By Lindsay Peyton
Moving the church outside its walls was what Pastor Ingrid Clark had in mind, when she created Servolution Mainland. “Sunday isn’t always about being in the church building,” she said. “It’s being the hands and feet of Christ. Being there for the least, the lost – and showing love.”
On Saturday, May 6, congregations in Texas City, La Marque and Santa Fe will march out to the community and spend the day completing service projects. Already, 10 churches have signed up, including Aldersgate UMC, MEM1, New Creation Family Worship Center, First Baptist Texas City, First Christian Texas City, FUMC La Marque, Resonate Texas Church, St. John’s UMC Texas City, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 3rd Coast Church and the Gathering Church.
Churches may register through April 28, Clark said. And being a member of a congregation is not required to join. “We actually prefer community members to come and serve alongside us,” the pastor explained. “The whole idea is to build community together.”
A number of projects are planned for the day – from painting shelters along the Texas City Dike and packing items at the Galveston County Food Bank to weaving mats for the homeless out of plastic bags and helping Everybody’s Place, a nonprofit that serves the area’s unhoused population.
After registering, volunteers will be assigned to a work site for the day. “The whole idea is coming together and showing love,” Clark said. “It’s about making a difference where you live. It’s the idea of being a good neighbor. As disciples, this is what we’re called to do.”
All of the volunteers will wear shirts reading “Servolution.” Clark hopes that seeing the army of helpers engaged in community projects will be both inspiring and contagious. “This is what it’s all about, to be the Kingdom of God here and today,” she said.
She learned about the worldwide movement “Servolution” – a revolution in serving others following Jesus’ example – while at a previous post in Moody Methodist Church in Galveston. The congregation was involved in a similar effort for years on the island. “Why don’t we bring it to the mainland?” she wondered.
St. John’s UMC Senior Pastor Stephanie Hughes had encouraged the Director of Missions to “dream big.”
Clark explained to Hughes her calling to bring Servolution to the area. “I had never heard of it before,” Hughes said. “She had to explain it to me.”
Then, Hughes told Clark, “Go for it. If this is what God’s calling you to do, let’s do it.”
Clark reached out to Jay Blackburn, Pastor of Galveston’s Coastal Community Church, who was part of Servolution on the island. “Can I pick your brain?” she asked.
Blackburn offered to help in any way possible, saying “If you want to do this, I’ll totally support you.”
“We stepped out in faith,” Clark said. She began planning, reaching out to local churches in February 2019.
“The church leaves the building,” she explained to the congregations. “We go out to actually ‘be’ the church and do projects that are a blessing to the community.”
She pointed them to the website of the global Servolution and shared what had been happening in Galveston for about a decade.
At first, Clark assembled a core group with four other pastors. “By the time it was said and done, we had 11 churches and 300 volunteers signed up – men, women and children of all ages,” she recalled.
“That year was bigger than we could have ever imagined,” Hughes added.
A large number of different denominations were represented, Clark explained. “Talk about ecumenical,” she said. “We truly were the body of Christ.”
Pastor Hughes said witnessing the unification of the congregations was her favorite part. “All of the churches were coming together, working side by side, rubbing elbows and making friends,” she said. “It put us all on the same playing field, all serving our community. It was all about fellowship and being a body of believers. That’s Kingdom work.”
Crews completed a number of projects – from cleaning up a cemetery to repairing houses damaged by Hurricane Harvey. “It was huge,” Clark said. “I was in disbelief. We couldn’t have imagined it would turn into what it was. Nothing like it had ever been done before.”
The following year, the Bay Area was buzzing with excitement for Servolution Mainland 2020. Then, the pandemic hit. “The world screeched to a halt,” Clark said. “We couldn’t get together – but we could still make an impact.”
Servolution churches were still able to collect supplies for the food bank and other organizations. The congregations joined to pray for all of the schools in Texas City and La Marque. They also sponsored free coffee at two shops for first responders. In 2021, it was a week of free brew – and in 2022, expanded to the entire month of October.
Last year, Servolution Mainland returned in person – with 150 volunteers and nine churches. “It was great seeing all the people coming back together to serve the community,” Clark said.
Now, she is looking forward to the third year of volunteerism and service. “I’m hoping it will get better and better,” she added.
“It’s all God, and I’m just grateful to be a part of it,” Clark said. “He’s always in the midst, making amazing things happen.”