Belfast congregation of 150 takes church into the streets

Posted April 04, 2010, at 8:43 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:40 a.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Joseph Shadel and Michelle Proulx, both of Belfast, were having a bad weekend.

Their cat is sick, and two of their car’s tires blew out Saturday night, which meant they couldn’t get to Proulx’s family Easter celebration in Hebron.

So when they walked into the Belfast Coin Laundry on Sunday afternoon to wash some clothes, at first they were taken aback when some people offered to give them quarters and soap.

Then they were moved by the unexpected thoughtfulness of the gesture made by members of Belfast’s Little River Church.

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“We felt that nothing good had happened, and we did need a lift up,” Proulx said. “It was incredible. It was like a miracle.”

That response is what pastor Scott Baker and the congregation of the church had in mind for their “Take It To the Streets” weekend. Instead of holding Easter Sunday services, the roughly 150 church members spent several days doing a variety of service projects.

Some handed out quarters and soap. Others washed cars, changed oil and replenished windshield washer fluid. A procession of children roamed the hallways of two area nursing homes, singing to residents and giving them neatly wrapped socks and a smile.

Baker said the inspiration came from the Gospel of Matthew, particularly a verse that describes having compassion for the multitudes.

“Jesus went to the people, went where they were,” Baker said Sunday morning, taking a quick break between washing cars. “So many people have the idea of church that we want something from you … [but] we’re not going to church today. We’re being the church.”

Church members seemed to welcome the change with enthusiasm.

Lester Gibson of Northport was stationed at the laundromat and said he was happy to “be the church and serve the people.”

“We can’t walk on water, like he did,” Gibson said. “But we can put quarters in the machine.”

The next generation also expressed a great deal of interest in helping others.

Tiffany Webber, 10, of Searsport sang “Amazing Grace” and “Jesus Loves Me,” and other tunes, to the elderly residents at Tall Pines.

“I feel that they are very happy and have missed seeing their grandchildren, and that they have loved seeing us,” she said. “We’re doing this for the community.”

Resident Alcadia Dean, 100, seemed to be happy with the songs and with her new pink socks.

“Indeed yes, I enjoyed them,” she said.

Another resident, Sheldon Gilmore, was amused by the life-size Easter Bunny that accompanied the children.

“I’ve never seen a rabbit that big,” he said.

The rabbit, otherwise known as Toupie Rooney of Northport, laughed behind her pink nose.

“I hope not,” she said.

Tall Pines employee Amanda Bunker said the church’s community outreach efforts would be appreciated — and remembered — by many residents.

“It just warms their hearts,” she said. “It gives them a good feeling and totally brightens their day, and week.”

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