By Rev. Miranda, February 2017
I sometimes hear people in our church wondering if we do enough to live into our mission and intention to be an outreach parish – a parish that strives to serve and advocate for our neighbors in need. It’s always a good question. Clearly the needs are huge, and we should prayerfully check in now and then and ask God and each other and ourselves if there’s a direction in which we’re called to do more, go deeper, or walk more closely with our neighbors.
But it occurred to me recently to wonder if part of the reason we feel like we’re not doing enough is that we don’t notice how much we’re already doing, because it’s so woven into our life together as a parish.
So here’s a quick tally of what we’ve done together, in December and January. (Yes, these are two months in which we do some extra year-end giving; but they’re not by any means extraordinary in the life of our parish.)
- Fulfilled the Christmas wish lists of five households through MOM’s Sharing Christmas program
- Filled four backpacks for homeless teens, to be distributed through school social workers via the Transition Education Program
- Developed a list and shopped for the items to make up fifteen small household medical kits for families of students at Falk School
- Delivered a batch of grocery bags to Falk School to help families without stable housing eat well over the weekends
- Sent out three checks to help families of Falk students stay in their housing, through the Eviction Prevention Fund established by our Outreach Committee in coordination with the Falk social worker last fall
- Sent 100+ Christmas cards to be distributed to people in the Dane County Jail
- Raised over $500 for a child’s school fees in Haiti, in response to a call from our Sunday school kids
- Celebrated the almost-but-not-quite-final round of diapers going out to food pantries all over Dane County, thanks to our Diaper Drive
- Helped several people out with phone bills, car repairs, and rent via the Rector’s Discretionary Fund
- Gave away over $1500 to support nonprofits that serve our neighbors, by allocating our Outreach budget funds
- Adopted an annual operating budget for 2017 that has a larger line item for Outreach giving than the budget of our entire diocese
- And then there’s all the “usual” stuff, like serving at Grace Church and sending groceries over to the MOM food pantry.
And THEN there are all the acts of kindness, mercy, and standing up for others that you all do in your daily lives. I believe – hopefully – that your church community and your faith are resources that help sustain your capacity to see, care, and respond.
The thing that really stands out to me, dear ones, about outreach projects like the MOM Christmas gifts, the items for the backpacks for homeless kids, and the funds raised for Haiti through our bake sale, is how easily they happen. Whoever is extending the invitation barely has to ask, and: The cookies show up, and the money appears in the basket. The gift tags and the slips that say WARM BLANKET or FLASHLIGHT disappear, and a couple of weeks later the items show up, readily, faithfully. The author of the letter to the Hebrews advises the church, “Provoke one another to good deeds,” but here, very little provoking is necessary. You just do it.
I think we really are a community that holds generosity close to the heart of who we are together. Maybe we don’t always notice it because it’s so central to who we are – the way you don’t think about breathing, most of the time.
And I believe one result of having generosity at the heart of our parish life is that it’s easy for people to bring ideas for ways to be better neighbors to the parish, to find companions and support. Hey, what if we held a basketball tournament to raise money for Briarpatch Youth Services? What if we held a diaper drive, so that a few parents in poverty don’t have to worry about the cost of diapers on top of everything else? What if we looked for ways to step across the color lines that segregate our community and our daily lives? We listen, and we respond, and we see where it leads us together.
May the Holy Spirit continue to strengthen us that in this, and in all things, we may do God’s will in the service of the kingdom of Christ. Amen.