Emilie UMC in Levittown, Pa., recently cashed in on a popular fundraising fad, using it to bolster the congregation 's finances and its fellowship.
The ice bucket challenge, an online viral sensation, has pumped millions of donated dollars this past summer into efforts to find a cure for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. But Emilie's leaders found another use for it.
"The church has struggled to pay its apportionments in full the past few years, and it's a problem we've been trying to address," said the Rev. Andrew Krpata, pastor. "We truly believe this is our responsibility, and we've always been pretty successful in meeting it."
Church leaders decided before the summer to receive a second offering in weekly worship services through the end of the year.
'People have responded wonderfully'
"People have responded wonderfully," said Krpata, "and it's given me a chance to preach and talk about what apportionments are and why they're important."
He believes his emphasis on the church's apportioned giving to the EPA Conference's Connectional Ministries Fund may have prompted the unexpected phone call he received from a member who wanted to do more to help the church meet its goal.
Bob Spurrier, a 10-year member, small-business owner and drummer for the church band, had an idea. He proposed that the church employ the ice bucket challenge to raise needed funds. He would donate to the church $25 for everyone who poured a bucket of iced water over his or her own head. And for everyone who matched his $25 gift, he would increase his gift to $30. The surprised church council accepted his proposal.
But Spurrier wasn't finished. He went a step further, promising to donate $25 for every bucket of ice poured over the pastor's head as well. Krpata accepted that formidable challenge, perhaps not fully aware of the virtual water torture he would soon face for this good cause.
Krpata got Home Depot to donate about 25 orange buckets by promising that the church would repurpose and donate them as flood buckets for disaster relief afterward. A local beer distributor donated bags of ice. He then took his vacation, as church staff and volunteers finished preparing for the event.
They had selected the ideal day for the undertaking: Emilie's Back-to-Church Sunday, part of a national, ecumenical movement in which churches encourage members who have been away during the summer to return to worship, Sunday school and other activities, and to bring visitors with them. Emilie planned a picnic that would follow the ice bucket challenge exhibition.
On Sept. 7 a bucket brigade of church members and visitors gathered on the front lawn after worship, casually dressed and ready to be doused, as they poured ice and water into a battalion of buckets. Dozens participated, and about half of them reportedly matched Spurrier's $25 gift, upping his donation an extra $5.
Then Krpata selflessly sat and was deluged with about 14 buckets of icy water over his head and shoulders, before he was relieved by merciful members who took additional drenching in his stead. Of course, some gave donations without indulging in the ice bucket exercise.
'We raised close to $2700 toward our goal'
"We raised close to $2700 toward our goal," Krpata reported, "but more importantly it was a great day of fellowship. Some of our guests probably thought we were a little nutty; but somebody who came that day just joined our new members class and will fill in for Bob on drums when he can't be at worship. The main thing was just to be there and have fun together."
For Spurrier it was indeed a fun way to be creative and engage more people in stewardship. "It got people involved; and thanks to Pastor Andy, some didn't have to give money to participate. They just had to pour a bucket over his head. One member thanked me and said he had been out of work for some time; but this was a way he could be involved, even if he couldn't give anything himself.
Spurrier, a former professional musician who owns a medical supply company, may be just getting started when it comes to creative stewardship ideas.
"I've had a very blessed life," he explained. "I just wanted to help my church and give back."
By John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director
Photos: Rev. Andy Krpata (middle photo) and David Piltz, Chairman of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (bottom photo) get deluged by buckets of ice water to raise Emilie UM Church funds through Bob Spurrier's generosity.
SPECIAL BONUS: Want to see Emilie UMC's ice bucket challenge in action? To see the icy water pouring over drenched heads and hear the screams? Well, you can! Just visit our Website Video Gallery by using the pull-down menu under the News tab. Select the 3 videos titled "Ice Water Challenge." Or just use the 3 links below to go directly to the videos.