In keeping with the theme “Called by Christ, Sent to Serve,” time has been set apart to move out of the meeting rooms and into the community to serve during this year’s Annual Conference session.
“This time away from the business of the Annual Conference reminds us of the call of Jesus to turn outward toward the needs of others rather than to always focus on our own agendas,” says Bishop Lindsey Davis.
On June 10, hundreds of United Methodists wearing “Sent to Serve” t-shirts will join in the Afternoon of Service as part of the 2010 Kentucky Annual Conference. Various projects will take them throughout Covington and surrounding communities.
Just where will Conference clergy and lay members and their spouses be on that Thursday afternoon? Scott Stith, who is coordinating the Afternoon of Service, says, “We'll be all over the Northern Kentucky area!”
Four groups are doing prayer walks in downtown Covington, and several groups will do work at the Ida Spence Mission. Some participants will visit at several local nursing homes, while others will sort and organize material in food pantries at Action Ministries in Latonia and United Ministries in Erlanger. A group is going to Northern Kentucky University to help with construction and landscaping.
In addition, Rev. Stith says, “We'll be in downtown Cincinnati at Kroger's Food Labs [baking cookies] and over at Grace United Methodist Church distributing water and cookies and at the Covington Ladies Home participating in some visitation and window washing. Our young people will also be participating by wheeling grocery carts of much needed canned goods, that Conference delegates are bringing to the Convention Center, to the local food pantries.”
Projects include assembling 1000 health kits to be sent to UMCOR and sewing tote bags for distribution to local food pantries. The Red Cross will be at the Conference Center for donations, and the Prayer Room will be open for a time of prayer and meditation.
Rev. Stith, pastor at Trinity UMC (Covington District), and a team that includes Steve Pescosolido (Grace UMC), Mike Sweeney (Taylor Mill UMC), Brian Wilson (Falmouth UMC), and Tiffany Hollums (Florence First UMC) have spent countless hours working on the many details that are part of a large service project. There has been plenty of “on the job” learning since this is the first time the Kentucky Conference has undertaken a project like this one. Rev. Stith has gotten input from the North Georgia and Indiana Conferences, both of which have done similar projects, and is also grateful for the assistance of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau in Covington, specifically Renee Wuerdeman and Carla Quercioli.
The size and many logistics of the project can be both exciting and frightening, according to Rev. Stith. He is hopeful, though, that the Afternoon of Service will let the people of Northern Kentucky see the church in action.
“My hope, my prayer, is that by leaving the confines of the Convention Center and stretching out into the community we'll actually become the hands and feet of Christ demonstrating our love and His love not by what we say but by what we do!”
Julie Hager Love, Director of Connectional Ministries, anticipates that the Afternoon of Service will have an impact both on the community and on the individuals who serve. Ultimately, Rev. Love hopes that people will go back to their communities to do similar acts of service there.
Bishop Davis sees the time of service as an opportunity for Kentucky United Methodists to bring more than money to the Covington community.
“When we come into a community for our Annual Conference session, we make a financial impact on the area. We fill hotels, eat in restaurants, and purchase items in stores. But what is our spiritual impact? Through our Afternoon of Service we seek to make an impact on the people of the area by acts of caring. By serving others, we bear witness that Jesus' reality is true, that the Christian faith is discovered in the giving not in the taking.”