MLK Day of Service

11 a.m. Monday Morning January 18, 2016

People began to trickle in to the chapel for the Monday service. Familiar and unfamiliar faces had come to Blackburn’s Chapel UMC to celebrate MLK Day. We began late because of people coming in. It was surprising that so many people showed up at all considering the extreme cold on Monday. The Blackburn House Staff had been running around earlier to make sure everything was in place for the day.

The thought that kept running in my head was, What if no one shows? What will we do? But fortunately, a few people toughed out the cold in dedication to the day. The service began as a traditional church service. In honor of Dr. King, we were putting together a worship service that reflected the struggle and character of the civil rights movement.

The service was fine, not grand. I left during the sermon because Phillip, a very loud and rambunctious two year old, was not interested in sitting through Dad’s (Pastor Brandon Wrencher’s) sermon. We came back up to listen to Mom and Ingrid sing gospel songs, and that perhaps is when it happened.

Perhaps I missed something during the sermon, but when I came back to the service, people were excited. You could feel the energy. Erica, Ingrid, and Matt were playing instruments and singing Gospel Freedom Songs. People were into it. Hands were clapping and bodies were moving. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Methodist church service in rural Appalachia, but it’s a rare sight to see. People will sit down and stand up like puppets. Clapping is often awkward. It’s as if people often feel uncomfortable inside of church to make any sort of noise, that doing so would disturb God. But something happened with those songs. I don’t know if Ingrid, Erica, and Matt were at their best in that moment, but people felt it. The music was beautiful, and it was made more beautiful by the fact that everyone was apart of the experience. People were into it. Clapping happened. I don’t know if I can stress the clapping enough because that does not happen often in the walls of a Methodist church.

When Brandon stood to give the benediction, I could feel more energy than a typical church Sunday. That benediction came with the knowledge that we were there to serve our community. We were there for Todd. After lunch, we divided into three teams. Some went to chop firewood for seniors in the area, others went to Elkland Art Center to volunteer, and others went door to door surveying neighbors in Todd for the Todd Listening Project (TLP). I was on the TLP team. The excitement in the air was contagious.

At the end of the day, we all came back, satisfied, with a full day’s work under us. We sat together and told each other of how we had served that day and what our highlights were. I think for me, the highlight was the singing. I loved singing the Gospel Freedom songs, because it was the beginning of the feeling of cooperation, of believing in serving our community together. Whether or not we were Christians, we had the intent to serve Todd, and I believe that we did. I hope that we don’t stop there. I hope that service does not end on MLK day. One man has already offered his wood splitter for future firewood cutting. I think we’re off to a good start in serving our community.

If you’re reading this, I encourage you to look at our service opportunities at Blackburn House. We are still looking for tutors for our Green Valley Tutoring Program and for the Todd Listening Project. I encourage you to e-mail us at if you’re interested!

Matt Gundlach on congas, Erica Wrencher singing, and Ingrid Forsyth on piano-MLK Service Day 2016.

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