Recently, a member of the Fairmont Community United Methodist Church informed me that a charity called Invest an Acre would match donations for the benefit of the Fillmore Central BackPack Program. Invest an Acre is a program created by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation that encourages farmers across the country to donate any portion of their crop proceeds to help fight hunger in their own communities.
The church was scheduled to have a hamburger feed. A comment to Cindy Slocum about the opportunity for the church to be able to help led to the Community Club being invited to join the church in the project. On short notice, entertainment was lined up, tractor rides were arranged and the project just kind of took off. As a result of the joint efforts, a significant amount of money was raised. Others donated directly to the cause. The matching grant was a very generous Three Dollars for every One Dollar contributed. Due to a shared vision of cooperating to meet a need in the community and the Fillmore Central BackPack Program, and some children in Fairmont, benefitted greatly.
It gave me hope. It gave me hope that if the community church looks for an opportunity to be in mission, then the church can become more relevant in the community.
As many people from Fairmont work outside Fairmont; go to church outside Fairmont; and shop outside Fairmont, building a sense of community within Fairmont sometimes seems a formidable challenge. But there is a strong nucleus, particularly among the younger residents who are leading the Community Club, who are trying to do just that. Hopefully the Fairmont Community United Methodist Church can find ways to help.
In the book Bowling Alone, author Robert Putnam said the greatest social epidemic in American life is loneliness. This statement may resonate with many who feel alienated, lonely, and depressed, and who go home every night to watch the lives of others on Facebook or to watch television and eat on the couch by themselves.
But is this really the life we should – or could -- be living? One of the most important things in a person’s life is the people in their lives. The world tells us that we can do it on our own. So for many of us, our work and demands and our kids take all of our time and energy, so then we don’t think we have enough time for relationships and for spending time in community. But we need to make the time.
God wants community for us. The scripture is clear: If we want to experience God’s presence, we are seeking Him through His word, through the power of His Holy Spirit, and also through relationships with other people. A faith without service is a dead faith. More often than not, the way you get hugs from God, and the way you feel His presence is from people because He lives inside of people that love Him.
God wants to help you in your life. He wants to listen to you. God wants to be revealed to you through the people you come into contact with in the community.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another even as I have loved you.” And then He said, “It’s by this the world will know that the Father has sent the Son.” This is how we love one another, which takes time and commitment.
So, are you ready for the “game-changer?” If you are, I encourage you consider attending church - a place to be in a community. I encourage you to help the only church in town be in mission so it can serve a bigger role in Fairmont.
Someone interviewed Christian author, educator and pastor, Eugene Peterson, who is probably most famous for his version of the Bible called The Message. Peterson, who is now eighty-three years old, shared his opinions about what it takes to become a devoted follower of Jesus – devoted Christians. He was asked, “As you enter your final season of life, what would you like to say to younger Christians who are itchy for a deeper and more authentic discipleship?” Peterson answered, “Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place.”
However, it is a great place to be in a community - a community of faith - a community of faith which can be enabled to serve a more important role in the community of Fairmont as a whole.