MADISON (05/11/2016) -- On a sunny April afternoon, Hammonasset State Park was bustling with activity. Folks dusted off their beach chairs and sat with faces turned toward the sun, children rode bikes along sandy paths, and couples strolled along the shoreline. Kids with fishing poles scampered out on the jetty and a group of teens played touch football.
Youth and adults from three CTUCC churches — First Congregational Church of Madison, North Madison Congregational Church, and First Congregational Church of Westbrook — had different plans. Instead of picking up seashells, the teens and adults collected trash. They were there to try on the Giv2 (Give Squared) model for local service. (Giv2 is a program of the CT Conference whereby groups of congregations covenant together for service in their own community.)
They met at the Meigs Point Nature Center for instructions. The Park Staff talked of the many dangers that litter poses to wildlife. Sea turtles get caught in plastic six-pack rings, birds mistake bright bits of balloons for food, sea life confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and choke.
Then two groups fanned out in search of trash. At first glance, the beach appeared clean. But a closer look revealed all kinds of items that would harm birds, fish, and humans. In just a short time, the bags were filled with trash, mostly plastic and styrafoam.
"We collected a lot of trash in one afternoon, but more importantly, the service work opened our eyes. As we drove back to the church, one of our youth commented, 'I started seeing trash everywhere,'" said Sue Timony-Hall, Director of Faith Formation at Madison and coordinator for the event.
The afternoon was filled with blessings as youth and adults enjoyed the beautiful setting and made connections with one another.
"I got to know some folks from other congregations and we had fun working together," said Jeff Chen, youth director at North Madison. "We can have a greater impact when we join forces with other church groups."
As the group gathered for pizza and reflection, Jill Wenker, Commissioned Minister of Faith Formation at Westbrook offered, "We do an annual mission trip every summer and work at various sites outside of Connecticut. This service project was a way to practice being good stewards of God's creation right in our own backyard. One youth from my church rode his bike (about 45 minutes) from his house to join us."
"This was a chance to try out the Giv2 model for local service," continued Timony-Hall. "We have done several collaborative projects with our friends in North Madison and we wanted to connect with other churches. I am excited about building on this experience and look forward to working together to plan more Giv2 events."
Debby Kirk is Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for Connecticut Conference, UCC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information about starting a Giv2 chapter in your area.