UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers: 24/7 Service Week Retrospective
April 25, 2011The University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers sponsored a 24/7 Service Week in response to the 24/7 Prayer Week on campus.
This article originally appeared on the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers blog.
Last Thursday marked the end of UNIFI's 24/7 Service Week. With this event we sought to demonstrate that service has real, visible, recognizable effects on the community, whereas prayer does not. I firmly believe we succeeded in doing that. We had a total of 20 volunteers and worked over 56 hours throughout the week. We hosted an event every day, only missing one, which was re-scheduled because of the weather. It was a really good feeling to get out and work to make the community a better place.
While 24/7 Service Week was about showing that members of the non-religious community actually do service, it was also much more than that. I firmly believe that prayer does not work, and there is no reason to believe that it has real effects on anyone other than the person praying. While it may let people reflect on their lives, and provide them with good feelings, it doesn't go beyond those individuals and their feelings. Given the amount of time and effort that went into planning and executing 24/7 Prayer Week, UNIFI wanted to make a statement about the inability of prayer to solve problems. Organizers of Prayer Week have claimed that "God has done amazing things this week, as we humbly expected him to!" Unfortunately, I don't see it. No mountains moved. No diseases magically disappeared. People are still ravaged by the plagues of war, famine, and poverty. This is why prayer is ridiculous, and why it's so important to compare it to ways of helping the plight of the human race that actually do work. It has been said that two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer, I absolutely believe this to be true.
There were mixed reactions to 24/7 Service Week throughout the duration of the event. We found support from amongst both the religious and non-religious communities, and there were several instances of religious students coming out to participate in our service projects. I want to thank every single person who came out to help us make the event a success, religious students included. I will not temper the message that prayer does not work, but that should not mean that we didn't appreciate the religious help we received. A Christian who prays and does service contributes a lot more to the community than one who simply prays.
In the end, this week was about action, and taking a stand against supernatural solutions to real-world problems. I think we managed to do both thanks to our wonderful volunteers. 24/7 Service Week was amazing, and I am prouder than ever to be a part of this group and this community.