10 Years and Going Strong in Essex County, VA

Any one who has ever started something knows how hard it is to keep it going.  New events, organizations or programs usually begin with an exciting vision—dreams about what is possible, about how the world (maybe just the community) will be better as a result of the vision–but that vision almost always fades with the passing of time.  And its initiators are left with less going for them than when they began.

So, when a handful of “dreamers” in Essex County, Virginia on the southern shore of the Rappahannock River not far from the Atlantic began Inasmuch United Essex in 2008, their vision was many of the congregations of various denominations and races working together to serve people in need in their community.  David Crocker, Founder of Inasmuch says: “I remember clearly the training session in early 2008 in Tappahannock.  One percent of the total county population turned out to participate!  I knew then that something unusual was afoot in that small Virginia community.  It is no surprise that ten years later Inasmuch United is still going strong there.”

Inasmuch became a tool to accomplish the goals of Essex Churches Together (ECT), an interdenominational organization formed in Tappahannock prior to Inasmuch to bring about better ministry for the churches.  “We started ECT because all of our churches are small and we knew we could do more together than we could individually,” says Kathy Hughes, Co-coordinator for Inasmuch United.  “Inasmuch was just what we were looking for to do what we wanted to do.  It builds community for sure.  One particularly gruff man who is known to complain a lot once said: ‘Nothing in this community gets us to know each other better than Inasmuch!’”

In the lead article in the April 26 issue of the Rappahannock Times entitled “Tenth Operation Inasmuch,” a newcomer to the community is quoted:  “I have only been in this community a couple of years.  It was impressive how everyone came together and it wasn’t a crisis.  It was good to hear the testimonies at our church this morning.”

It hasn’t been easy.  In fact, Hughes says, “It is no easier in Essex Co. to get along and keep a huge event going than anywhere else.  We have had to remain very intentional both in our work to plan Inasmuch each year and to keep it connected to ECT.”  She says that they have lost a few churches from involvement in Inasmuch over the ten years but they have gained some as well.  She hastens to say that a church’s lack of engagement may well be due to a change in pastoral leadership.  “Just because a church sends fewer volunteers or no volunteers one year doesn’t mean the church no longer wants to be involved but that their leaders have not carried out their responsibilities,” she says.

Even with these challenges, the leaders of Essex Inasmuch United report that they began with about 300 volunteers and have maintained about 500 for most of the years.  “We got as high as 800 one year,” says Hughes, “but that was too many for our small town.  Too many volunteers were standing around instead of working.”  According to 2010 census data, the population of Essex Co is just over 11,000 which means about 5 percent of the residents of the county are involved in Inasmuch.  Thirty-three churches and a private school are represented in these volunteers. Click here to view a video of the most recent Inasmuch event.

David Crocker says: “There is no question that maintaining an Inasmuch event whether a Day or a United is leadership.  The leaders must be very strong in their commitment to what they are doing through Inasmuch.  They have to be able to push through discouragement and breakdowns in the work from time to time.  Tappahannock is very fortunate to have Kathy Hughes and Sandy Baytops as their leaders.  They deserve the lion’s share of the credit for all the success in Tappahannock.”

You may be able to meet and hear from Hughes and Baytops at the Inasmuch Networking Convention August of 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Preliminary plans are in place to have them lead a workshop on how to organize and maintain an Inasmuch United event.

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