Whether it was the impact of COVID isolation or a renewed desire to serve others, an overwhelming number of Wesleyans are finding new and creative ways to help their communities.

That is exactly what is happening on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, where a collective of about 15 churches of different denominations banded together for one week in October to participate in dozens of “Love Week” projects.

This is the third year these churches have participated in Love Week, and they are already eager to do it again next year. This is actually the eighth year for many others in the Atlantic Canada region, which have participated in Love Week through  Kings Church, which has locations in Saint John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island.

Yarmouth Wesleyan Church in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, last October was the main coordinator and participant in the initiative along the South Shore. Assistant Pastor David Hockley said the main component to Love Week is simply to provide for any need in the neighborhood. Church volunteers coordinate everything from taking treats to the local fire department to serving teachers a meal to doing something nice for nurses and first responders. No idea or job is too small; Yarmouth volunteers have done everything from sing hymns in a nursing home to picking up garbage along the highway to car detailing for single moms. And while it is all about serving and less about evangelizing, Pastor David said, “It is situational witnessing. Some people, you know, are just walking witnesses.”

And that is why this project is gaining steam in this area, and others — it is all about serving and making people feel loved.

“One thing I love about Love Week is it’s an easy opportunity for people in church to start serving in the kingdom of God. It’s an easy onramp,” says Pastor David. Those who may be too timid to serve regularly in church, for that or other reasons, find it easier to jump into these group projects that allows the church to interact with the community. “Another thing I love about it is that it gives churches the opportunity to rub shoulders with people in their community that we don’t usually come into contact with. I love Love Week!”

It takes months of planning and promotion on social media and local media to make this week a success, says Pastor David. To serve a wide variety of communities, it takes volunteers and gives them options on when and where they serve. Pastor David says this third Love Week was a much bigger success than the previous two years because of all the planning and promoting on social media.

“But one thing I find to be very common in Wesleyan churches is a willingness to do community service. I think a lot of churches are catching on that we have to get outside these four walls of the church,” he said.

Just 15 minutes down the road from Yarmouth is Brazil Lake Wesleyan Church, which participated too. Brazil Lake Pastor Kevin Myers said it started with a couple of people at his church who were passionate about wanting to get involved. Brazil Lake is a small church in a rural area, so members came up with a project they wanted to do, such as delivering pizza and pies to a school for the teachers. The school was so thankful that Brazil Lake was able to enlist their help to get the students to write thank you notes to fire department members to bless them.

To a church such as Brazil Lake, the opportunity to love on the community isn’t something reserved for one week a year. “We’ve been trying to make inroads and build relationships,” said Pastor Kevin. “Love Week is just an excuse to do it once a year; we’re trying to do this on a regular basis. It’s part of our DNA.”

One way Pastor Kevin has made this a part of the congregation’s DNA is to ask them to imagine a scenario in which the church disappears. Would anyone — outside of its members — notice? This question has changed their perspective, he said. To be an effective church showing the love of Jesus to a community, that community should hurt if the church should happen to disappear. People in a community used to look to the church for help, but this has changed. “You have to go to them. It is a change in how we do ministry,” said Pastor Kevin.

To be a church that matters, Brazil Lake picks 12 groups it wants to serve every January, with Love Week being a small part of that. In other words, it focuses on serving a different group in its community for a month 12 months out of the year.

Of Love Week, Pastor Kevin said, “It’s funny how we need an excuse to do what we know we need to do.” He recalls one of his first years he was pastor of the church when they did a cookie outreach around Christmas time. They sent out 14 or so in different directions, and almost everyone came back with a story of those who never knew the church existed. In a small community, he was shocked that so many people had simply not heard of Brazil Lake Wesleyan. What got their attention? “We just knocked on doors and gave them cookies.”

No job, or gesture, is too small. Christians are called to love God … and love others. These Nova Scotians are reminding us of that simple message.

Jennifer Jones is the district administrator for the South Carolina District of The Wesleyan Church.