The Rev. Patrick and Catherine Smith say Jesus calls Christians to be active and to serve others. That message is taking root at St. John’s Anglican Parish, 701 Hampshire, where Patrick is the Rector and Catherine is youth coordinator.
“When we arrived in 2010 we had an average of 25-30 for our Sunday services,” Patrick Smith said. Now the average Sunday attendance is a little more than 100, and nearly half of the congregation is age 19 or younger. Patrick does not take credit for the growth or the large contingent of young people. “We have an amazing core of hard-working people who are open to new things,” he said.
Catherine and Operation Serve, an ecumenical youth group that involves teens from St. John’s and other churches, also focuses on hard work. “We do 10 to 12 projects a semester. What I have discovered is that if you raise expectations for youth they will not only meet them, they will exceed it every time. So we try to give them opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said.
Projects for the youth have included growing organic food to help feed those in need, a mission trip to the Chicago inner city and mission work in Guatemala, where they built an addition to a school building. “It was such a transformative experience for them” going on a mission trip outside the United States, Catherine said. “Even though there was a language barrier, the people were so beautiful and so gracious (the youth) knew they were getting so much more than they poured out.”
Since Operation Serve was launched in 2011, its members have donated more than 5,500 hours of service. Missions work calls St. John’s members in town, too. Back in 2008, two years before the Smiths arrived, the Horizons Soup Kitchen was launched by several churches working together. People had knocked on the door at St. John’s and said they were hungry. Several congregations took up the mission, which for a few years was located at St. John’s.
Patrick came to Quincy from Tennessee where he was a church planter and he and Catherine had founded a youth development organization called the Food Initiative. “Horizons was one of the main attractions for us when we were looking to relocate. We arrived in 2010, and it was a work in progress and already bearing fruit,” Patrick said. Since that time Horizons has moved to Eighth and York, where it serves meals to 125 to 150 people daily. The Smiths said there are 15 partner churches involved in Horizons. “That is unique. I’ve been in a lot of communities, and I’ve never really seen this happen the way we’ve seen it with Horizons … with all these beautiful people from other churches coming together for a common purpose: To serve the Lord,” Catherine said. Patrick nodded as his wife spoke. He said in other communities it was “like pulling teeth” to get a few churches to work together. He said Quincy is a very collaborative community. “We’ve moved seven times, and this is the place that feels like home,” Patrick said. “There are such authentic people in Quincy. It is a gem of a city,” Catherine said.
The Smiths are looking forward to starting a service on Saturday nights at Horizons to give other people an opportunity to worship and pray together. Operation Serve also is preparing for its second mission trip to Guatemala. The work they’ll do there is important, but it also serves a larger purpose of teaching young Christians how to live their faith. “My goal is to prepare our next generation of servant leaders and part of their DNA will be to give to the community,” Catherine said. The Smiths believe in setting those high expectations for themselves, too.