In mid-August, Calvary Church of the Nazarene in Chennai, India, raised enough money to help the Peniel Church at Villpatti, Kodaikanal, begin construction on its own building.
Since 2009, the 35-member Peniel church has met in a rented space. Though the church has purchased land, because the congregation members are daily wage earners, there is no way for them to pay for the materials to build their own sanctuary. Meeting for so long in a rented space hurt the membership, as the lack of a proper worship center led some members to move to other churches.
Raising funds for ministry projects through an August Thanksgiving fundraiser is an annual tradition for the 320-member Calvary Church.
“When I proposed this project to our church board, there was oneness of mind among all the members and they approved it with great joy,” said C. S. Dhas, pastor of Calvary Church. “I constantly encourage and challenge my congregation and the church board to meet the needs of various congregations of the Eastern Tamil Nadu District of the Church of the Nazarene, and when the need arises, they support it wholeheartedly.”
Calvary Church of the Nazarene has long felt a responsibility for nurturing and partnering with other Nazarene churches across India. In nearly 37 years of Dhas’ pastoral leadership, the congregation has planted several churches and initiatives that express God’s love and holiness in their communities, leading many to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
The congregation celebrates a Thanksgiving/harvest festival in a traditional way during the first week of August by bringing thanksgiving offerings in the form of various goods like vegetables and fruits, plants, handmade items, and household utilities to the altar. The senior pastor prays over the items before they are auctioned back to the congregation. People joyously buy these things for a higher price (sometimes twice or three times) than the original value to express their gratitude to the Lord.
Previously, the Calvary church’s Thanksgiving fundraiser has covered all the costs to build the Nazarene Ministry Centre at Alamathi, the Bronell Greer Memorial Chapel and Parsonage, the Paula Greer Memorial Senior Citizen Center, and Watchman’s Quarters at Alamathi in the outskirts of Chennai.
The church spends a month preparing for this special Thanksgiving weekend, including setting a fundraising goal.
Normally the weekend starts on Saturday evening with a short thanksgiving prayer, followed by the auction. On Sunday, the fundraiser continues over breakfast, and snack stalls are set up outside the church building after the morning service. Sunday school children and youth conducted games. People purchased tokens from the church treasurer to buy food and drinks and play the games.
“There are more who are willing to contribute, and hopefully the need will be met totally,” Dhas said.