This week the Saturday Collection of the ministries of Episcopal churches features neighborhood gardening initiatives, continued ministry in Haiti, the transition of a church building into a thriving soup kitchen and the opening of a new immigrant center.
First up this story from Newton Kansas about a new community gardening initiative based at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church:
"The garden has been in the planning stages for about a year and a half.
St. Matthew's applied to the national Episcopal Church for a United Bank Offering Grant.
Work began early this spring building fences, laying watering lines and preparing the space for gardeners. ‘It’s very nice now that we have people gardening,’ garden coordinator Scott McCloud said.
McCloud said about half of the plots are being tended this season.
No advertising campaign was implemented as this year was meant more to establish the garden.
‘Next year, we’re going to have much more of an outreach year,’ he said."
There are two especially interesting stories about Episcopalians continuing to work to support the ongoing recovery efforts in Haiti. First is this one about Episcopalians in Central Pennsylvania and Maryland collecting musical instruments to replace the ones lost when the Holy Trinity Music school, based at the Episcopal Cathedral on Port au Prince was destroyed in the quake:
We look at disasters and feel powerless to help. Most of us can't set broken bones or rebuild homes. But some folks at St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon, Md., figured they could bring the music back to a music school, and the Central Pennsylvania diocese joined the cause. One of the drop-off points is St. Andrew's in the Valley Church, at 4620 Linglestown Road.
What's needed? Musical instruments in good condition and in their cases. Instruments are coming in, I'm told -- trombones and trumpets, cornets and a French horn. One violin.
"The loss of the School of Music has affected the spiritual life of Haiti," said Richard Burton, a West Hanover Twp. resident and the diocese's disaster response coordinator. "When the residents' spirits are lifted, healing begins to take place."
[...]I told Burton about a radio report from Port au Prince, days after the earthquake that ended with an outburst of song among the grieving, hungry residents of a tent city.
"What are you gonna do after you're done crying?" Burton responded. "What do you do? There has to be some outlet after finding yourself in an absolutely horrible situation. That's their culture. We're just trying to make a contribution to that. Trying to help."
The second is this one from Florida that details the way The Rev. Canon Bill Squires, a former missionary priest in Haiti, now living at the Villages, and associate with St. Georges Episcopal Church has been raising funds and returning to his former mission field:
“The bottom line is that it’s the children we’re talking about,” Bill said. “We love them and we want them to have an opportunity for school, to see that their needs are met and that they have the opportunity to have a future. What we are talking about isn’t just raising money to build a building, it’s raising money to rebuild lives so that the children will have a future.”
In all they’ve seen, the couple have no doubt that the Haitians will continue to rebuild.
“We are so confident in the resilience of the Haitian people,” Bill said. “When we need our spirits uplifted, we go to Haiti. They are just a wonderful, spiritual people. They just have a way to pick themselves up and keep going.”
Skipping north, the Episcopalians of the now merged parishes of Trinity and St. Andrews in Enfield Connecticut have found a way to give new life to property that was no longer being used from the congregation. They sold the former St. Andrews property to a Soup Kitchen that has been working out of the building for decades:
Gloria McAdam, executive director for Foodshare, one of the largest antihunger agencies in the area, thinks this acquisition is great for their shared cause. “They have done a great job, and they clearly have a vision for ending hunger and approaching it in a variety of ways,” said McAdam.
“We are very happy to reach this milestone at Enfield Loaves and Fishes ,” said Priscilla Brayson. “It is an exciting moment for all those who have worked so hard for so many years to improve the lives of our neighbors... we foresee a great task ahead of us, with its uncertainties. Our thanks and appreciation also goes out to the community, which helped make this occasion possible ,” she added.
And finally this week, there's the story of how the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana entered into a cooperative ministry with the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria, the United Methodist Church and Louisiana Bar Foundation to open a new immigrant center in Alexandria.
One of the key functions of the new center will be to inform immigrants about their new home and what services are available to them whether they are here with documentation or not.
"Many immigrants have a fear of being sent away so they try to keep a low profile, and in that spirit they are willing to accept anything -- even things that are extremely unfair -- so that they can be here," said Awotwi, whose Newman United Methodist Church will be donating space and utilities for the center.
One of the goals of the center is to educate people and help immigrants understand "that they are of value, they are precious in God's eyes, and we see them as human and will treat them as humans," Awotwi said.
The center is the culmination of a four-year effort by the churches to gain U.S. Department of Justice approval, find a home for the center and to acquire partial accreditation for José Colls, the center executive director.
(Speaking as an Arizonan, it's nice to see groups cooperating in this particular ministry.)