This past week marked Virginia Synod’s 7th annual Week of Service, which coincided with “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday, the ELCA Day of Service on Sunday, September 8, 2019. The week of service provides the opportunity to celebrate who we are as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. From September 8th through the 14th, all congregations were invited to reach out into their neighborhoods to become God’s hands and feet, to serve those in need and to share God’s compassion with the world. The Week of Service is an opportunity for everyone to intentionally invest time in service projects outside the walls of the church, and to further share their stories of service with the Synod! Today we’re highlighting some of the many ways congregations in the Virginia Synod have served their communities!
Giving Back to School
As part of their God’s Work, our Hands Living Water Lutheran in Kilmarnock worked to give back to their local schools and school teachers with a variety of projects. They provide supplies for middle schools in Lancaster in Northumberland Counties, half of which were collected and delivered in August, and the other half will be delivered in January when replenishments will be needed. Members at Living Water also collected supplies for two young teachers who attend worship. The teachers, who teach fifth and sixth-grade classes respectively, shared items that would be helpful for their classes and had them donated for the start of their school year. Finally, with the aid of a Thrivent grant, new books were purchased for children in a second-grade classroom in Northumberland County. Roughly 40 books were adorned with a bookplate and wrapped colorfully following the worship service on God’s Work, Our Hands. Sunday. What a wonderful way to start the school year!
Christ the King in Richmond participated in God’s Work Our Hands Sunday by preparing 300 backpacks for Lutheran World Relief. The backpacks were made and supplies gathered throughout the year. Then, in conjunction with our rally day, members worked together to stuff the backpacks.
26 children, youth, and adults at Apostles Lutheran in Gloucester put in some outdoor elbow grease for their service projects this year. Members provided yard work for two members of the congregation, where they cleaned out gutters and cleaned up the yard. They also worked with three clients of Bay Aging, a local agency that cares for the elderly, where they provided a variety of yard work tasks to help clean them up and repair outdoor structures. Those who did not participate in outdoor work helped make lunches for those working outside. The weekend began with prayer and ended with their annual Sunday Worship in the Park service at Beaverdam Park.
Serving Together with Rise Against Hunger
A gong sounded every 2,500 meals and 177 volunteers cheered until over 30,000 meals were made to send to people around the world in need. Sixteen area congregations in total took part! In addition to the ten Virginia Synod Southern Valley Conference Lutheran congregations, there were Baptist, Church of God in Christ, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Methodist congregations; along with the Key Club, the Beta Club and the National Honor Society of Waynesboro High School. This was truly God’s Work, Our Hands in action ecumenically. Participants from ages 3 to 93 assembled meals of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, and vitamin supplements; they were carefully weighed and prepared to meet a precise standard; sealed tightly for their journey; and packaged into larger container boxes in preparation for being sent to the place of greatest need. Rise Against Hunger is the organization that Grace Waynesboro collaborated with to set up the event and who will distribute the meals. It is possible the meals will go to the victims of Hurricane Dorian.
Many Different Ways to Serve
This year Grace Lutheran Church in Chesapeake hosted a Red Cross Blood Drive where 24 units of blood were collected, potentially saving up to 72 lives. Members of Grace also packed 61 School Kits to be distributed by Lutheran World Relief. They also packed 40 Blessing Bags to be distributed by their members in the local community.
Lutherans from Holy Trinity in Wytheville, Rural Retreat Parish, and Walker Mountain Parish joined together to get a lot of work done! Together they provided cleaning and landscaping at Wytheville Minnick where the crew accomplished the whole list of tasks they were asked to help with, including painting, weeding, and deep cleaning. The congregations also assembled 56 personal care kits, with members running to the store twice to fill out the many kits.
Mt. View Lutheran Parish, filled a hay wagon with over 5000 individual food items and collected $300 in monetary donations for Luke’s Backpack, a program of Shenandoah valley
Lutheran Ministries, on “God’s Work Our Hands Sunday” Luke’s Backpack provides Shenandoah County school students with non-perishable food items for weekend meals for children who otherwise may not get a weekend meal. During the 2018-2019 school year, volunteers with Luke’s Backpack packed 7515 bags.
Caring for Our Neighbors
Members at Muhlenberg Lutheran in Harrisonburg took part in the ELCA Day of Service in various ways using their “Hands for God’s Work” as we were “Church Together, for the Sake of the World”. Children and adults prepared 102 bagged lunches for Second Home, a community program at Muhlenberg that provides a safe place for working parents of whom most are low-income workers to send their children before and after school. The children took the lunches home to share and sandwiches for People Helping People clients.
Adults and Children from Muhlenberg also worked in supporting a local family and the Central Valley Habitat for Humanity by donating 105 framing boards with blessings prayers and pictures to be used to frame home in God’s love!
Members at Muhlenberg coordinated together to pick up other members who are generally not able to attend due to lack of transportation and brought them to church on Sunday. What a blessing to serve a community in so many ways!
Feeding Those in Need
Members at Holy Trinity in Martinsville worked to create an Action Team Project through Thrivent to be able to prepare 180 weekend food kits. These food kits are distributed in backpacks by Community Storehouse, a local non-profit, to local schools on Friday afternoons for students who may face a weekend without food. The kits contain easy to prepare food items, juice boxes, etc. A dozen of our members joined on Saturday and did an assembly line “fill” and then delivered the kits to Community Storehouse. The kits are now ready to be dropped into a backpack for their distribution.
Thank be to God to all who participated in the Virginia Synod Week of Service! Every act of service, in every daily calling, in every corner of life – flows freely from a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.