Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Health Kits and Worship

When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the church I was serving in Louisiana did something monumental.

We cancelled Sunday school.

We cancelled Sunday school  the following Sunday and took a mission trip as a church to our fellowship hall where we, as the church, packed UMCOR Health Kits to be shipped to Haiti, via UMCOR's warehouse in Sager Brown.  In one hour, 400 people came together to back a 2,000 kits or so.

For that church, offering an opportunity to provide that kind of relief was second nature.  When Katrina hit their area of LA, UMCOR was quickly on the scene with a trailer of bottled water and flood buckets, essentials for nourishment and hygiene when all of those things most people take for granted were nowhere to be found.  In response to the generous outpouring of God's love through God's people it became one of the most mission-oriented churches in the area.

That morning three years ago was the genesis for our worship service this last Sunday.  I offered up the preaching time for our contemporary service to take on a missional experience in the fellowship hall where we worship every Sunday morning.  Our missions committee gathered supplies over the last several weeks, getting buy-in from nearly every small group ministry of the church.  We had the supplies to back 300 health kits during worship, and that's exactly what we did together.

It's special to have a multi-use worship space, where we have the ability to create a hybrid experience of worship and mission in the same place.  We began with the elements of our normal worship, with song, prayer, and offering.  I offered a short devotional and then we moved into packing the kits, children, youth and adults walking down the assembly line together as a family.  A multi-generational mission activity, and it took about 30 minutes in total to pack the 303 health kits.  It was slow to start as people found their rhythm, but completely worth it.  People didn't get impatient.  People helped our children.  People got to work, bringing together service and worship.

After all, don't we call it the worship service?   Don't we refer to our orders of worship as 'the liturgy' - the work of the people?

We had to pause in the middle of the packing to offer Holy Communion and formally conclude the worship service, but by the time I'd gotten through the benediction, all supplies had been packed and worship clocked in at just over an hour.  It was epic.  It was moving.  It was fun.

Initially it felt like a risk, but then it just felt like it was something the Spirit was calling on us to do.  303 Health Kits were offered to the world, for the Glory of God last Sunday in worship at FUMC Arlington.  Is that radical hospitality?  Risk-taking mission and service?  Maybe both, but most of all, it was just right.  Think about it - we're always trying to find ways to get people to go somewhere, and that is very important - to go places and do good works.  But not everyone can do that.  Are there more ways to bring a mission experience to the people?  This was an easy one, and too easy not to pass on.

How is your church innovating ways to create multi-generational mission experiences?