In addition to my Church Relations work, I have been preparing to meet for Final Examination for ordination. I have spent much time, recently, studying our Book of Confessions and reflecting upon the mission of the church for members, the community, and the world. In a recent visit to Mattoax Presbyterian Church near Amelia, Virginia, I was reminded about our collective mission, as the body of Christ, to love and serve the community:
The church disperses to serve God wherever its members are, at work or play, in private or in the life of society. Their prayer and Bible study are part of the church’s worship and theological reflection. Their witness is the church’s evangelism. Their daily action in the world is the church in mission to the world. The quality of their relation with other persons is the measure of the church’s fidelity. – The Confession of 1967, section 9.37
I met Nita Saunders during my visit and she shared with me how this call to serve inspired a mission outreach that serves an important group of people. Nita had a dream to meet the social and emotional needs of the aging members of the congregation at Mattoax Presbyterian Church and their surrounding community. With some financial support and encouragement from the congregation, she started an outreach program titled, “The Lunch Bunch” which is a monthly, community gathering for anyone who wishes to share in fellowship, fun and a well-prepared lunch.
Nita and several others in the congregation help with gathering members and friends around the community by picking them up and taking them to the church for the social. Many of the participants live in the surrounding community on their own or in nursing and retirement homes. Building relationship with these members of their community is so important to the work of this little, country church. “Not everyone is a member of our church, and many of them are not even Presbyterian. There are folks who are Episcopalian, Methodist and Lutheran. We also have several people who are un-churched, and we welcome all. They may not join our church as a result, but we still want to show them our love.”
Each month, folks are welcomed into the cozy fellowship at Mattoax Presbyterian Church. Volunteers act as greeters and assist participants to their seats. While the program material changes each month, participants can expect a time which centers on fellowship, a guest speaker or presentation, time for games, and even an exercise element to get folks moving. Games and fellowship time are encouraged, and several members love to work on Suduko puzzle or play the crowd favorite, Bingo! A well-prepared, special lunch is shared with all before folks return home again.
A few months ago, the Lunch Bunch welcomed North Carolina author Sandi Huddleston-Edwards who authored, “Richard’s Key”, the feature for their book discussion. Sandi led the group in a discussion about the book and signed copies for every participant. Most recently, the newest Young Life leader to the community, Jonathan Bowman, visited with the Lunch Bunch and shared about this mission to serve high school students in the local community.
Nita receives so much gratitude from those who participate in the Lunch Bunch. “They are so appreciative for the little touches and the things we do for them. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is really important that we do something nice for them once a month. So many of them tell me how much they look forward to this event every time.”She has several others who help and contribute but much of the fine detail and special touch is from Nita, herself. For Nita, it is important that everyone experience welcome, friendship, engagement and community rooted in Christ’ example of love and hospitality to all.
How do your daily actions serve as the church’s mission in the world?
Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer