Unifying Communities Through Operation Inasmuch
If one church can make a lasting difference in its community through Inasmuch, two or more churches can broaden the impact. Unity is so vital in the church. And I’m not only talking about “little C” churches. The CHURCH is made up of the entire body of Christ. Unity among bodies of believers is so important, especially when it comes to the effectiveness of the Church to be productive for the kingdom of God. In this month’s newsletter, we are going to look at a community in Tappahannock, VA that practices exactly what I’m preaching. Continue reading and watch this video for thoughts from Kathy Hughes and Sandy Baytops on their very large event called Inasmuch United Essex.
“There are so many reasons not only to do Operation Inasmuch, but to expand our benevolence to share the work with other churches in our communities. Some of the reasons to do so, as suggested from participants, in our version of Inasmuch United are:
- more participants mean more projects can be accomplished.
- it provides an opportunity to meet people who we would not have known before.
- we make new friendships.
- because of our event, our county can be viewed as a large community doing “good.”
- it develops trust between faiths, localities, races, gender, and ages.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Inasmuch United Essex has been a wonderful mission event for 12 years. (The Corona virus unfortunately halted our progress this past April which would have been #13.) We learn and change and improve on our offerings from year to year, but we think we have a model worth sharing that would guide and encourage others to stage their own United mission day. We can say from the onset, that this way of doing Operation Inasmuch is not “easier”, but the rewards are greater than doing a one or two church event! Leaders in our county reference us as a great example of cooperation, and recently, when the new town managers held several forums to ask the positives and negatives in our county, Operation Inasmuch was high on the list of assets! We set an example for caring and cooperation with about 500 volunteers from 10 different denominations that has become a model for other events in our county, as well.
We think strong organization has kept us together for these many years. Even with the expected ebb and flow of churches which participate (often due to leadership/pastor changes) the lay leadership remains strong because of the desire to help others. We have the benefit of Essex Churches Together, an organization founded sixteen years ago, whose mission states that it “is an ecumenical Christian group united in partnership to fulfill the needs of the community and communicating and supporting resources to meet those needs.” Local agencies and helping groups present information to the representatives which is then taken back to the churches to see how they might support those needs. The 32 churches involved in ECT make up the constituents of Inasmuch United Essex. It is at their monthly meetings that the plans and timeline of the mission day are revealed and needs are discussed.
However, the main planning is done by the Core Planning Team, whose members we like to think of as:
C – caring
O – organizers who are
R – resourceful and
E – enthusiastic.
We have tried many configurations for this team, but find that about a dozen members – female, male, pastors, lay people, old, young, black, white, different faiths – have made the best team. In our 7-8 meetings, starting in October, prior to the mission day, the members bring forward the plans and materials needed in each area, whether a restoration & repair project, a services & gifts project, or a “Green Team” project. All members contribute their support and suggestions while encouraging the leader in that area.
Important organizational events start with our annual Soup Supper in early January where volunteers bring pots of soup, sandwiches, beverages, and desserts. It is a simple supper where about 75 leaders are encouraged to sit with someone who they do not know, and/or someone from another church. The group hears an encouraging talk for the work that they will be doing and listens to inspirational music provided by one of our churches. Then the leaders from each area separate and meet for discussion and training on how to carry out their leadership duties. Other important events are meetings held later for the Church Contacts to receive volunteer signup forms for their congregations, and then the Team Leaders to receive final instructions and the names of their volunteers who they will call. There is a follow up phone bank to make sure all volunteers are contacted.
If you find that your church can only do “so much” due to limited resources, talent, money, and/or energy, we can truly say that we are excited and inspired by reaching out to other churches in our community to find out how we can work together, to not only make the lives of many of our community members better, but to grow in our love for our fellow Christians.
We already know that volunteering helps the one who receives and the one who gives. But doing an Inasmuch United makes better community through learning to trust each other more instead of feeling challenged by others, through learning new ways of doing benevolences and finding out that we’re really not that different if our goal is to be hands and feet of Jesus together.”
Kathy and Sandy have been so kind to offer further help to others out there who are looking to unite their communities. If you would like more information or would like to talk to them directly, please contact our office to get their contact information. Inasmuch United is just one of the models we use to train churches through our ministry. Our heart is for the CHURCH and to see it functioning as the hands and feet of Jesus. We pray that this information encourages you and your congregation to do just that!