By Riley Manning
The sanctuaries of Brewer United Methodist Church and Shannon United Methodist Church were completely empty last Sunday as the two congregations ventured out into the community to complete over 20 service projects.
The Rev. Chris McAlilly, pastor of both groups, said the effort was a show of support for the Shannon community, as well as a way for the churches to practice what they preach.
“Christians talk a lot,” he said. “I could have preached 100 sermons on service, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact as a few hundred people out in the community.”
The groups met at Brewer for a short service at 9 a.m., in which they took communion. From there, they were assigned to their work sites, which included putting in a new flower bed at Shannon Elementary School, tidying up nearby Pettey Cemetery, and making repairs to the Brewer Community Center.
“The idea behind the communion liturgy is that God offers himself to us through the body of Christ, and we in turn offer ourselves to others,” McAlilly said. “We really wanted to show solidarity with the Shannon school system, let them know they aren’t alone.”
Those unable to participate in landscaping projects helped pack lunches for workers at the North Mississippi Medical Center and on-duty police officers and firemen. All told, about 140 congregation members participated.
McAlilly said he got the idea from the project in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Many churches who lost their buildings were faced with the question of what to do on Sunday.
“They went out and worshiped through service,” he said. “The came together to make an effort.”
While the community’s needs may not be as drastic or obvious as the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, McAlilly said there is always a need, and it is the Christians’ job to become aware of that need and address it.
“The purpose of this was not just to be seen, even though the things we did were ultimately very small,” McAlilly said. “We want to be known as servants. Over time, this kind of things is what builds relationships between the church and the schools, the community, and people.”