Mark Swarner: Pastor leading Compassion Weekend

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on March 27, 2011

Mark Swarner, Mission pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

Six years ago, the leadership of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church made a bold decision — they canceled church for an entire weekend. But it wasn’t to give the staff a weekend off. Rather it was to allow church members to “worship God by following his commandment to love our neighbors.”

Compassion Weekend grew out of our church’s desire to have a greater presence and to make a positive impact on the larger community,” said Mark Swarner, who as mission pastor and team leader for serving, is the organizational face of the event, this year scheduled for Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3.

About 3,000 people will participate in  two dozen service projects that range geographically from San Francisco to the South Bay and include school renovation, educational and medical kit building, Habitat for Humanity construction,  “garage” sales, and clean up projects.

“The idea is that any group of 10 people can get together and know they are part of something bigger,” said Mark.

He underscored that Compassion Weekend in not just a MPPC event. Others in the community are encouraged to participate, either as part of a formal partnership, such as Trinity Church Menlo Park is undertaking this year, or as an individual.

“We really want to be welcoming,” he said. “You can give four hours of your time or work all weekend. And there are quite a few family friendly opportunities.” (You review and register for projects online.)

Mark has been a Presbyterian pastor since 1996 and joined MPPC four years ago. “I’ve always had a passion for mission, for helping the church embody God’s love and justice everywhere.

“I love doing what I’m doing. This is an incredibly fulfilling place to be, to see the impact we are able to have in the community and around the world.”

And he’s gotten to help shepherd Compassion Weekend so that it’s become one of MPPC’s cornerstones. “It’s an event that everyone looks forward to all year long.”

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