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Mo. churches join forces for day of service on 9/11 Fred Koenig, Oct 13, 2011
PHOTOS BY FRED KOENIG
Volunteers picks up trash along a highway during a Sept. 11 service event in the Missouri Conference.
By Fred Koenig Special Contributor
Many United Methodist churches around the U.S. marked the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks by performing service projects. In the Missouri Conference, they did that in a big way. On the weekend of Sunday, Sept. 11, more than 260 congregations in Missouri went out into their communities and extended a hand of service.
According to numbers gathered by the conference’s Office of Creative Ministries, 264 United Methodist churches participated. Of those, 69 reported their numbers of volunteers, which totaled 4,786 UM volunteers and 1,334 volunteers not affiliated with the church.
The planning of the event had been in the works since last spring by the staff of the Office of Creative Ministries, but many churches just started considering it in the last few months. The Rev. Virginia Barnes pitched the idea of participating in SERVE2011 to the administrative council at Rocheport UMC, her new appointment after annual conference. They liked it, and decided to turn it over to the whole church.
They collected ideas for mission projects during worship one Sunday, and had 15 ideas submitted on pieces of paper in the offering plate. The church chose two: Host a community picnic and pick up trash along the highway into town.
The day of service on Sept. 10 was just the beginning for them.
“The church has decided to adopt the highway, so we’ll pick up trash along it four times a year,” Ms. Barnes said. “They have also said they would like to accomplish all 15 of the ideas submitted over the course of the next few years.”
To invite people to the community picnic, Rocheport members put out door-hangers and hung fliers.
“The most meaningful part of this for us may have been going out door-to-door, meeting all the people in our community and inviting them to our church,” Ms. Barnes said.
In Columbia, Mo., all of the United Methodist churches in town participated in a day of service on Sept. 11. Fairview UMC participated in the group projects with the other churches in Columbia, but also wanted to do something that would have a visible presence in their immediate neighborhood, so they spent Saturday cleaning up a nearby city park.
“I think we might stay with this park and keep it as one of our regular service projects,” said volunteer team coordinator Gary Moreau.
On the morning of Sept. 11, a few minutes before 8 a.m. the church bells at Wilkes Boulevard UMC in Columbia rang, as they did at churches across the nation, commemorating when the first of the Twin Towers was struck by the hijacked airliners. Six times that morning bells rang and a moment of silence was observed, representing each of the four plane crashes and the times that the towers fell.
That morning at Wilkes Boulevard, the Rev. Meg Hegemann told the 200 volunteers that they had two tasks before them. “The work we’re doing is important, but of equal importance are the relationships that we build,” she said. “Take time to visit with the homeowners and chat with the neighbors.”
Later that day, one of the homeowners, Charlotte Hughes, was very happy to have a large, dead oak tree removed from her front yard. “I’m very grateful, because it would have cost a lot of money that I don’t have if I had needed to hire someone to take it down,” she said.
Volunteers from Woodlandville UMC in Rocheport went to nearby Harrisburg Elementary School after church and spent the afternoon painting, planting flowers and assembling shelves. The Woodlandville church and many of its members reside in the Columbia Public School District, but the Harrisburg school is closer, and they know that it has financial difficulties. The support they are giving to the school has extended beyond the weekend.
“We told the school to let us know what they need, and we’ll do whatever we can to help,” said the Rev. Karen Alden, Woodlandville’s pastor.
Mr. Koenig is editor of publications for the Missouri Conference.