SYRACUSE — Not all church services take place in a church.
Sunday, Sept. 20, the parishioners of Grace Lutheran in Syracuse traded in their bulletins, hymnals and Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes for rakes, shovels and T-shirts and spent their morning worship cleaning and doing maintenance work at Teen Parents Succeeding.
The project constituted Grace’s belated participation in the Lutheran Church in America’s annual “God’s Work, Our Hands” service day, which occurred the previous weekend. Conflicts in scheduling prevented Grace from assembling its full contingent of workers until Sunday.
About 10,000 congregations throughout the globe participate in the annual event.
Chores included yard work, tree trimming, weeding, dismantling an old swing set in preparation for future yard improvements and “doing kind of like a spring cleaning in the fall indoors,” said Wendy Piano, the church’s pastor, who accompanied 22 congregation members at the work site.
Piano does not begrudge the trade-off. “The reason we do this is because Jesus spent most of his time out and about serving the least, the last, the lost, the little and the lifeless,” she said. “Jesus calls his disciples together to learn to be fed and then he sends them to make disciples. Part of discipleship is learning to be a servant.
“The reason we go (to worship services) is to be fed and strengthened so we can get out and be the church.”
The church held a short dedicatory service before the work project, dismissing with the aptly titled hymn, “The Lord Now Sends Us Forth With Hands to Serve and Give.”
Piano considers TPS a worthy recipient. “This is just the most amazing ministry. They are working with young parents trying to help them get their feet on the ground. Sometimes the kids need some support and help and they are doing a fabulous thing here.”
The benefits flow both ways, according to Piano. “I think those who participate find it to be a very positive experience. It is only because we recognize the grace of God which has freed us and unburdened us from working for our salvation that we are able to serve our neighbors.”
Stacey Schrock, who has organized both of Grace’s annual service projects, echoed the sentiment. “It gives us an opportunity to serve our community. It makes me feel good to be able to serve somebody else.”
Doris Stucky, in her first year with the project, tended to the flower beds and did general cleanup. “I see there is a lot of need in the community for pulling together and helping each other.”
“It is a joy of working with these people,” said Jack Darr, who noted a practical ramification. “They (TPS) can’t pay people to do this. They don’t have any money.”
Jeff Kern brought his chain saw, weed eater and toolbox to the cleanup. “It gives you a good feeling helping people, getting together to work and having fellowship through our church,” he said. “I’m looking forward to next year.”
How much impact did trimming vegetation and washing windows have? It’s anyone’s guess, but Piano is fascinated by contemplating the ripples. “TPS is a blessing for the parents and parents are to their children and then the children are to the community. By helping, our outreach becomes broader. This is the blessing that comes to those who work.”