|Amy Schill ’03, ’12 M.N.A.
“I just want to serve.”
I hear these words often in my work with volunteers at a faith-based nonprofit that serves people in need in rural Eastern Kentucky. Our volunteers help with home repair, education programs, and hunger and poverty relief. The volunteer program I oversee invites people to make a commitment ranging from three weeks to one year of service that includes intentional community and spirituality.
Good-hearted individuals, eager to bear much fruit through their service, are less eager to engage in the intentional community and spirituality components of our program. Though most of our volunteers join the program with a desire to commit fully to our three pillars, a small but frustrated minority see community formation, formal group reflection, and retreats as unnecessary, or even as obstacles to their service. They just want to serve—what’s the need for all this extra stuff?
As a former volunteer myself, I see one answer to this question in today’s gospel. Christ speaks to us, his modern-day disciples, when he tells us that without him we can “do nothing.” For Christians, Jesus is not simply a good man whose example we follow—he is our source and strength for everything we do. Our lives—no matter how good and well-intentioned—will not bear the fruit we desire unless we are rooted in Christ.
In my experience as a volunteer, bearing fruitful service could not be performed in isolation—it required an intentional engagement of my spirituality within a community of fellow seekers. Could I still help people? Sure, but long-term service is challenging, and over time cynicism can overtake compassion. Truly loving our neighbor as Christ commands requires strength and nourishment that only the “vine” can provide.
We must seek ways to remain in Christ so that we may bear the fruit of Christian love in our work and family lives. As we continue this Easter season, may we strive to know Christ in a deeper way through prayer, study, community, and service.