When a few new people showed up Sunday to attend First Presbyterian Church services in Salt Lake City, Kathy Moore feared they might just turn around and go home once she told them about the plan for congregants to skip traditional religious services to work on a handful of community service projects.
"Instead, they said, 'This is so awesome, can we help?' " she recalled.
And help they did, joining Moore and about 200 church members who fanned out across the city as part of the "Faith in Action" campaign that mirrored efforts held nationwide. The idea, longtime church pastor Mike Imperiale said, was to encourage church members to embrace their faith and serve others outside of the church.
"We're going to worship by serving," he said. "That's what Jesus did. He was always looking for people in need."
Church members served a brunch for the homeless and low-income families at St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen in downtown Salt Lake City (it's normally closed on Sundays), refurbished the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake and a home that it will use as a sort of halfway house for women in its mentoring program, and cleaned up a stretch along the Jordan River.
They also distributed clothes, toys and household items in conjunction with the brunch, which fed between 300 and 400 people. They served such foods as quiche, sweet rolls, fruit, juice and coffee, donated mostly by Associated Foods, Smith's and Einstein Bros. Bagels.
"Look at the need," said Pamela Atkinson, a church member and prominent homeless advocate, waving her hand toward the line snaking out the door of the soup kitchen. "You can talk about your faith, but you can also show your faith."
That's what Moore believes the church accomplished, "with the idea to show that it's really not that hard" to help other people, "and it's really important."
She would like to see the church make the "Faith in Action" campaign a regular feature, something Imperiale certainly endorses. In recent years, he said, the church has worked to become more active in the community, starting a food co-op and its mentoring program, among other projects.
"We really had no idea how our congregation would respond," he said, looking at the packed house at the soup kitchen, "but oh, my gosh! â¦ Little things like this can make a big difference."