Friday, July 6, 2012

Serving in God's name with the help of an HHH grant

As you have heard, Redeemer is the grateful recipient of a Human Hurt and Hope grant in the amount of $25,000. This grant is designed to help us continue and grow our feeding ministries - The Shepherd’s Table, Food Pantry, and Community Garden - and will help us to:

• keep up with the financial demand our feeding ministries have place on our resources
• hire a part-time program manager to oversee the feeding ministries and expanded programs
• use the time between breakfast and lunch for life-skills education and training, health screenings, referrals to local help agencies, job preparation, as well as the hiring of a part-time social worker to schedule and coordinate this part of the program
• expand the Community Garden to increase the harvest for use in the Shepherd’s Table
• expand and open the Community Garden to more Shepherd’s Table guests as well as other church partners who will use their harvest for their own feeding ministries
• engage the local community in addressing hunger and poverty in our area through our ministry so that the people we serve cease to be a concept (the poor) and become people whose lives and stories we know and care about.

Since many of our Redeemer members are new, I’ll share a portion of the cover letter I wrote for the grant as it offers a concise history of the means by which we answer Christ’s call to us to serve in his name:

"In February, 2010, The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer launched our premiere mission: The Shepherd’s Table. We served our first lunch on February 17, 2010 to 35 people and have been serving each Wednesday ever since. We began serving breakfast in addition to lunch in April, 2010, one of only two local churches providing both meals on our feeding day. The Shepherd’s Table now serves an average of 350 meals each Wednesday. In addition, our Food Pantry ministry gives out an average of 50 bags of food and supplies (toiletries, diapers, feminine products, etc.) also on Wednesday.

It has always been our priority to serve friendship as well as food. Knowing that the majority of our guests are dealing with hypertension, diabetes, and other physical issues, we want to serve as much fresh, healthy food as we can. We are also feeling compelled to teach our guests “how to fish,” rather than just handing out the cooked fish to them. Responding to the needs our guests bring to us, we also want to help them make connections to the local resources that will improve the circumstances of their lives.

Redeemer shares our space with an African-American Pentecostal Church, Living Waters Ministries. We invited our friends at Living Waters to become our mission partners, sharing in our feeding ministry, which they have done enthusiastically. They had discerned a call from God to serve in exactly this way, but due to economic hardship, had been unable to do so. Given the surprisingly sharp rise in demand for the Shepherd’s Table, Redeemer would have been unable to continue this important mission without our mission partners at Living Waters. In fact, the leadership teams of The Shepherd’s Table Ministries are each comprised of one member from Redeemer and one from Living Waters.

God’s abundance has been undeniable and spiritually nourishing for so many involved, both volunteers and guests. The demand, however, has outpaced our resources. We are, therefore, re-birthing ourselves, formalizing the mission by writing policies and procedures, developing volunteer trainings, etc., to enable us to write for grants from other sources to support and grow this mission."

Operating the Shepherd’s Table, Food Pantry, and Community Garden is not only a call from God, but a gift to us at Redeemer. Serving others in God’s name using the gifts of our building, our amazing kitchen, and our compassionate people has been a big part of our healing as a faith community, enabling us to find our own path to rebirth and renewal these last three years.

For those who are new at Redeemer, you should know that we started our feeding ministry with no money set aside, watching in awe as the abundance of God flowed into us and provided what we needed to serve. It was an inspiring and exciting experience. Two years later, these ministries continue to inspire and excite. We invite you to join in, serve with us, and be inspired – by God, the ministries, and our guests.

I wrote this grant, with the help of Caswell Martin, your Jr. Warden, because the demands of the ministry had begun to strain our financial resources. Knowing how tight the economy has made all of our budgets, it seemed a good idea to look beyond ourselves for additional resources. That doesn’t mean that we’re relived of our need to commit our financial and other gifts to this ministry. We just don’t have to do it alone, thanks to the generosity of Human Hurt and Hope and the Diocese of Western North Carolina.

I am happy to announce that Dan Allen has agreed to be the part-time Ministry Program Manger and Larena Cherry has agreed to do the social work portion of the expanded program. Please consider volunteering to help them. There are even more ways you can help now with the expanded programs thanks to the grant.

Ask anyone who volunteers now – you get so much more than you give. That’s how serving God always works - we give a little from our faithfulness and God gives us back a hundredfold.

Also, if you haven’t made a pledge to the church, please consider doing so. According to our canon law, our budgets are formed from pledged income only. Unpledged monies, also called loose plate collections, won’t reach the feeding ministries except on the third Sunday of each month when they are designated to go there. In addition, the loose plate collection is designated for a missional purpose each week and does not support general church operations.

If you have any questions about the grant, the feeding ministries, or how you can help, please contact me. If you know of other resources that can financially support our work, please let me know. The grant search continues…

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