As around 400 women from different faiths stood and sang “How Great Thou Art,” with American Sign Language interpreters also signing the words to the music, Danette Garrard felt chills.
“The Spirit was very much present. We cannot even express how it filled our hearts to see everyone in their various and beautiful ways to worship the Savior,” said Garrard.
The moment came at the end of the Vernal Christian Women’s Conference in March that Garrard had been a part of planning for several weeks.
“It has bonded our community together,” she said. “It’s almost like people lowered their guard and realized we can all be a community. That’s what the theme was, it was community and unity in Christ. That’s what all of us really wanted.”
Garrard helps coordinate JustServe projects for 10 Latter-day Saint stakes in the Uintah Basin area of Utah. During the women’s conference, she spoke about how JustServe.org connects community organizations with volunteers. And JustServe and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Vernal had a project for the women attending the conference — bringing fabric and 10-inch quilt blocks to make quilts for charitable groups in their area.
The response to the project was immediate and successful. With those quilts, “the women of the community are wrapping their arms around people in their darkest moments of need. They are wrapping their arms around them with a quilt they made with their own hands,” said Garrard.
The women’s conference was originally going to be for Relief Society members in the area. But one of the stake presidents felt impressed that it should be expanded to other churches.
By March, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Vernal Christian Church, Kingsbury Community United Church of Christ, Roosevelt Christian Assembly and Vernal Seventh-day Adventist Church were all involved.
“We were all on a level playing field, because we were all following Christ. It was incredible to see how well everyone worked together and how easily we made friends,” said Garrard.
The conference was held at Vernal Middle School on March 12, with musical numbers, prayers and speakers from the different churches. Channel V6, a local public broadcasting service, streamed it for others to watch online.
Besides the 400 people in attendance, there were 669 live connections to the stream, but Garrard said several groups had gathered to watch the stream together, so the audience could have been even larger.
The JustServe quilt project for the area is still open, because the women plan to get together again and finish more of the quilts this fall before the holiday season.
Garrard said the women’s conference, the quilt project and other service efforts through JustServe have brought their community together as people of different faiths get to know each other individually.
“Ten years ago this would not have been something that people would have allowed or appreciated,” she said. “And JustServe has been a part of that, because people are able to serve side by side.”