First United Methodist Church of Clearwater has three different worship services, and that can sometimes lead to a feeling of separation among members.
This church has found a way to bring participants from all the services together through a day of service for the community. A member of the missions team heard about a similar program at another church, so they decided to try it out.
About 90 people got involved in landscaping, making hygiene kits, dinners and more. The church plans to do two more outreaches next year, one in spring and one in fall.
“We’ve really only done it twice, but both days of service were a success,” said Mary Rayburn, director of discipleship for the church. “We have a local ministry over here in Clearwater called Religious Community Services (RCS). They have an apartment complex of transitional homes for families moving from homelessness to renting their own place.
“We sponsor an apartment at Grace House, that’s the name of the complex. One of the things we did was yard work for them to help clean up weeds and overgrown areas around the complex,” Rayburn said.
Others working from the church made Easter cards in the spring for area shut-ins, veterans and people in the Pinellas County Jail. In September, they switched to “thinking of you” cards.
“Another thing we did was we got a bunch of quarters and sent people out with quarters, laundry detergent and fabric softener to a local laundromat,” Rayburn said. “We paid for anyone who came in.”
Another group working from the church put together hygiene kits that the United Methodist Committee on Relief can hand out after hurricanes.
They also filled empty medicine bottles with liquid laundry detergent to hand out at Peace Café as part of its clothes closet for the homeless.
“They can typically get two loads out of one bottle,” Rayburn said. “They also do a lot of hand washing,” so it can stretch even further.
Rayburn and the missions team realized that not everyone could get out into the community, so some of the service events took place at the church.
They came up with a formula to get people to participate.
“We invited the 8:15 a.m. people to stay after and serve with us during the 9:45 worship service,” Rayburn said.
“The 9:45 service was devoted to the service project. We encouraged those that come for Sunday school to come serve during that hour and those that come for 11 a.m. service to come early and serve and stay for the 11 a.m. service. During that middle hour, we had people there together from all three services.”
—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico