August 1 & 2 saw a unique and wonderful gathering of people at Patchwork. Old friends who moved away nearly 25 years ago, toddlers getting their first introduction to Patchwork, and many Patchwork regulars gathered in our big room for stories, laughter, music, photos, plenty of food, and some tears.
The occasion was the Decommissioning of Patchwork’s Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) unit. The unit had been part of Patchwork since 1988. It was one in a national network of similar units in other cities: the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), a program run by the Mennonite Church that offers participants an opportunity to live out their faith through community service. Participants serve for 1-3 years and receive room and board in exchange for their work in community organizations.
Unfortunately, the national MVS organization has seen significant declines in enrollment over the past several years, and in response the national staff decided to eliminate 10 of the 21 MVS units nationwide, including ours.
Patchwork gained a lot from our MVS unit through the years. VSers participated in Patchwork worship services, they were present in our neighborhood (where the MVS unit was always located), and they worked for either Patchwork or one of our partners in the community. They contributed energy, ideas, imagination, and hard work. They received opportunities for leadership and life lessons from Patchwork’s Worship Community members, from their co-workers, and from the people whom they served. The entire Evansville community benefited in large and small ways: the Arts & Smarts children’s snack time rituals, our volunteer record system, many of the art pieces around our building, Patchwork’s tutoring program, Patchwork’s work on bikes, the River City Food Co-op, and Patchwork’s current leadership. After their service in Evansville, our Mennonite Voluntary Service Workers (VSers) returned home to places like Kansas, Ohio, Oregon, Manitoba, and Colorado.
So it was with sadness that we gathered on August 2 for a worship service to Decommission our MVS unit. There were songs, scripture readings, prayers, and communion. Then John Rich led us in a Litany of Decommissioning, which included the words, “We look to the future, to God’s future, and know that the Evansville MVS Unit is not dead, but will rise again in new and surprising ways. It will rise again in moments of service and song, in acts of mercy and justice, in organizations and programs that will not even know the debt they owe Evansville MVS, and in lives transformed that may not even understand the connection.”
If you have stories or thoughts about the continuing legacy of the Evansville MVS unit, both in your life or others’, I encourage you to share them with me.