Palmer Memorial Church, Houston, made a difference in the lives of many Houstonians April 30 as church members spread compassion and support to Houston’s poor and marginalized citizens and to the professionals who care for them during the church’s Serve Sunday.
It was the fifth time the parish has held Serve Sunday since April 2016. It was the second time that the Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso, Bishop of Costa Rica, participated both as a guest preacher and in the service projects with parishioners. Since Serve Sunday’s inception, the numbers of volunteers, community partners and people served has grown steadily.
“This is always a joyful day at Palmer,” said the Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Palmer’s rector. “It’s an invitation to be the church in the world around us. After all, this [church] is not a destination in a life of faith but a starting point as we are sent out in the name of Christ.”
The Serve Sunday program was developed under the leadership of the Rev. Alexandra “Alex” Easley and the Rev. Linda Shelton. Easley, Palmer’s curate, has been at Palmer since August 2015 when she first arrived as transitional deacon. She was ordained to the priesthood at Palmer January 20, 2016. Shelton has served at Palmer since her ordination as deacon in 2007 and is a longtime member with her family.
“Serve Sundays are a lot of fun!” Easley said. “Each provides a variety of opportunities so that there is something for everyone. We strive to have projects that appeal to people of many different ages, abilities and interests.”
Easley and Bishop Monterroso became friends several years ago when she was studying Spanish in Costa Rica and Palmer has since sent a mission team on several occasions to work with Episcopal churches in the Central American country. The Bishop shared similar stories of service the Church in Costa Rica has experienced before getting behind a shovel at one of the sites visited during the day.
Palmer celebrates Serve Sunday on a quarterly basis to mark the Easter Season, Pentecost, Advent and Epiphany. Each time between 117 and 215 ministers have given their time and talent and the numbers are on a steady incline.
Almost 50 projects have been completed with the help of 28 different partnering community organizations. Populations served include homeless residents, underserved children, the elderly, people with disabilities and special needs, the Texas Medical Center, people in recovery and refugee populations.