Where Reaching Out Means Plugging In
The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once defined Jesus Christ as “the man for others.” Christ is the one who came not to be served, but to serve. What is true of Christ is true of the body of Christ. The church is a “people for others.” The church, according to William Temple, is the one cooperative society in the world that truly exists for the benefits of its non-members. Rural churches find their lives by losing them in self-forgetful service to their surrounding communities. The surprising irony of the Gospels is that when a group of people gives itself away to others in love, one of the things it discovers is . . . itself: its true self, its created purpose.
By loving its neighbors outside of the church, the church discovers what the church truly is.
Calvary Memorial UMC in rural Greene County, North Carolina, has discovered that being a people for others means stretching the boundaries of how and whom it serves.
This week’s issue of Faith and Leadership tells the story of how Calvary Memorial UMC partnered with other organizations in the heart of tar heel tobacco country to begin “Plugged In,” an innovative program through which teenagers are trained and paid to provide free computer lessons to senior citizens.
Through “Plugged In,” young people develop confidence in leadership and gain an appreciation for the elderly through the gift of relationship. Senior citizens are connected with the vitality of the young and learn computer skills that add new dimensions to the autumnal season of their lives. Greene County benefits culturally and economically from a more engaged elderly population, from a more empowered rising generation, and from a deepened connection between the two age groups.
Through the combination of “Plugged In” with other community efforts at increasing computer access and literacy, the teen pregnancy rate in Greene County has dropped sharply. The rate of high school seniors applying to college has leapt from 24 percent in 2003 to 88 percent in 2009.
The prophet Jeremiah once told God’s people in exile: “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.”
Calvary Memorial UMC is taking Jeremiah at his word, by investing in the peace and prosperity of its community.
And how does the church prosper or benefit from these efforts?
Perhaps most significantly by getting to actually be the church.
By finding itself: a people for others, in the name of (plugged into) the man for others.
Read “Plugged Into the Future”