A local church declared 2021 as the ‘year of the good neighbour’ and the congregation has rallied around the sentiment with community service.
Pastor Jane Peck is the leader at Hope Chapel on Cameron Street, and she is inspired by the words of Jesus urging believers to show kindness through actions.
“This church has gone through some major shifts,” said Peck, noting the chapel has been operating as a church since 1957. “It almost shut down five years ago, and we decided, instead of focusing on survival, let’s focus on serving.”
Inspired by Jesus’ command to love God and others, Peck and the Hope Chapel congregation have identified the immediate neighbourhood of about 75 households as targets for acts of kindness.
At Easter church members delivered sidewalk chalk and a note stating the church was going to decorate its sidewalk and encouraging neighbours to join and make it a community-wide effort.
One day Peck made little cards to look like bear hugs and stuck a $5 Tim Hortons gift card inside and delivered it to the church neighbours.
She crocheted 30 lap blankets and delivered them along with food items in a “blessings bag.”
This month she and others delivered a four-pack of homemade cookies to every home in the area, and for Thanksgiving the church members wrote encouraging notes for the neighbourhood.
“It’s little things to encourage people,” said Peck. “We want to create community, not just say ‘look what the church is doing,’ but reveal the importance of showing care and kindness around the whole area.”
The community service is also meant to inspire neighbours to take similar actions in their own circles.
This month, Peck created at Random Acts of Kindness advent calendar complete with a suggestion for an act of kindness for every day in December. The acts include ideas like: make cookies for a neighbour, donating to a food bank, picking up litter, letting someone ahead of you in a line, and telling a silly joke.
“There's a passage of scripture that I take very seriously where Jesus says, ‘just because you knew my name and did important things for faith, if you’re not giving out water, being kind, visiting, taking care of the sick and needy, you’re not doing what I want you to do,” said Peck. “I think that’s what the church [in general] should be focused on. I’m just glad I can help facilitate that here, and help the ripple grow.”
She said others outside of the congregation have noticed and made donations of items or money in support of the community service. Peck is happy to help distribute any items, whether they’re made and donated in-house or outside of it.
“We’re on this planet to do good,” she said. “Yes, it takes time and energy, and money, but you can’t count those costs … when God gives us stuff, it’s to serve, not to hoard.”
She said the church has also seen a return from the community investment. When a roofer repaired the church roof after some shingles blew off, he waived his fee, saying his daughter attended a youth group that uses the church building for free.
“We’re being a blessing, but we’re being blessed,” said Peck.
The pastor said while 2021 may be coming to an end, the 'year of the good neighbour' will become an annual tradition.
Hope Chapel has a congregation of about 40 individuals attending in-person and virtually for the Sunday morning gatherings and to other programs throughout the week. The building is also used for a free lunch service for high school students served every weekday during the school year. The service is the work of about five churches in the community and Youth Unlimited. Watch CollingwoodToday for an upcoming story about the lunch program.