and weekly announcements by the committee members (including their personal reflections) explained the faith basis for the program. Finally, creative posters were placed in our lobby which explained each project and provided for sign-ups.
Be The Church Sunday
All the activity culminated in “Be The Church” Sunday, and what a Sunday it was! We combined our usual three worship services into one, and as one church family we worshiped and praised. It was Moravian Music Sunday, and we were regaled by the participation of a Sacred Big Band of 18 musicians, sponsored by one of our musician members. The band’s mission was to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project through a free will offering. Inspiring music by our choirs and handbells rounded out very joy-filled musical praise! The service culminated with the formal commissioning of all the participants serving that day. We then powered up with a hearty brunch prepared by our Music Committee, gathered into our project teams, and dispersed to our missions.
What did we accomplish? Church members prepared meals at a shelter for a large group of women and children. A contingent of young families cleaned debris from an extensive area of a local stream. A team prepared and froze many large casseroles to assist needy persons stopping at the church, the ill, homebound members and others.
Children created many crafts and gifts that were delivered by an intergenerational team to care facilities and individual homes. A group of shoppers purchased food for five huge back pack bags and five large summer family boxes, then packed and took them to our local school for distribution.
A group of dedicated women knitted scarves in anticipation of coming winter needs. A card shower was prepared for those who can’t always get to church, and for military members, so they would know we remember and care about them. Another group wrote “letters with a purpose” to decision-makers regarding concerns such as hunger, animal rights, the environment, human rights and others.
Our cub scout pack provided a free community car wash as an act of kindness and donated money toward the Wounded Warrior Project. An intrepid team provided heavy duty labor for a family in need to overcome years of neglect and disrepair to their property and home. Finally, plantings were made along our township’s bike path to beautify God’s creation. For those who couldn’t serve that day, donations were offered to defray costs.
A Mission Church
And the result of our Be The Church Sunday? Much more than we first thought was possible. Certainly we ministered to many people in our community. And equally importantly, to judge by the enthusiasm of our church members, it offered spiritual nourishment and thanksgiving to us as well. Participants discussed how the day allowed Palmer Moravian members to make new acquaintences and form new relationships within the church. They got new ideas to use in the future for some of their standing church committees and are looking for ways to continue the outreach throughout the year. Strong leaders, both new and veteran, emerged from the congregation and exercised initiative at all levels of the program. And they met their goals for each of the projects they undertook that day.
But perhaps the member comment that was most telling: we now more clearly see ourselves as a “Mission” church.
From the July/August 2014 Moravian Magazine