Last week, a lot of conversations began, “With everything that’s going on,” as if the realities themselves were too difficult to say outright. Those conversations largely dealt in anger, sadness and exhaustion, often ending with questions of where we go from here.
Clayton’s Generation Church scheduled its “Be the Church” service weekend for July 9 and 10, but when the weekend rolled around, the nation’s hearts and minds were on two more police killings and five dead police officers. The 18-month-old church planned 20 service projects over two days, canceling Sunday services to do the work. None of the projects spoke to the events of the week, but pastor Jarrett Hamilton said it put the work in a new light and that only through tighter communities could we move forward.
“The way to bring healing is to talk about loving one another,” Hamilton said. “It’s been very appropriate after this week. It’s time to stop talking about it and just do it.”
Over Saturday and Sunday a couple hundred of the church’s members cooked meals and made care packages for police officers and firefighters, worked at two evangelical crisis centers, With Love from Jesus and House of Hope, visited nursing homes, performed odd jobs for a single mother and assembled packages for troops overseas. Hamilton said it was a way to thank those who perhaps don’t hear it enough and help those who feel forgotten.
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Hamilton said his favorite project was a block party in Clayton’s All-Star Park, near the predominantly African-American and Hispanic Cooper neighborhood downtown.
“It’s not that Clayton is segregated, but it can feel segregated,” Hamilton said. “I’m not saying we know what we can do to fix what’s ailing us or solve all the world’s problems, but we can try and do something for our community... We had about 50-60 teenagers, eating pizza and freeze-pops, playing basketball. We never even said we’re a church.”
Stan Williams led a veterans support group in putting together packages of toiletries and other combat luxuries to be shipped overseas. Williams is a 19-year Air Force veteran who completed six deployments and was forced into retirement after a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
You can’t say you care about the community if you’re never in the community.
“These are awesome when you’re far out and don’t have anything for hygiene,” Williams said.
Hamilton led a series of prayers throughout the day over the packages the church was sending out and the work it was doing in town. His prayer over the boxes destined for combat zones in the Middle East said Jesus is often misrepresented in the world.
“The image the world sees of you (Jesus), sometimes it’s not an accurate image,” Hamilton said. “You don’t care what they believe, their race, their sexual orientation, you created them and love them.”
Generation is a young church founded in a Clayton shopping center. Its members sometimes wear shorts on Sundays and many proudly show off their tattoos. Hamilton said it’s nondenominational but borrows from Baptists, the church he was raised in. That Sunday, the services were canceled, Hamilton said, so the church could deliver a sermon with work.
“When I was coming up as a pastor, I was always told success as a church is measured by how many seats are full on Sunday,” Hamilton said. “I say success is how many people go out and spread the love of Jesus.”
Canceling services, not taking an offering and spending funds on 20 projects costs the church about $15,000 Hamilton said, but he shrugged it off.
“You can’t say you care about the community if you’re never in the community,” Hamilton said.
Drew Jackson; 919-553-7234 ext. 104; @jdrewjackson