‘They decided to act’: Church reaches service hours goal it set for 2023

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A group of Brookville Road Community Church attenders and friends volunteer Wednesday evening at Hancock County Food Pantry. During 2023 the church set a goal for community service hours.

Photo provided

NEW PALESTINE — Whether she’s whipping up a meal for a sick friend or gathering her neighbors for a Bible study, Linda Vice gives as one who remembers what she’s received.

She recalls, for example, years ago when a friend brought a meal of Mexican food after Vice’s husband died. Days later, it was Thanksgiving, and she and a single daughter were the only people home. She pulled out that meal, grateful she had something to eat and that in her time of grief she didn’t have to produce a holiday dinner.

Now, when she’s pulling together enchiladas, a vegetable and a dessert for someone else, she knows how much a meal can mean to someone.

This year her church, Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine, set out to have someone from the church out serving for the equivalent of every hour of 2023. Twenty-four hours, times 365 days, equals 8,760 hours. That became the church’s goal for 2023.

The church’s “It’s About Time” initiative encouraged people toward community service, asking them to write down hours served on a card, which they could sign or leave unsigned as they posted it on a bulletin board in the lobby. Some of the service was more formalized, such as a shift at a non-profit organization. Yet something more informal, such as offering a listening ear to a hurting person over a cup of coffee, could also “count” toward the goal.

At first it felt like bragging to Vice to write it down when she made a meal for someone or led a Bible study in her neighborhood of older residents, but then “I thought no, this is motivating the whole church to keep focused on what we’re supposed to be about,” she said.

Writing down the hours served was also eye-opening for Creedon McCarthy. He and his wife, Jaimseon, volunteer at the Way Out Club in Greenfield — opening it up, serving coffee, and hanging out. People come to the club to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and find a positive social outlet on their sobriety journey.

“It’s somewhere to go that you can go to feel safe and comfortable being sober around other sober people,” Creedon McCarthy said.

He said he’s been sober for five years. Now he’s one of the club’s trustees, and by the time he heads home on an evening he’s helped host, he’s been there for 3½ hours or more. Recording hours showed him how quickly the hours can add up.

“When we started filling out the hours it made us curious,” he said. Upon seeing them add up, “It was like, whoa,” and motivating to beat that number.

“I think it’s a huge praise to God,” said McCarty, now director of the church’s intermediate and junior high ministries. “It’s where I was and where God has pulled me out of and brought me now.”

He saw some of the youth he ministers to also experience serving others during some group outings. Students and adult leaders washed windows for widows, trimmed trees for a man who’d been sick, and helped out at Hope Center Indy.

It was rewarding to see some of them grasp anew how much their offered help could mean to others. “It was cool to see them not only helping out but having fun doing it,” he said.

Kris Sorenson, lead pastor, said It’s About Time was meant to mobilize each Christian in the congregation to act on their faith in each aspect of their lives.

“We felt it was important to refocus and be reminded of the importance of each follower of Christ to actively participate in the great commission given to the church …” he wrote in an email.

“It takes intentionality to bring Christ and His gospel into every domain of our lives. Every time we go out in public, when we go to work, or when we go to school, we will be met with opportunities to represent Christ and minister to others.”

The church sought to reach the 8,760 mark by year’s end but reached it much sooner, in the fall. In November, it celebrated having logged 9,830 hours. Sorensen said he was encouraged by the stories of those who sought to bless the people around them.

“Rather than thinking, ‘Someone else should do something,’ they decided to act,” he wrote.

“While this was a year-long effort, we realize that the task of loving and ministering to our neighbors is a joyful task that is ongoing.”