The church plans to hold its second food-packing event in cooperation with the anti-hunger organization Feed My Starving Children this coming January. They have set the ambitious goal of raising $110,000 to pay the cost of the food. The money will pay for 500,000 meals, and 2,500 volunteers will be needed, says Hilmar Associate Pastor Dan Johnson.
Johnson came up with the unusual fundraising idea last summer. “It’s like any other “thon” event,” he said. “People ask sponsors to offer an amount of money per hymn – 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, etcetera.”
He set a goal of singing two verses from 50 hymns within two hours. The 120 people who participated wound up singing 52 hymns.
The event was actually held at the Turlock Covenant Church, and a member of that congregation contributed a $3,000 matching grant. So far, the hymnathon has raised more than $7,000 and Johnson expects more to be contributed.
The evening proved to be about more than the money. Singing the hymns turned out to be an educational and emotional experience.
Ellie Jorritsma, who grew up a Roman Catholic, said through tears that, “I was amazed by how many of them I knew. I knew all but three of the hymns. It was very ecumenical – a rich blending of the two Christian traditions that I know so well. I only realized how much overlap there is musically because we sang so many of the hymns all at once.”
“I completely forgot about some of those hymns we sang tonight!” said one resident of Covenant Village of Turlock retirement community. “It was wonderful to be reminded of them again.”
Following the hymnathon, people asked Johnson if the church will do it again next year. “It was definitely a simple event to do,” he said. “There were no rehearsals, no performance pressures, nothing to purchase. Regardless of whether the church does another FMSC food event, a hymnathon could certainly be used to raise funds for other ministries, mission trips, or building needs.”