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The Gift of Service

There are many reasons that lead us to become part of a congregation or to stay a part of it. All of these many reasons tend to fall into one of three categories: the hunger for meaning, the thirst for belonging, the need for support in times of trial. We may come hoping to meet these needs for ourselves or for someone precious to us – a child, a partner – but the needs remain largely the same. All of these common motivations can lead us into spiritual community and they are at the heart of what any healthy congregation offers to the people who constitute it.

In the larger culture we inhabit, devotion to what is right and good and devotion to the things that benefit us personally are often presented as being mutually exclusive. But congregational life is meant to benefit each of us – it’s not supposed to be driven by pure selflessness. We come together into religious community because doing so serves our needs and interests as struggling, wondering souls. And one of the greatest ways in which the congregation serves our needs is by offering the opportunity to serve the needs of others.

It is very, very rare for me to meet a person whose life does not feel to them to be very, very busy. Time seems to be in short supply for most of us – and the statistics on the rising number of hours that American workers devote to their jobs and the ever-increasing number of activities in which American children are involved, suggests that there may truly be less time to go around. So much of our days are filled with things we feel we have to do, just to keep afloat in life and meet our own needs – or wants that feel like needs. This is why the greatest gift that our congregation offers is the opportunity to serve needs that reach beyond our own.

Over the course of the life I’ve spent in congregations (and here I’m speaking of my experiences as a lay person, not as a minister) I have played many parts. I’ve served food and washed dishes, taught church school classes and polished floors. I’ve worked on committees and task-forces charged with supporting and sustaining ministries of education, worship, social justice, long-range planning, and “peace through international understanding.” I’ve sung with choirs and helped lay carpet and packaged condoms to be freely distributed at the church. Each of these things helped someone else or many someone elses – making my community stronger, or somebody’s life more livable. Knowing that my labor was going to an institution I treasured and to people who could use the help, helped in turn to satisfy my own needs.

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Specifically, service addresses each of those three basic needs that call us to freely associate with one another in the first place. Service builds meaning, for the only just measure of our faith is how we live and shape the world by our living. Service fuels belonging, helps us to understand in a real and concrete way that we are a part of something and gives us new reasons and ways to get to know each other. And service not only helps us support others who may be struggling; it lightens our own struggle as well. Our congregation offers many ways to contribute to the health of our community and the needs among and beyond us. I invite you to share in this great gift by volunteering, by finding the place where your talents and interests match the larger need, and by saying ‘yes,’ when someone tells you, “There’s some work that needs doing and I think you’ve got what it takes to do it.” In this way, may we all come to know and share the gift of service.

In Faith,
Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

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First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915

978-922-3968

Office Hours: Mon 8:00 - 11:00 am & Tue-Fri 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

office@firstparishbeverly.org

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