Hingham Congregational Church youth work to save homes and improve lives

Hingham Congregational Church youth work to save homes and improve lives

This year, 29 teens participated in Workcamp, as it is called at HCC. They traveled with senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Peter Allen, and youth minister Brandon Harrington, as well as nine parent volunteers to Parma, Ohio.

When we send our children away on summer adventures, we hope for great experiences and some form of happy, meaningful communication home. Regardless of the purpose of their journeys, or how many times they’ve traveled away from home, we angst over their safety and how they will get along without our guidance. When they return after days, weeks or months, we’re thrilled to see contentment and growth. The source of one of these experiences can be found locally.

The Hingham Congregational Church (HCC) seems to have achieved the right formula for enrichment and fun for teens with its annual summer youth ministry work camp.  For the last 27 years, HCC has been taking youth from its congregation and the broader community away for a week to explore and grow their own faith while serving others.

This year, 29 teens participated in Workcamp, as it is called at HCC. They traveled with senior pastor, Reverend Dr. Peter Allen, and youth minister Brandon Harrington, as well as nine parent volunteers to Parma, Ohio. They became part of a larger group of 400 teens and adults from all over the country, providing service to the elderly, disabled, or those who couldn’t afford to have necessary work done to their homes. They helped 60 families with homes that were in serious disrepair. Without the help of the group, some would have lost their homes because the city couldn’t provide assistance. Most of the tasks were light carpentry, repair and painting related to improvements that made things functional, safer, and more manageable for those in need.

“It was an eye opener for the kids to see what it was like in communities outside their own that were hard hit and struggling for one reason or another. I’ve been doing this for seven years and each time I’ve really enjoyed watching our kids blossom as they work and interact with teens from other groups,” said Jonathan Harlow, HCC member and lay leader.  “It was also a great opportunity for the kids to get to know others in their church, community and beyond. When they were at Workcamp they had a chance, while serving, to connect with kids from other parts of the country, which offered exposure to different perspectives on service and faith, expanding their horizons.”

Added Reverend Allen, “One of our hopes was to have the kids respond to isolation and poverty from a place of Christian love, and it was clear it resonated with them when working with or for people who were impoverished and disabled. They appreciated the relationships they were able to build with those touched by struggle, and it helped cultivate hope in their own lives.  They also felt the gratitude and support of their efforts from the town of Parma.”

“The reaction of the resident when we got there and when we finished was the highlight for me.  We had to paint his house, which was too much work for him to accomplish on his own. He was so happy with what we did.  There were four crews working on the project by the end of the week, and he was working alongside us. He was very appreciative of our help,” said one of the HCC Teen Workcamp Participants.

Workcamp is a significant part of the religious, educational and cultural experiences HCC provides for its youth.   When it started, 12 teens participated. Over the years, the numbers have been as high as 50.  HCC welcomes teens from the Hingham Community at large on these trips. This year, about 25 per cent of the participants were not members of HCC. Workcamp is very inclusive of every denomination.

The ratio of adults to teens was five to one in the work groups and they mixed everyone up so generally none of the kids were from the same youth group.  This made it interesting for everyone to meet new people while working together to accomplish something so worthwhile.

Harlow reflected, “It was great to watch kids who have joined as freshman mature over the years and ultimately become youth leadership of a group. They ran devotions and faith building exercises, which were a fun and rewarding part of Workcamp.”

Reverend Allen agreed, “The kids surprised themselves in their abilities to play leadership roles in work teams, which can be one of the most satisfying aspects of the trip.”

 “This was the first trip with our group for Reverend Allen and Brandon Harrington. Over the last few years, we missed the spiritual guidance of a trained minister on our trip. It was great to have them there to bond with kids when they had questions about theology and faith. It made a huge difference for both the kids and adults, and we got more out of it this year, “ said Harlow.

Reverend Allen explained, “One of my personal goals was to get to know our youth better, and it happened beautifully. It will continue to help me be a better pastor to them. My goal is to have all of the youth get more involved in the church week-to-week. With the Workcamp, our Church has established a good foundation for that.”

Each year, HCC holds a big fundraiser for the Workcamp trip. They run the popular Christmas Tree sale at the Hingham Bathing Beach. Whatever is earned pays the price of the trees and the rest goes to funds needed for the Workcamp. The tree sale is the beginning of their journey toward an understanding of how their hard work and dedication will change the lives of others, and potentially their own.

“When the kids were working on a house where the resident, who was in the hospital, arrived home to completed repairs, or if there was something difficult about a project and the owner helped or they worked together, the experience had a positive impact that lasts for a very long time. We know this because we see it and hear it from the kids and the chaperones long after they return home,” said Harlow.

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