Submitted by First Congregational Church
First Congregational Church is transforming its popular Fall Fair into a West Virginia Mission Celebration.
To be held Saturday, January 14, 2017, the Mission Celebration will feature a menu of special West Virginian food, performances by Appalachian musicians, sale of West Virginia arts & crafts – even a traditional Southern Cake Walk.
Why the change? Two years ago, First Church voted to donate all of its 2014 Fall Fair proceeds toward building six water wells in Tanzania, Africa. The effects of that decision were profound. It inspired great generosity from everybody involved, generating record proceeds.
The congregation then decided to donate its 2015 Fall Fair proceeds to several West Virginia nonprofits it was working with as part of a special mission trip to both Summers and Mercer Counties. (Editor’s Note: Read about the trip in The Citizen) Those partner organizations included Open Heart Ministries, a center that restores homes for the poorest in the state, as well as The Wade Center, an after-school program for at-risk children.
“One of our members traveled to West Virginia last summer to personally deliver checks to those nonprofits,” said Rev. John Castricum. “The response was total gratitude.” The director of Open Heart Ministries took one look at the First Church check and broke down crying, explained Castricum. After a few minutes, she composed herself and said, “Praise Jesus, I can’t believe your timing. God truly delivered you to us in our hour of need.”
As energizing as those donations were, the real change came in response to the congregation’s three-year process of discerning what God was calling the church to do. Working together, they determined the church’s core beliefs and values, then created a mission statement that brought it all together. This spring, at its Annual Meeting, First Church voted to finalize its new mission statement: “Welcome All, Grow in Faith, Joyfully Serve.”
The next step in the process was to evaluate all church programs and events, as well as dream up new programs, to reflect the new mission statement. A team of church members spent last summer thinking about the Fall Fair in particular. The result was the idea to come up with a totally new type of community event. It will raise money for our West Virginia mission, but will also raise awareness about the music, food, culture and ecology of the area we are serving.
“I haven’t seen so much excitement about an event in years,” said Castricum. “The West Virginia Mission Celebration has created a great surge of energy and inspiration in the church. Mark your calendars now for Saturday, Jan. 14.”
For further information about First Church Bedford’s West Virginia Mission Celebration – or to volunteer – please visit: firstchurchbedford.wordpress.com or call 781-275-7951.