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Churches unite for community projects

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Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2005 10:00 pm

Lodi residents won't know what hit them after 15 churches perform community service projects all over town next month.

Kicking off a program called "40 Days of Community," a joint service will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at Hutchins Street Square. Lawn signs promoting "40 Days" began popping up on church members' lawns several weeks ago.

The campaign focuses on taking the values out of the church and onto the street. It also represents an effort by participating churches to come together for a single purpose rather than churches acting independently of each other."It is part of our commitment to bring our churches (in Lodi) back together," said Alan Kimber, pastor of First United Methodist Church. "When churches act together, they have a lot more credibility, and their words and actions are taken a lot more seriously."

Up to 200 groups within the churches will tackle service projects throughout Lodi, most of them on Oct. 15. Among the projects:

• Installing carpet at the Salvation Army.

• Serving hot dogs and providing services at Hale Park for low-income residents.

• Bringing flowers and visiting patients at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

• Several improvements at Lodi Lake.

• Pruning and shaping 100 trees in city parks.

• Installing lights on trees on School Street.

• Cleaning alleys.

• Graffiti removal.

Kathy Piazza, a Temple Baptist Church member who has a "40 Days" sign on her front yard off Elm Street, said it's very timely that we focus on the community right now because of Hurricane Katrina.

"It's nice that we're thinking of the community outside our congregation."

The "40 Days" campaign is based on a program called "40 Days of Purpose, developed by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Orange County with 40,000 members.

It's a spiritual growth campaign that emphasizes the five purposes of life in scripture -- worship God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, go and make disciples, get involved in a local church, and grow spiritually and become like Christ.

Another purpose of the "40 Days" campaign is the desire for the participating churches to unify in a project rather than having each church operate independently.

It's particularly important to Alan Kimber, pastor of First United Methodist Church. His church, known in Lodi as moderate or in some circles liberal in philosophy, is joining churches that primarily take a more conservative approach theologically.

Piazza said she was pleased to see the Methodist church join the more conservative churches in the effort.

"Isn't that wonderful?" she said. "It's right in keeping with the purpose of '40 Days.' "

Brian Siken, discipleship and outreach pastor at Temple Baptist Church, said people are looking more at the commonalities than the differences.

In addition to the joint service Sunday night, most of the participating churches will show a film of Warren describing the "five purposes of life."

"It's great that we're all getting together and praying for our community," said Irene Maraspini, who proudly displays a "40 Days" lawn sign in front of her house on Elm Street. "We are trying to get our community to turn to the Lord."

Participating churches are Bear Creek Community, Bethel Open Bible, Calvary Bible, Century Assembly, Crossroads Community, First Baptist, First United Methodist, Lodi Avenue Baptist, Lodi Community, New Hope Community, New Hope Fellowship, Temple Baptist, Vinewood Community, Zion Reformed and The Home Church.

Anyone interested in volunteering on Oct. 15 may contact any of the churches.

Sunday's joint service will begin at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 267 N. Mills Ave. The community is invited, whether or not they are affiliated with the participating churches.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. Sept. 16, 2005, to correct the location of the event.

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