'Faith,In' communities popping up around the country
Written by Connie Larkman July 24, 2012
Salem UCC blesses sleeping mats for the homeless
Live your faith. Love your community.
In Washington, Mo., you’ll find United Church of Christ members doing that in an abandoned cemetery – embracing the “Faith,In” project by clearing brush and weeds, removing evasive honeysuckle and cleaning old tombstones.
In Harrisburg, Pa., a small but mighty congregation is providing free clothing, toys, books to the community and sleeping mats and personal care kits to homeless clients.
The “Faith,in” project is growing by the day. As of July 23, there are 38 communities registered at faithinproject.com, and others expressing interest in the project by email.
The people of St. Peters United Church of Christ in Washington, Mo., are making their faith visible through what the Rev. Paul Koch calls “Service Worship.” Instead of showing up on Sunday for a traditional worship service in the church sanctuary, members are getting out and serving others.
“We dedicate a Sunday morning to worship God through venturing out in the community, parks and cemeteries to make a difference,” said Koch, senior pastor. The projects have been well received, “and persons who normally don't worship in the sanctuary feel at home clearing an abandoned cemetery, planting a community orchard, picking up trash, and helping a widower with home repairs.”
St. Peters members also stock and staff a food pantry that serves 135 people on average monthly, and host a Saturday evening meal. “The Harvest Table is an ecumenical effort where a hot, nutritious meal is served restaurant style. Patrons include low income persons, homeless, seniors, those with means but who are lonely and those of ample means who want to have table fellowship with others,” Koch explained. He added that take-home cartons usually are provided to several dozen people as well.
Feeding the hungry is also the mission of Salem UCC, the oldest church in Harrisburg, Pa. Members of the congregation, in partnership with other churches, are involved in the Manna Food Pantry, which provides food and nutrition education to those in need. A few folks who crochet use recycled plastic bags turned into "plarn" to create sleeping mats for homeless persons in the city. The mats are sent to nearby Bethesda Mission to get distributed to those in need. The church clothing center is open on Saturdays, and provides free clothing, toys, books to the community, with the help of local high school student volunteers. The congregation may have only 42 people, but they do what they can to give back.
“Salem UCC got involved in the “Faith,in” project quickly because it echoed the beliefs that our church held about the importance of getting involved in and serving their community,” said the Rev. Monica Dawkins-Smith, Salem pastor. “We are motivated by our faith and love for the people in our community.”
Koch expressed a lot enthusiasm for this project. “The ‘Faith,In’ initiative serves as a catalyst but especially provides affirmation on service that we already are doing. Affirmation and small pats on the back are indeed important to a church that is often so busy or involved (or perhaps feeling beat down) that time isn't taken to count blessings.”