It’s not often that the church asks a community what it wants from the church. It is much easier for the church to make an assumption about the community and go in with “guns blazing” to bestow upon it what it thinks the community needs. Often, such efforts have no lasting positive impact on the community. Sligo church’s (Takoma Park, Md.) Senior Pastor, Charles Tapp reversed this approach one Sabbath by inviting Bob Geiger, principal of the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School (Silver Spring, Md.), to outline what assistance the school would welcome from Sligo.
As is usually the case, the needs outlined by Principal Geiger all seemed within the gifts and reach of Sligo members:
- A group of volunteers willing to serve as mentors on a one on one basis.
- Volunteers to organize the school’s books.
- Volunteers with landscaping skills to improve the aesthetics of the grounds.
- Spanish translators in the classrooms and at parent conferences.
- Volunteers to teach English to adults.
This cornucopia of service options drew immediate response from many of the 90 members who stayed following the 11:00 a.m. worship service to listen to principal Geiger. Folks were heard saying, “I can do the books;” “I can help with the mentoring;” I can help with Spanish translation.”
In wrapping up his presentation, Geiger mentioned that a block party was scheduled at New Hampshire Estates School for a Saturday later in the month. Revealing an acquaintance with Sligo’s worship schedule, he told those present, to roars of laughter, that they could attend the 8:45am service and then make their way to the party. Party is not a word that some usually associate with the Sabbath, but despite the short notice, a group of physicians and nurses from Sligo attended the party as part of the church’s Health Action Team and provided a range of services in the process. Staff from Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington (Silver Spring, Md.) were also present.
Sligo has had a close relationship with New Hampshire Estates Elementary School for the past two years, which has included occasional meetings between Pastor Tapp and Principal Geiger as well as members finding ways to supply backpacks for students and providing toys at Christmas for some of the families that are connected to the school.
Sligo is intent on making God’s kingdom real to its neighbors and treating them as God’s children. This is all a part of the congregation’s “Going Deeper… Reaching Wider” initiative. Today it’s New Hampshire Estates; tomorrow it will be wherever God is leading.
Feature photo pictures Principal Geiger speaking with Sligo members.
Article by Don McFarlane, Pastor for Administration and Adult Ministries at Sligo Church