Multi-generational participation in formation and outreach is a longstanding tradition in the life of the Palmer Church community. Children and parents gather every December to assemble Advent wreaths for the season, teens and grown-ups alike travel to Costa Rica to make needed repairs to community schools and Palmer youths join Mission Palooza every summer to restore communities devastated by natural disasters.
Joining together in parish life through music, worship, ministry, play and formation brings together parishioners of all ages. But Palmer may have set a new record in its engagement of young people in outreach through the participation of the Raghavan family in the New Hope Housing ministry that goes out into the community on Serve Sundays.
New Hope Housing provides affordable, permanent housing with support services for people who live on very limited incomes. It serves Houston’s most vulnerable citizens with 1,000 housing units at seven citywide locations. Palmer’s Serve Sunday teams have actively supported this initiative, providing hosted get-togethers for residents with food, games and more at New Hope’s Perry Street, Brays Crossing and Sakowitz Street locations.
The Raghavans had joined in on-site Palmer campus projects when Serve Sundays started in 2015, but Archana was attracted when the New Hope Housing projects were introduced. “I thought it would be nice to go into the community,” she said. And it worked well for the family. “It’s nice to get the kids volunteering and the New Hope projects are appropriate for families, not just adults,” she said. “They like to help out where we’re serving the foods, pouring drinks and serving sandwiches. And kids bring a certain magic to the place with their innocence and excitement.”
When the last Serve Sunday was announced last December Nalini, a third grader, and Sona, a kindergartener, had already volunteered with their mother at New Hope several times. But little Raya hadn’t yet turned 1 at the time. “My husband was working and I didn’t want to miss it,” said Archana.
Raya’s presence showed everyone that the joy of ministry in Christ can manifest itself in unexpected ways. “She was not helpful in any way,” laughed Archana. But Raya’s energetic antics lit up the room for everyone present, ministry members and New Hope residents alike.
And Archana sees plenty of opportunity for Raya to grow into her ministry. “We’ll definitely be there in April,” she said.