Recently, on a Saturday, I joined three ladies from our congregation during a morning of service at Adorned in Grace. We only had room for a small group in their back storage area. When we arrived, Dottie from Adorned in Grace, walked us around their showroom and explained what their mission is.
Adorned in Grace is operated under Abolition Now, a Portland Christian non-profit dedicated to efforts against sexual trafficking and care for its victims. They operate on peoples’ generosity alone: the dresses and space are donated, they are staffed with volunteers, renovations were donated to the old building formerly owned by another local church, and their income comes from the sale of the donated items. The organization loves receiving dresses with stories attached to them, it makes it the most fun for them to be bought and used again. They have some dresses that do not sell so they re-purpose them through either saving precious pieces of them or by donating them to the next organization that they collaborate with.
Dottie herself does a lot of the sewing; the robes that brides wear when they are trying on dresses are handmade from old dresses. The love and generosity that goes into and comes out of this organization is wonderful. When we went back to their storage area, we saw a room stuffed with both wedding dresses and prom or bridesmaid dresses. The colorful, often sleeker dresses were being saved for their Dress for Freedom event, a time when girls, especially those in foster care, come in
and have their own day of getting dressed up and just being carefree girls who get to feel great about themselves.
The wedding dresses in this room are where we came in. They were being sent to the next ministry because they had not sold at AiG. We put three or so in a dress bag, zipped it up, and laid it flat. Then on to the next dresses. While doing this we were able to get to know each other better and enjoy using our own basic capabilities to serve.
We have been stressing building community here at Harvest. My husband Kyle and I moved here because of the incredible community he had experienced here when he was an intern. Now we are trying to improve upon that by creating new small groups and trying to convince you that it is worth it. I completely agree. I want each one of you to experience deep Christian community. I want you to cry and laugh together, to offer godly advice and commiserate gently over not quite getting it right, and to see different aspects of God through getting to know more of his people. We each have unique talents and interests, we have different backgrounds, and we each understand God and his kingdom slightly differently. We can learn from each other and become better for it. I hope that you all see this and embrace it. It might be scary at first but it is worth it, I promise.
Here is another way that I propose we build community: Let us go serve together. I am not suggesting this in place of a small group, but rather an additional way to be plugged into to the body of believers. Maybe your small group would want to get involved in a regular service project. This might be putting the cart before the horse, but email me and I can help you get that set up. Maybe you end up loving your small group but want the opportunity to meet more people outside your small group. I (Faith) will be setting up periodic opportunities to serve somewhere that is available to our entire church body; it is a great chance to meet different people.
It is also a great chance to know what is outside our specific gathering of Christians, to meet at these communal places of ministry between regular church gatherings. In addition, after serving together, you get opportunities to meet people and get to know them on a much deeper level. For instance, at Adorned in Grace, we all really enjoyed getting to know each other and what the ministry was a part of and how it operated. It was a precious experience, getting to be in the room with these lovely symbols of such a happy and important day. In the future, I plan to arrange more service projects at Adorned in Grace, My Father’s House, and at the Pregnancy Resource Center. If there is any place that you strongly stand behind or serve on even a semi-regular basis, I want to know and see what we can do with our resources of people here at Harvest.
There are other opportunities besides these! Local ministries constantly need volunteers. Grab a few friends and go serve. I can even point you in the direction of the ones in need. Our Care Ministry has a meal train-grab a few people you want to know better and make a meal for a new mom or a grieving family. Serve a family on your block by bringing over some treats. There are many levels of application for what I am advocating. I think service is another vital part of community, but not exclusively in serving others. Serving with others is a great tool, if only on this level: it’s easier to get to know someone when you are working, when you have something to do to take the awkwardness away?
To start, here at Harvest you will be seeing regular announcements for opportunities to serve. I would love to see an enthusiastic response, both from people who enjoy getting to know each other and from people who just enjoy getting to know and be involved in different ministries. These will be low commitment…a few hours on a Saturday morning or maybe the odd evening. If you have a million things happening in your life, these will hopefully still fit in from time to time. Many of these projects will be a great activity for the whole family! We’d love to see you there.