Daily Dispatches
Covenant Community Church members on Faith in Action Sunday in Asheville, N.C.
Photo by Joseph Slife
Covenant Community Church members on Faith in Action Sunday in Asheville, N.C.

The church has left the building

Religion

Editor’s note: So often when churches are in the news it is because of something controversial—such as a scandal or a fight over doctrinal issues. That is not what our Church Life series on The World and Everything in It is about. Instead, we focus on positive things that happen in and through local churches. This series is less about theological emphasis or worship style, than it is about local churches trying to engage their communities and faithfully carry out their ministries.

One Sunday a year, the people of Covenant Community Church just east of Asheville, N.C., cancel their regular 9 and 10:30 a.m. worship services. But they don’t stay home. They fan out into their community as part of Faith in Action Sunday.

World Vision first promoted Faith in Action Sunday in 2007 to encourage churches, ministries, and small groups to meet practical needs in their local communities.

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Covenant Community, a United Methodist congregation, was one of churches that took up the challenge, and now its Faith in Action Sunday is an annual event.

Last year, the event fell on a 53-degree morning as church members parked their cars and gathered in the church parking lot for a brief time of worship and practical instruction from Pastor Claude Kayler.

Most of the roughly 200 people who participated already signed up for one of the 13 teams by the time I arrived.

One team was scheduled to build a wheelchair ramp for a disabled person who lives nearby, while another lined up to pray on site at two nearby public schools.

Many team members wore T-shirts that read, “The church has left the building.”

“We pray, God, that, as we go out into this community, people would see not us, but you. People would see not Covenant Community Church, but the body of Christ. Create divine appointments and spiritual conversations, and may what we do today result in your kingdom advancing upon this Earth,” a church leader prayed.

At age 90, Joe Lippa was the oldest member taking part.

“Today we’re going to go to a crisis center that deals with poor and the working poor, and we’re going to tidy up the place, we’re going to paint it, clean it, and sort out things that need to be done there,” Lippa said.

About seven miles away in a residential area near downtown Asheville, a church bell rang in the distance as Lippa and about 15 Covenant Community Church members and volunteers spruced up the office and grounds of the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry. The organization, a coalition of area congregations, assists families in poverty, jail inmates, and homeless military veterans. Some on the Faith in Action team prepared the facility for a fresh coat of paint, others helped re-hang a door, and still others cleaned up the parking lot.

Also nearby, though not quite within walking distance, is the community volunteer fire station, where adults, youth, and children were getting instructions for their task: packaging 36,000 meals for the international ministry Stop Hunger Now to distribute.

Covenant Community Church shares a property line with A.C. Reynolds High School. So within just a few minutes of heading out on foot, a prayer-walking team stopped to pray on a sidewalk outside the school.

Back at the church building, team members cut out pieces of material to make soles for shoes for children in Africa. Across the hall in the sanctuary, another Faith in Action team set up a brunch to thank and honor the Patriot Guard Riders, a group formed in 2005 that greets veterans returning from overseas and provides honor guards at military burials.

The 13 projects undertaken by Asheville’s Covenant Community Church on Faith in Action Sunday provided a way for church members to connect their faith in Christ to the world around them.

That’s important, Lippa said, not only because of the people who are helped, but also because serving Christ by serving others strengthens the church and helps form Christian disciples.

“The world needs this kind of spirit that we find here,” Lippa said. “I found family here. And to be the hands and feet of Christ, in some small way, has given meaning to my life, truly.”

Listen to Joseph Slife’s complete report on Faith in Action Sunday on The World and Everything in It:

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