A Christ-Centered Community is a Serving Community
by Allie Shoulders, Director of Adult Discipleship
How would you describe a Christ centered community? What makes it distinctive? Is a church automatically a Christ centered community? Do indicators such as attendance, a well-maintained building or cash flow measure the success of a Christ centered community or is its success even measurable in visible signs? These are big questions and have the been focus of the Apprentice Immersion Cohort 2 for the last few months. And isolation has added a new challenge to the exploration, how do you talk about community when the group cannot be in the same room?
One thing we have come to understand in our weekly Zoom gatherings is that a Christ centered community is a serving community. In a recent group discussion, the question was raised, how can we serve safely and responsibly while in isolation? Also, we wondered whether there was any way we could serve together. As it turns out, several group members, unbeknownst to each other, had been serving weekly at the Redwood Empire Food Bank in the food packaging warehouse. They assured the whole group that there were many safety precautions in place and as a result had no concerns. The group made the decision to meet together in several weeks to serve as a group on a Saturday morning shift. We did so this past Saturday.
Our experience was very positive. Signing up online was easy, and the facility near the Sonoma County Airport (3990 Brickway Boulevard) was well marked. An experienced volunteer was waiting to greet us and point to the registration table. On the registration table, a prepared name tag was waiting for all volunteers and we were also given access to gloves and hand sanitizer. We were instructed to each go to a different table where a 50-pound bag of potatoes or onions awaited, along with a stack of empty netted bags and a utility knife to open the large sacks of produce. We were instructed to repackage the onions in 3 pound bags or potatoes into 5 pound bags. As we completed the first bag, many more 50 pound bags were nearby to repeat the process. All supplies that needed to be refreshed were easy to find. Our shift was three hours with a 10 minute break. Although the work was repetitive, it was also very satisfying because we saw progress: the large collection bins for the 5 pound bags became full and were emptied several times. Plus visiting with those at nearby tables was fun!
Of course, service that is done without fanfare is the goal for a disciple or apprentice of Jesus. There are others from First Presbyterian who serve at the food bank quietly and on their own. They have my admiration because they are not doing it for accolades but rather freely and generously. When we have a growing understanding of our true identity as a beloved child of God, service flows from, and adds to, our gratitude. All we have comes from Him. It is also a way to express love to our neighbor, especially at a time where food insecurity is too common. However, service done corporately as a group has blessing also in that it allows us to share our experience to strengthen community and inspire the imagination of what is possible. Not as a one-time experience but a developing way of life.