On a recent Sunday morning, a church in Wisconsin and another in Ontario moved out of their buildings to serve in their communities.
At The Village Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in Thorold, Ontario, the Village people, as they like to call themselves, moved into the community with what they call “service worship,” performing Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere (RAKE).
The church does this five or six times a year, according to its pastor, Michael Collins.
One crew collected litter from a nearby park and schoolyard; another group painted with residents at Cobblestone Gardens. Gardeners raked and tidied Richmond Street Public School’s butterfly garden, while others delivered flowers door to door.
From the beginning, getting out of a traditional church setting has been part of The Village Church’s identity. Most Sundays the congregation meets for worship at the Richmond Street school; RAKE Sundays are centered a few doors down at a community center. Collins said the idea of service on a Sunday morning provides a learning opportunity for church members. It’s a tool to interact with the unchurched community, and it allows church members to live out the Reformed conviction that all of life is worship.
“Discipleship happens in mission together,” said Collins. “The people we bump into on a Sunday morning usually are people who are not Christian.”
In Fox Lake, Wisc., Living Hope Community CRC also left its building on a recent Sunday morning. Church members began streaming in around 8 a.m. to serve a free community breakfast.
About 200 blue-shirted congregants could be spotted throughout the day participating in various service projects around town. The blue shirts had the word “Go” printed on them, which was exactly what interim and youth pastor Justin Douglas and the ministry team had in mind for the community church project. Douglas said the shirts symbolized “that church is not a place you go on Sunday. . . . You are the church and wherever you go, you are an extension of Christ.”
The day’s events included a 5K run/walk, car wash, yard raking, nursing home visits, and an afternoon children’s carnival for families, complete with balloon animals and a bounce house.
City mayor Tom Bednarek noticed the congregation’s presence. “They’re a very great asset to the community—there’s no doubt about it,” Bednarek said. He noted that the church installed the Frisbee golf course, painted the library, and repaired houses for people with special needs.
Throughout the day, Douglas said, church members met many new people and families who “expressed an interest in checking out our church.”
Krista Carpenter, a young mom with a toddler, said she had been looking for a church for a while now. “I got a flyer on my door, and I had this feeling that I should come,” she said. Over breakfast, Carpenter shared her surprise at “how nice and genuine the people are here.” She said she is definitely planning to return.
While “Go Sunday” lasted only a day, Douglas reminds his congregation, “The church doesn't stop at our doors; we are called to go beyond these walls.”