Local churches engage in important, ongoing ministries in local communities across the U.S.
They support local food banks and Meals-on-Wheels with financial gifts, food donations and volunteer service throughout the year, partner with local schools to provide tutoring and mentoring to students, and engage in prison ministry to name only a few endeavors.
In addition to these ongoing ministries, Baptist churches across the U.S. are, once again, providing significant social capital during the Advent and Christmas holidays, a few of which have come to our attention in recent weeks.
First Baptist of Frederick, Md., has adopted an approach similar to the widely used Angel Tree program by partnering with a local elementary school that identifies children from lower-income families for whom presents – ranging from clothing items to small toys – can be purchased.
First Baptist of Asheville, N.C., is using the increasingly well-known “Advent Conspiracy” approach, in which churches focus on worshipping fully by spending less, giving more and loving all.
On their website, they have posted a list of low-cost presents and created an online store through which members can give money to support community organizations, international projects and ministries of their church that engage the local community.
Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit in Austin, Texas, is currently constructing a building in downtown Austin that will house up to 135 low-income single adults, persons with disabilities, seniors and veterans in 27 apartments.
When the organization needed funding, they turned to the downtown churches, including First Baptist of Austin, who have responded by encouraging members to give money to support this project. First Baptist has combined the Advent Conspiracy approach with this fundraising effort and set a fundraising goal of $5,000 to furnish five of the 27 apartments.
In early November, First Baptist of Dalton, Ga., hosted a four-day market at which items “created by those who live in poverty as well as those with limited economic opportunity” were sold.
This allowed community members to buy gifts for friends and family while also allowing “the artisans to support themselves and their families in a sustainable way.”
First Baptist of Richmond, Va., held a similar event last weekend called “Christkindlmarkt.” Billed as “a European-style outdoor Christmas market,” local artisans from the community were invited to set up booths to sell their items on the church lawn.
In addition to this one-day event, the Richmond church is encouraging members to participate in “Operation Joy” throughout the holiday season.
This effort seeks to help those in need in their community by purchasing Christmas gifts, donating money to purchase supplies for the homeless and helping host meals for several community groups.
Robert Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, wrote previously: “Given the number of Americans who identity with no religion, the aggressive anti-Christian agenda of some atheists, and those who water down the practice of traditional Christianity, practicing Christians would do well to remember and recite how the faith community builds social capital.”
This Advent season, we hope to hear more positive stories about what faith communities across the world are doing to enhance their communities and advance the common good.