Monday, February 02, 2009

Do Unto Others

Mount Vernon Place UMC, the church I serve in Washington, has long been a staple in ministries of mercy and justice in Washington. The church has had a 'Social Concerns Commission' almost since its inception. At one time, this particular commission had some six subcommittees, one to work with prison ministries, one to work with the homeless, one to work on poverty, etc. Several decades ago, the church owned a camp - not for members of our church - but for children in our community who would otherwise not be able to go to camp. The church used to have several people on staff who provided a variety of social services. This church has long been the Body of Christ - a body of people who have been faithfully trying to discern how best to be Christ's hands, heart and feet in Washington.

Yesterday, under the leadership of two very passionate and capable individuals, our Serve Ministry Team met for the first time in 2009. We had 64 people in worship yesterday. Twenty - twenty! - of these individuals gave some time on Superbowl Sunday to gather after worship in order to talk about what service means and where we might be called as a congregation to serve in this city, this nation and this world.

The gathering started by people responding to the question, "What does serve mean to you?" Here are some of the responses people offered:
  • transcending self-interest
  • interacting with others so that all are accepted
  • helping others to have a more normal life
  • working for the restoration of God's kingdom on earth
  • helping others to live the life God intended for them
  • bringing the Kingdom of God to earth

Of the twenty people present, 14 are members of the church and six were visitors. Of the six visitors, one lives in a women's shelter. She knows firsthand the things that are helpful and the things that are not helpful. We learned so much from her as we want to take warm fried chicken dinners to the shelter but what she really need is something to deal with a horrendous bedbug issue. We want to provide food - but what she really needs is full length mirror because of all the shelters where she has stayed, she has never been able to see her entire body in a mirror before leaving for a job interview. We want to provide food - but what really nourishes her are good books at the day center's library. We want to give her something, but what she really needs is people willing to work on her behalf, fighting for more affordable housing and sanitary conditions in the city's shelters in the meantime.

It was a remarkable gathering. It was as if I had been to church - as if the people were feeding me - pouring the Gospel down my throat - when they defined service to me and then shared what service really means.

Can you imagine what this world might look like if we were all trying to transcend self-interest?

I hope you'll join us on the first Sunday of every month, beginning at 1:00 in the afternoon, as we seek to discern what exactly this means for us.

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