Take the next few minutes and share a dream with me. Either literally or in your imagination, relax in your backyard hammock, a glass of lemonade in one hand, the other behind your head. The temperature is warm, but not hot. The leaves of a large oak tree shade your hammock. A few birds are flying by, the dog is chewing a bone; the cat is asleep underneath your car. As you lay there in the peace of the moment, look up into the clouds. What do you see?
What do I see? I see a group of socially-conscious people of faith together in a large auditorium, offering a prayer of blessing for the Roanoke City Public Schools: the students, faculty, staff, and support personnel. I see several groups of congregations who have come together, giving their time and energy to help students in the City of Roanoke achieve academic success. I see a group of people who understand that whenever Gods people are acting on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society, then we are doing Gods will. I see a group of congregations in actionor should I say Congregations in Actionengaging the work of faith outside the walls of their place of worship.
Perhaps youve figured out by now that my dream is more than a dream. It will be reality. I want to invite you out of your hammock to an event called Blessing of the Schools. This event will take place Sunday, August 30, at 4:00 p.m. in the Patrick Henry High School Auditorium. Please mark your calendar now as members from more than 20 Roanoke congregations will be represented there that day, asking God to bless the Roanoke City Public School system. We will not allow any theological difference to divide us on this afternoon; instead we will come together in the name of God and for the benefit of the schools. This is your invitation to come see how people of faith can have an impact in the local community.
Does it sound like a remarkable event? It should. But that is only part of the story. Even more exciting is what these Congregations in Action do the rest of the year. Right now in our city, 21 congregations are serving as three separate CIAgroups in six elementary schools. Our groups meet monthly with the principals and offer ourselves in service to the needs identified by the principal. Members of our congregations tutor, read to classes, eat lunch with students, purchase school supplies, provide food for students who do not eat well at home over the weekends, help with the clothesclosets, plan the spring Fun Dayand prepare Teacher Appreciation Lunches.
This is not all that Congregations in Action is about. We make friends with students and teachers, building relationships that impact lives. These relationships stretch our imaginations. We get to serve in the community and meet some amazing current and future leaders.
Even with all this, we have not yet touched on what I have come to believe is the most important part of Congregations in Action. When we get outside the walls of our congregations and start meeting other people, we realize that not everyone is like us. When you walk into any of our elementary schools, you recognize how much diversity there is in our students and their families. Some students come from wealthy families; some are homeless. Some students achieve academic success with ease; others struggle to learn to read. Some students have plenty to eat; others are hungry when they are not in school. Some have parents who help them learn; others do not even have one book, notebook, or pencil in their home. Whatever our personal circumstances, we find that not everyone is like us. When you see the faces of these children, learn their names, and work with them for a short time in school, you are getting to know your neighbors.
Faith teaches us something about our neighbors; were taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. The way I see it, being an active member of Congregations in Action helps me to do Gods will. I can help many children learn, just like I help my own; I can pray for many children, even as I teach my own children to pray. I can be a blessing to others, and receive a blessing in return.
Will you join us Sunday, August 30 for the Blessing of the Schools? Lean back on your hammock one more time and continue the dream. What message will we send if we can fill the Patrick Henry High School Auditorium to capacity, gathering to pray for our students and school system?
The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words to the people of his day: Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. This is what we will do on August 30. We will pray. Come help us make this dream a reality.
Tim Harvey is Pastor at Central Church of the Brethren located at 416 Church Ave in Roanoke you may contact him at: [email protected]