I grew up in a small, liberal church towards the north side of the city. Our congregation only had about 200 members total and barely had enough money to keep the building from falling apart. My congregation was full of loving people and an affectionate minister. It’s because of these wonderful people that I have grown-up to be the warm and friendly person I am now.
Before service, we often received strangers and warmly greeted them with a hot cup of coffee, a donut, and a bulletin for the service. They were then invited to sit anywhere they pleased as the service began. When communion came around the minister would say to the congregation, “Everyone is invited to share in the bread and the cup even if you are not a member of this church. At God’s table everyone is welcome.” Clearly stating that any stranger was encouraged to participate with the congregation. Then at the end of the service, often times the members would go up and greet the stranger, out of pure kindness and possible curiosity. The congregation turned away no one, even if they were homosexual, poor, or of a different ethnicity, my congregation welcomed them into their loving arms as brothers and sisters in faith. This is the environment I grew up in, and it has made me a better person in the process. This church has shown me to accept every person as they are.
My congregation also shows a distinct effort for excessive giving. Our outreach budget for the year of 2006 alone raised S8,000 for charities around the city such as the food bank and soup kitchens. And thanks to our “Birthday Box” program, over 100 students at a local school got to celebrate their birthdays when originally they couldn’t afford one. Overall the people cumulatively have done over 9,000 hours of community service in 2006.
This kind of dedication and care for our community makes me want to give personally to the community as well. I have then given of my personal time to volunteer at several charities and organizations to help better this city.
It is through their giving and acceptance that I have become like my congregation. And it is because of them that I believe in this acceptance and giving in my own life.
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