For many, Sabbath day beings with a sermon delivered by a pastor behind a pulpit. A number of Potomac churches have begun changing this narrative by implementing “Service Sabbaths” several times a year. Takoma Park members (Md.) represent one congregation that takes a Sabbath each quarter to be the sermon and volunteer their day to serve their community.
“Nearly 200 members participated in our most recent Service Sabbath,” comments Daniel Xisto, TPC’s pastor for community engagement. “This quarter we focused on serving breakfast to the homeless, hand delivering meals to those who cannot leave their homes, visiting the elderly and sick or shut-in, partnering with the city for a city-wide cleanup, helping Adventist Community Services and other organizations clean up their facilities, renovating a women’s shelter and our children even participated by creating art work that we delivered to those that we visited.”
Xisto shares that the congregation specifically hired him to help them grow in the area of community engagement. Like most congregations, the notion of supplementing a work day for regularly scheduled church services was met with some resistance. However, Xisto says after participants began sharing testimonies and stories that resistance started to fade.
Soon, pastoral staff decided to expand the hours of these service days, now going from 6am to 6pm. “We began with a handful of volunteers in 2014, to a few dozen in 2017, 175 last year,” Xisto reports. “This year, we surpassed 200! This type of service impacts those far and wide. Last year, we renovated a women’s shelter—sort of an extreme home makeover. One of the residents could not stop thanking us through her tears when she saw the progress and upgrades we had been able to make.”
This year, Laura Barclay, executive director for Old Takoma Business Association, wrote a heartfelt thanks to those who partnered with the organization on the city-wide clean up. “With your help,” she writes, “I can unequivocally report that it was our best clean-up day ever. The commercial district looks markedly different this morning—a perfect backdrop to today’s warm temperatures.”
“There are countless stories of young people who say that they love that our church actually does stuff in the community,” shares Xisto. “One young person, who is not a member, said they wanted to get baptized on our next Service Sabbath—they have come to believe in the truth that our church teaches and in the truth they see lived our as we engage with our community.” To learn more about helping your community, visit communityservices.org.