Fighting hunger? “Mission Possible,” says Disciples congregation (8/31/07)
By Robin Crabb, for DisciplesWorld
PUYALLUP, Wash. (8/31/07) — A Celtic tradition says heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the “thin places” that distance is even smaller. Thin places are where only the thinnest of veils exists between oneself and God; places where the spiritual and natural worlds intersect and we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in everyday life.
“A Week in Mission: Fighting Hunger,” a series of events offered by First Christian Church in Puyallup, Wash., was one of those places. The congregation sensed God among them as opportunities for worship, education, and action against hunger unfolded through the weeklong outreach program.
The inspiration for “A Week in Mission” emerged from a desire to try a variation on the traditional vacation bible school for which a lot of energy of many adults was put forth for the very few children in the congregation. Instead, the church sought to involve both adults and children in experiences during which they could all learn, give, and grow together as a community.
Daily events were planned to educate about or fight against the issue of hunger, and events were offered at a variety of times and places so all could attend. As ideas took shape, the planners were excited but wondered, “Would anyone come?”
People did come, signing up for the twelve happenings over eight days. Several members of the wider community also showed up, and faces never before seen at outreach projects were apparent.
Their accomplishments were numerous. As a church they formed an even stronger community through robust participation. As neighbors they put into practice a key congregational goal of being more accessible and welcoming to those who live nearby. As disciples they followed Jesus’ example of providing for those in need.
The Saturday before, a labyrinth, 60 feet in diameter, was meticulously mowed into the lawn. Through the week, congregants walked it as an extension of their worship. Several friends, families, and neighbors also made their way around the grassy path, stopping at five prayer stations focusing on hunger issues.
A group of kids who regularly ride bikes and scooters in the church’s parking lot were “deputized.” They took ownership of the labyrinth, keeping a watchful guard and using the labyrinth to walk and pray as well.
The week kicked off in Sunday worship with a sermon by Rod Smith, the church's interim minister, describing the face of hunger. The message was this: Hunger is not only a man begging on the street corner; it wears the face of children, women, and men, the young and the old, the world over.
Monday’s project was to create papier mâché bowls to symbolize compassion for those whose bowls go empty. A reworking of the Empty Bowls Project, 25 artists turned out 77 bowls which would serve bread at Lunch with a Friend — a program serving meals to the hungry in Puyallup — communion to attendees at the church’s board meeting, Sunday worshipers, and lunches at a church hunger fundraiser.
On Tuesday, the bread for communion and the meals was prepared at three baking sessions. Wednesday brought together 22 creators, including some of the parking lot kids, to paint the papier mâché bowls into a stunning, bright array. Two prayer walks through Puyallup raised awareness about individuals and organizations serving those in need. On Thursday, two groups harvested blueberries in a church member’s field. On Friday, homemade breads, handpicked blueberries-turned-desserts and home cooked stew became a meal for Lunch with a Friend held on Saturday, where 11 of First Christian’s members prepared and served the meal as usual, then ate with, prayed with, and got to know the 22 regular attendees.
Word of mouth and stories of the good work taking place through First Christian moved more than one person outside the church to contribute to the Empty Bowls fundraiser meal at the end of the week. The church raised $592 for a local food bank and for Bread for the World, a nationwide Christian movement seeking justice for the world's hungry.
Far exceeding their expectations, planners realized that in God, as in their Week in Mission, all things are possible.
More photos from the First Christian's Week in Mission are posted on the church's website, www.fccpuyallup.com.