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Magnolia holds Community Service Sunday

50 from Magnolia church, community join in service projects during worship time

On a Sunday, Magnolia UCC volunteers from the church and community help with cleaning up weeds and overgrowth at Thorndyke Park.

Photos courtesy of Danielle Chastaine

For its first Community Action Sunday on Jan. 27, Magnolia UCC in Seattle involved 150 people from the congregation and community in five service projects running to spruce up  some neighborhood spaces. 

Two years ago the congregation started discussions about vitality and envisioning what it might mean to be a Vital 3.0 Church, based on UCC’s national President and General Minister John Dorhauer’s writings on Church 3.0.

“We discussed what it means to be a church in a different way, so it is a force for service in the community,” said Marci Scott-Weis, who has been Magnolia’s assistant pastor for two years.

“A year ago the congregation decided to look outside their walls to find ways to be the church in the community,” she said.

That meant involving people from the community, including scout troops, families and neighborhood friends.

Senior pastor Joy Haertig said that the projects they engaged with make a difference in the community.

The five projects they engaged with on the chilly, rainy Sunday were the following:

• At Thorndyke Park, volunteers, including scouts, did forest restoration by removing aggressive weeds—ivy, hawthorn and blackberry bushes—and maintaining areas where these weeds have been removed.

They planted native trees, such as yew evergreen and dogwood as part of 350 plants Seattle Parks and Recreation will replant during the year.

Walter Hughson, who volunteers with the city department, hoped that those who helped also learned how to improve forests and keep neighborhood parks clean, rather than assuming the city will do the work.

• As part of Project Linus, volunteers made blankets for social service agencies and children’s hospitals to give to children experiencing traumatic situations.

One group, top, helps with projects at animal shelter while another group from Magnolia UCC and the community cleans up at tiny houses, below.

Photos courtesy of Danielle Chastaine

• At the Seattle Animal Shelter, volunteers did both indoor and outdoor projects to support the shelter, including walking and playing with dogs.

• A team worked at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center on clean-up and restoration of their Elder Garden.

• A group helped residents at Tiny Cabins in Interbay with removal of blackberry bushes, ivy and other wild plant growth on the perimeter to improve security and general beatification of the village that is adjacent to the Magnolia Bridge. The village, which opened in fall 2017, houses 55 low-income and previously homeless families in tiny homes built and donated by community organizations.

Joe Procella, the community outreach coordinator, appreciated the support in making their home more comfortable.

Residents there must be alcohol- and drug-free.  Most have full-time jobs and many attend Magnolia UCC.

There is an effort now to have plumbing in the tiny homes so residents don’t have to go to the shared kitchen and showers, or use port-a-potties and bottled water.

He is grateful that the church helped with cleanup.

Joy said the church will continue to support and volunteer at the tiny-house encampment beyond the Community Action Sunday, “because they are our neighbors.

Marci said the church has developed a three-year action plan and in prioritizing the community action worship experiences.

“I think 50 percent were from the church and the rest were recruited from all over Magnolia through community service networks and social media,” she said.

Three scout troops assisted.

Participants gathered to worship for 15 minutes and then deployed to the five projects in Magnolia and Ballard.

“We posted the projects on our online registration website,” Marci said.  “People could go on and sign up for the project of their choice.”

After working two hours, the groups came back for soup and cocoa.

“One Girl Scout asked if they could do it every Sunday,” Marci said.

“The congregation enjoyed bringing multiple generations of families to work on projects,” she said.  “The general reaction is that it was a fun and different way to be church, with members mixing in groups with others. At each site, there was a lay team leader to prepare the site”

Sundays the average attendance is about 70, so the Community Action Sunday doubled participation.

In debriefing, organizers are looking at how to expand it next year, such as by incorporating other church communities in Magnolia.  Most signed up to do it again.

At this point, it’s once a year because of the logistics challenge of arranging the projects.

“We’re having interesting conversation now about how to be a vital church and how to measure success if it’s not through donations or numbers of people,” Marci said.

She deems it a success based on the foyer being packed with noisy kids.

“It felt very messy, chaotic and alive,” said Marci, who has served there two years. 

Marci, who grew up Catholic, previously did pulpit supply at St. Paul’s UCC while completing a master of divinity degree in spiritual direction at Seattle University.  She was ordained in September at St. Paul’s.

For information, call 206-283-1788 or email


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