CATTARAUGUS - If you happened to drive into the Brooks Market parking lot recently, you might have spotted a smiling Don Bailey waving at you with one arm while he cradled a gallon of windshield washer fluid in the other. Several more jugs of the stuff poked out of the back of his pickup, and Bailey cheerfully offered to top off any motorists' washer fluid reservoir free of charge.
This unexpected and slightly offbeat kindness was one of many diverse services dreamed up by members of Roberts Memorial Free Methodist Church and offered to their neighbors in and around the community during their Faith in Action Day. Instead of holding their customary Sunday morning church service, volunteers gathered at 9 a.m. for a quick kickoff prayer, then spread out across the area to offer fellowship of a more concrete nature.
As Pastor Mike Jones put it, "Instead of being in the church on this day, we wanted to actually be the church."
Some of the Roberts Memorial Free Methodist Church members (and others) who turned out to “put their faith into action. Pastor Mike Jones, front left, led a “kick-off” prayer before everyone scattered to perform their practical kindness around the village and area.
Several volunteers wielded rakes and shovels, clearing storm drains of soggy leaves and other debris. Others knocked on doors, offering 9-volt batteries for activating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. One grateful family saw their firewood chopped and stacked. Another had a rickety porch repaired.
Some workers remained at the church, preparing remembrances for shut-ins. Said spokesperson Wendy Seiflein, "We tried to think of people who are often overlooked, people like hospice care-givers." Some folks paid visits to residents of the Cattaraugus Manor while other traveled as far a-field as The Pines at Machias and a Salamanca shelter for teen mothers and their babies. Colorful gourds and pumpkins were taken to brighten rooms, while little baskets containing baby socks, hair ties and such were distributed to the young moms.
Still other parishioners stayed home, cooking up potsful of soup for the Souper Supper served late in the afternoon to all the participants in this very active day. Recipients of kind deeds were also invited to attend the celebratory meal, which included the sharing of experiences.
According to many of the good-deed-doers, a common reaction to their offers of help was the baffled rejoinder, "What's the catch?" All agreed that the greatest thing was to be able to assure people that there was no catch. "Instead," said Jones, "we simply told them we're trying to share who we are in Christ."
Jones explained, that the church took its guidance for this special day from Matthew 5:14-16. Verse 16 was particularly apt, he pointed out, quoting, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Jones said that those who went out into the community distributed leaflets imprinted as follows: "Demonstrating God's love for you in a real and practical way," and "We pray that you are blessed by our service to you today."
Wendy Seiflein, one of those who helped organize the day's many activities, said that church members participated in whatever ways they could. Some, who were unable to perform physical labor, stayed home holding prayer vigils for a good outcome to the day. "That was fully as important as any of the other jobs," said Seiflein.
Interestingly, twenty or so of the people who turned out to work don't happen to be members of Roberts Memorial. They said they thought it was a good idea and wanted to help.