About 60 of East Central District’s 78 churches participated in this year’s SundayServe, the second time congregations from throughout the district have joined together for a day of community outreach at the same time.
Hundreds of volunteers of all ages turned out Sunday to package meals for the nonprofit, hunger relief organization Stop Hunger Now; pull weeds and spread mulch at public schools; visit nursing homes; sort and pack food and hygiene items for distribution to the homeless and work on other projects that helped people outside the church.
Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, director of Missional Engagement at the Florida Conference, visited participating churches in Ormond Beach and Orlando during the event.
“To see an entire district head out in the community to be a witness for Christ, to be the hands and feet of caring and love, was powerful,” he said.
|Volunteers from First UMC, Port Orange, paint a curb at Sugar Mill Elementary School as part of East Central District's SundayServe 2013. Photo from First UMC, Port Orange.|
The simultaneous mission opportunity attracted people who never had participated in mission before, Campbell-Evans said.
“Because it was being offered as a district-wide event, it just got so many people involved for the very first time in making a difference for Christ in the world,” he said.
“I would love for other congregations to explore this model of reaching their community.”
Janet Kelley, business administrator for East Central who helped organize SundayServe efforts in Volusia County, said survey results trickling in after the event indicate a large share of participants had discovered new opportunities to serve the community as a result of the ministry.
For example, volunteers from First UMC, Ormond Beach, cut out seasonal decorations for kindergarten classes at a local elementary school. Several volunteers suggested making that an ongoing ministry to the school, providing more time for teachers to concentrate on working with students or family time at home.
“If you are a kindergarten teacher, you have to do all that yourself,” Kelley said.
She said SundayServe organizers divided the district into 14 regional areas where churches came together to work on community projects. That gave participants the opportunity to experience the United Methodist connection by working alongside participants from other congregations.
Last year was the pilot effort for the idea of simultaneous ministry across the five-county district. Church leaders and participants surveyed indicated they wanted to repeat the ministry, though the date was changed from November to September this year.
This past Sunday was the first SundayServe for Rev. Annette Stiles Pendergrass, who became East Central’s district superintendent in July when Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt took on a new role as director of the Florida Conference Clergy Excellence office.
“Yesterday we offered an incredible variety of worship to God, all of which was an expression of our love for God and our love for our neighbors,” Stiles Pendergrass said in an article for the East Central District newsletter. She said she visited several churches during the event.
The superintendent said in an email that she anticipates the district will repeat SundayServe next year.
“For now, SundayServe is a good tool and we will use it as long as it seems to be a source of positive inspiration and encouragement to churches in the district when it comes to serving in their communities and beyond.”
Churches that participated in SundayServe are invited to submit photos or videos with descriptions of the service pictured for the Florida Conference Facebook page. Click here for information.