Pastor Dale Clem said Sunday morning that churches should give in many ways to those who may be hurting, and in that giving a community is built and lives changed.
“Together, we will be the answer to someone’s prayers today,” Clem told the more than 250 church members and visitors inside Anniston First United Methodist Church on the church’s Day of Service. It was the first such volunteer event for the church in recent memory, church leaders said. “This church is a church that is in the business of serving.”
While Sunday may have been the first large-scale service day organized by the church, the congregation has a long history of mission work, Clem explained. Habitat for Humanity of Calhoun County, Interfaith Ministries and the Glen Addie Mission all had their genesis at the church, he said.
“We’re not just talking about serving, but we’re actually doing it,” Clem said, speaking before giving a brief sermon and dispersing the volunteers. “Churches sometimes, we like to give money, but another thing we need to do is actually get our hands dirty and do what we’re talking about.”
And hands did get dirty Sunday morning as volunteers spread out among a dozen stations, each with a separate mission of service.
Some wrote letters of encouragement to the elderly, to those with illnesses or those who have suffered recent hardships. Others assembled sewing kits to be sent to Haiti, while more volunteers gave free health screenings, boxed food for the city’s pre-k students to take home or worked in the church’s prayer garden.
Jason Wright, church member and fine arts teacher at Piedmont City Schools, spent the morning with around 100 other volunteers filling sacks with potatoes and loading the sacks into waiting vans, to be delivered to several local agencies that give food to those in need. The 10,000 pounds of potatoes came from the nonprofit Society of St. Andrews.
“I think that service to your community is important,” Wright said. “We look at the church as an institution that does that, but sometimes I think it’s important to have a show of it.”
Wright said Clem, who came to the church in July, is a “very service-oriented, and so we knew that there were going to be some wonderful, different ideas from him.”
Suzanne Wright, with the Society of St. Andrews, said having so much help to disperse the food to locals who are hungry is “amazing. When we first started planning this there were 60 volunteers, and today there are over 100.”
Main Street Anniston board members and Anniston city officials came with family to help plant flowers and shrubs and pick up litter along downtown streets as part of Main Street’s beautification service day, linking up with the church’s service day.
“We’ve never done this before, that I’m aware of, and I’ve been here for 28 years,” said church member Mary Eloise Leake, standing outside the church Sunday. Leake echoed Wright’s comment on Clem, and said that the pastor is a “service-oriented minister” who came to the church in July and energized the congregation with that mindset.
Clem said church members were asked to bring in people from outside the church who might be “disillusioned with church” but who may appreciate serving. The day of service is a way to connect those people with the church, he said, and perhaps some will return.
“But even if they don’t, maybe they’ll come back when we have another service day. That would be good,” Clem said.