St. Columba's Episcopal Church

To inspire, support and sustain a call to service

(Originally published in the April 2013 newsletter.)

Twenty years ago, this parish embarked on the St. Columba’s-Truesdell Educational Partnership (STEP), in which we as a community promised the members of a kinder-garten class in an under-served D.C. school to support them through graduation from high school, and later through college or other post-secondary educational goals. In 2013, we are still living out these promises in service to the students of that kindergarten class.

Since 1989, we have partnered with Heart and Hand Ministries in Barbour County, West Virginia, on the St. Columba’s Appalachia Project (SCAP). For 24 summers, the youth of this parish and their adult leaders have offered a week of service to families who need help repairing or rebuilding their homes.

Since 1999, St. C’s has partnered with the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place to run The Haven, a transitional residence and counseling program for women who have been homeless. In that time, the program has served well over 100 women.

Last year, St. Columba’s launched an effort to inspire and initiate a new era of active service in our community with the formation of SPARK groups, or small groups of parishioners who gather for the simple purpose of collective service and intentional reflection on the meaning of that service.

On any given Sunday, as you elbow your way through the Common in search of coffee and doughnuts, you are likely to see tables set up to publicize one of the many service activities in which we, as a parish, are engaged: the Environment Committee, Loaves and Fishes, Prisoner Mentoring, St. Columba’s Appalachia Project (SCAP), Serving Our Neighbor, the Water Ministry, Weekend Meals on Wheels and others.

We are a church that is known for its commitment to serving those in need. But have you ever wondered how these mission groups come into being, or what we do to support them?

Allow me to introduce the Active in Service (ACTS) committee. Formerly known as the Outreach Steering committee, this standing vestry committee helps steer St. C’s service work. Its charge is: To inspire, support and sustain a passionate response among the membership of St. Columba’s to our call and our commitment to be Active in Service, and to support our membership in experiencing the personal transformation that can come from being of love and service to others.

As part of its charter, the ACTS committee is responsible for identifying and empowering parish leaders to coordinate three annual activities: Rebuilding Together, the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless miniwalks and Reach Out in Advent. The miniwalks and Reach Out are particularly important, as they raise substantial funds—close to $40,000 from the miniwalks alone—that essentially double the vestry allocation for service and outreach.

The ACTS committee supports our many existing service activities by helping to nurture and grow them as desired. It also aims to facilitate the growth of new initiatives, such as the SPARK groups launched last year, and to engage even more of our community in active service. The committee meets quarterly, and every existing service, mission and SPARK group is requested to send a representative—but it is also open to anyone interested in service.

The name for this committee came about because, as vestry member and acting committee chair Schroeder Stribling explains, “We wanted to live into our new mission statement, and in particular the words ‘active in service,’ one of our four anchoring principles.”

Mary Beth Campbell, former chair of the Outreach Steering committee and current ACTS committee member, says the name serves to remind us that “Jesus is the servant leader, and service is at the heart of what we as Christians do.”

The newly reconstituted committee is especially interested in nurturing new leaders, upholding them and helping them remain energized about their work, and in assisting ministries to develop a plan for cultivating new leadership so the work doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of one person.

“The true heart of service is its ability to transform us,” Schroeder adds. “That’s the possibility and potential we hope to realize at St. Columba’s.”

Join the ACTS committee for its next meeting on Mon., June 10, at 7 pm, and see how we actively live our commitment to service at St. C’s.

Jeanne McCann

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