The Chapel of Sandusky is closing its doors Sunday morning and, rather than holding its usual service, asking its members to go out into the community to help others.
The Saturday and Sunday events are billed “The Church Has Left the Building.” Church doors will be locked and signs will be put up explaining the congregation is absent.
In casual conversation, when people refer to a “church,” they often are referring to a building where the congregation meets, said Jay Halley, 59, the church’s impact and outreach pastor, who was brought on board more than a year ago to help the church increase focus on community interaction.
“The Bible looks at the church as the believers themselves,” Halley said.
This weekend the church is asking its more than 2,000 members to live the love of Christ by helping a food pantry, visiting people in a nursing home, helping at a homeless shelter and so on.
“Anyone who is a Chapel member or attender will find some way to express their faith in Christ in a very practical way,” Halley said. “We come together on weekends to worship God, but in a very real and authentic way to worship an invisible God by serving very visible people.
“There are churches in the community that are doing a great job of blessing the community,” Halley said. “We’re just trying to do our part.”
Many of the church members will be going out as members of the more than 110 Bible study groups the church has, ranging in size from eight members to 30 members. But while many of the weekend’s activities will be carried out by the Bible study groups, individuals, families and impromptu groups will also be carrying out activities, Halley said.
The leader of one of the Bible study groups is Kent Carman, who hosts a 13-member group in his Milan home.
Carman said his group will help a couple move into a new home. The couple’s young daughter recently fell and broke her leg, he said.
“There was a need there. We plan to help out with that,” Carman said.
Gary Cebull, who with his wife hosts a 10-person group at their Sandusky home, said his members have agreed to visit residents at the Ohio Veterans Home on an ongoing basis through the holidays.
The church has tried to reach out to nonprofits and local charities to identify volunteer opportunities for its members, said Dave Brown, pastoral care and groups pastor at the church.
But it’s also encouraged members such as Carman, who have chosen to simply look around and find someone who needs help, Brown said. Another group is going to help a man who is ill with cancer, visiting his house to do housework and tidy up his yard.
The weekend’s activities are a first for the church, said Halley, a Huron native.
“We’ve done things to serve the community before, but we’ve never actually stopped the weekend worship services,” Halley said. “If it goes well, we’re going to look for an opportunity to do it again and perhaps invite other churches to join in with us.”