It's a modern-day version of old-style barn-raisings, when a whole community joined forces to build a structure for one of its members. People would leave their own work and concerns for the day and rally to aid a neighbour.
But even today the appeal of Habitat for Humanity is not just a chance to get out and pound nails, put up drywall, or roll out sod. Its real draw is a sense of community and an opportunity to feel good about helping others.
This, say participants, is what compels Anglicans to join workers from other churches in hoisting their hammers and heading out to a "build".
That spirit and that opportunity drew some 400 local and visiting volunteers (from Denmark, Great Britain, the United States, Jamaica and across Canada) to St. John's, to erect seven homes in a startling five days of frenzied work beginning Aug. 18.
Eric Yetman, a retired civil servant and member of The Church of the Ascension, in Mount Pearl, Nfld., has been involved with Habitat for the last 18 months. In August, he was one of the St. John's team leaders.
"It's very difficult to describe," he said, of the build. "I never saw a grumpy person there." But to effectively use so many volunteers and make the tight scheduling goals takes "organization -- a lot of organization," he said.
In fact, with as many as 14 people working on one wall, all the "materials have to be ready to go, and you have to have people who know what needs to be done."
Volunteers brought their own hammers and saws and local church groups prepared meals. Many materials were donated by local businesses and, in this case, the land was given to Habitat by the province.
Seven homes in five days, including sod, flowers and walkways, is a "miracle", said Wilmer Martin, president and CEO of Habitat For Humanity Canada. But, worldwide, the organization builds 36 homes a day. "It's fulfilling the mission of Christ, to love your neighbour as yourself," said Mr. Martin.
Established in 1976, Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that uses donations of money and materials, as well as volunteer labour, to provide homes for needy families. The Canadian affiliate was founded in 1985 and hopes to build or renovate up to 75 homes in 40 communities across Canada this year.
Mr. Martin specified "the energy that comes from (working side-by-side) and the way walls that divide people come down" as key by-products of the group's efforts.
"It fits so well with what we're about," said Archbishop Barry Curtis of Calgary. "It just fits with what Christians believe about helping one another. …