The opportunity of another Gospel

The 6th Sunday of Easter gives the preacher an alternative gospel reading. I was delighted to see the less-frequently-used John 5:1-9. This is the scripture that the old spiritual “Wade in the Water” was based on. What many don’t know is that the meaning of the song has been misunderstood. It is frequently interpreted as a call to the runaway slaves to take to the waters to avoid being chased by the hounds. Until recently, it was believed to be a call to action. So how do we now know the interpretation is wrong? New scholarship of the old texts.

Because in contemporary scripture, a verse is missing. A verse that today is believed to have been inserted long after the scripture was originally written. But a verse that was present in the scripture ultimately learned by the slaves as they came to adopt the Master’s religion. Although now obscure, the verse would have been well known those out of whom the words became a spiritual that would instill hope. This was a story that was very important to them.

So what is the missing verse?

5:3 In these lay many invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed.

and they waited for the moving of the waters.

5:4 From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.”

It was not a call to take to the water as a runaway. This scripture was an anthem of faith and hope that this God they came to worship had come among them and provided opportunities for healing and hope. This God that would stir things up, heal the sick, conquer death and offer an ongoing source of hope was one they sang to each other to sustain them in the misery that was their lives.

So at this point you might be asking, what does all this have to do with the 6th Sunday of Easter? The answer lies in the collective scriptures, especially from Revelations and John, we have heard over the past several weeks.

In Revelations, John is sharing a vision as to the coming of God’s Kingdom. Remember last week’s reassurances: He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. We will be his people and He will be our God. And this week’s promises of a place which is bathed in the light of God, where the darkness will be no more. And the powerful understanding that there will be no need for a Temple in the coming of God’s Kingdom. God will not be apart. God will be with us and in us and around us.

In the previous and coming Gospel readings, Jesus is preparing the disciples for the coming time in which he will no longer be with them. We are given images of the ongoing presence of God and Jesus as experienced through the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows there will be a period of turmoil and danger to come. He is reassuring the disciples that even in the challenges, God will not desert them and will provide the means through which they can begin the work to come, which we will remember in 2 weeks on Pentecost.

What most of us don’t understand is that our experience of Christianity and our freedom of worship and choice are not present everywhere in the world. There are places in this world where it is dangerous to be a Christian; places where the faithful take their lives in their hands every time they gather to worship. Just watch the news! It is happening now. Churches are bombed, leaders are killed. All for a devotion to their faith.

And what about those who have never heard the story of Jesus, have never heard that there is a creator that loves them and wants them to be healed? Is that not why we are preparing for Holy Conversations? To bring the Word to those straining for just a slight whisper of hope?

What this season’s scripture passages ask of us is this: are these words of faith, healing and radical justice as precious and life-giving to us today as they were to the slaves of 19th century America or as they are today to those who are persecuted for their faith?

If we cannot answer yes to this question, then our discipleship is incomplete. There are so many in our world who are empty, desperately seeking meaning, hungry for a new vision, which will sustain and uplift them. We, on the other hand, go easily about our lives without much effort or thought given to our beliefs or worship.

The season of Easter each year invites us to remember the story, to remember the sacrifice and to remember the ultimate victory. It invites us once again into an intimate exploration of the incarnation and the ways in which we, as disciples, insure it is ongoing. God, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, is with us. Sharing this news is integral to our lived discipleship. May we remember that WE are the ongoing Body of Christ and offer ourselves as instruments of Hope and Life and Love.

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Who Are the Poor?

Jesus and Friends Cartoon

Have you seen Beasts of the Southern Wild? A mythical story of strength and courage set in some of the most abject poverty of this century you will likely ever see portrayed on screen. I have read many reviews of the film. Some loved it; some panned it. Regardless of the merits of the total film experience, I haven’t seen any of the critics question the authenticity of the poverty.

Thankfully, most of us have never personally witnessed or lived in the type of poverty shown in the film. Many viewers might question the realism. How can anyone live like that and survive? The answer is: many don’t, and those that do have the scars to prove it.

But when we talk about domestic poverty, we need to be clear about what we mean. It can be easy to dismiss images from the film as rarities and believe that in general, poverty doesn’t sit along-side us on the bus or the pew, or stand next to us at the grocery store. But it does. In Think and Act Anew: How Poverty in America Affects Us All and What We Can Do about It, a Catholic Charities director describes personal poverty in this way:

  1. they cannot afford housing that is clean, safe and in good repair;
  2. they cannot afford nutritious food for themselves and their family on a regular basis;
  3. they cannot consistently pay their utility bills, even though it is a priority;
  4. their children are not adequately clothed for school with clean clothes that fit and are in good repair, and they do not have proper clothing for work; and/or
  5. they cannot afford to go to the doctor for any kind of illness for fear that the visit will be beyond their means to pay for it.

These are all conditions that interfere with our basic right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And they are all conditions that are very present in the state and in our communities. And only we are able to work toward stopping it. For the Church, for disciples of Jesus, and for each and every one of us, it is a moral imperative to do all that we can to alleviate these conditions.

The screenwriter of Beasts put the following words into the mouth of the primary character, Hushpuppy.

“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted.”

Our society is busted. The middle-class continues to shrink and the distance between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is growing exponentially. Ethical/moral practices by big banks and businesses appear to be at an all time low. Those in power create systems that excuse accountability of the rich and powerful. Concepts such as the “common good” and the “beloved community” have been all but lost.

Bishop Michael Bransfield of West Virginia conducted poverty listening sessions around his state. He heard, over and over again about the “soul-killing aspects of poverty… with so many of the poor having lost hope and unable to continue to dream.”

Who, if not the Church, will speak out and invite others to participate in bringing about God’s Kingdom. We must find our voices and exercise courageous speech. We are uniquely qualified and situated to share the message of God’s reconciling love for all of God’s children. We must first offer welcome and hospitality and insure immediate needs are being met so that our brothers and sisters are then able to hear the thundering of God’s love whispering to each of us. Following the acts of mercy, we must then collaborate with the poor to work for a just community, working toward breaking the oppressive systems which continue to hold our neighbors in dependency.

Dali Lama - Love = fearless

There are several initiatives in the Diocese that are actively seeking to interrupt poverty on a local level. Without question, each would benefit from support from the congregations and other ministries of the Diocese. If you’re looking for a way to be involved, reach out to the Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston, The Seeds of Hope Jubilee Center in Biddeford, St. Elizabeth’s Essential’s Pantry, located at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland, and the active ministries in other parishes and centers. Together we can help bring hope back into fragile lives. We can demonstrate God’s love for all people, and we can, with God’s help, create the Beloved Community in Maine.

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Why our buildings just don’t matter.

This past weekend I had the chance to visit a parish a lot like the one I currently serve.  The property featured a beautiful and inspiring church with a cozy chapel; an enormous rectory, and several buildings that made up the parish house.  You can imagine the complex must have been truly grand in its day.   Yet inside the church pews are no longer full; and outside the neighborhood is facing the challenges of economic hardship:  poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Many of the day-to-day conversations seem to have a recurring theme:  the building.  How to raise funds to care for the building instead of spending down the endowment?  How to get more volunteers to care for the building? How to best utilize the space and bring more of the community into the building? So much of the faith community’s time, energy, and financial resources are poured into their beautiful buildings.

This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of Jesus and the rich man.  The faithful man who has kept all the commandments, but asks Jesus what else he must do to have eternal life. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” Mark 10:21-22

Jesus loved the man by telling him to sell all his possessions, and give the money to the poor (not the Church mind you).  The man was shocked to hear these words, and went away grieving.

In many ways the Church has become the rich man, and our buildings have become the possessions that we just can’t let go of.  We are obsessed with maintaining and preserving our beautiful buildings that suck the heart and spirit out of us like a Dyson vacuum.

But let’s face reality.  At the end of the day our buildings just don’t matter.  The people outside our beautiful buildings are what matters. Because it’s all about relationships, not real estate.

God loves all of humanity equally, but through his Son, he taught us about his preferential option for the poor.  Jesus is calling us towards radical generosity.  Living into this mission requires that we recognize the poverty that our neighbors and parishioners struggle with, the hunger that children in our community face, the invisible homeless living amongst us.

What if the Church did what the rich man couldn’t?  What if we sold our buildings, so they would stop holding us back? If our buildings didn’t burden us, we really could experience what it means to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, to seek and serve Christ in all persons as a community of faith.

Episcopalians in Maine have the chance to begin thinking differently about radical generosity with Resolution 9 “Focus on People Living in Poverty” at our Diocesan Convention.   The resolution asks us to resolve that all committees, commissions, institutions and congregations include in their agenda time to discuss “How will what we are doing here affect or involve people living in poverty?” for the 2013 calendar year.

Some folks suggest this question has nothing to do with many aspects of parish life, such as the altar guild, choir, or facilities committee.   But the point is, that everything we do in the Church should affect our mission to be radically generous.   If it’s not, why are we doing it?

As communities of faith we need to recognize what really matters, and it’s relationships.  Relationships with the folks outside our doors and within, who are struggling, who are broken, who need to experience the transformative love of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Heather Blais

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The Gathering Place

On a warm summer day two young men wait by the door of The Gathering Place as it prepares to open.  They’re dressed to the nines, one in a suit, the other in a tie and trench coat.  They are joyful, polite, and friendly.  They also happen to be near-homeless. 

Last week, I had the chance to visit with these two men as they settled into their morning routine at The Gathering Place.    One opened the paper, upset to read about the tragic murder of a baby in a town thirty miles north.  The other munched on an apple while commenting on the days’ headlines. They grabbed a cup of coffee and talked about their new attire, which they received from the Seventh Day Adventist Clothing Center.  They said it felt good to be dressed up.

Guests of The Gathering Place

And I have to say there was something good about being at The Gathering Place.  It is a sanctuary where folks come for quiet solitude and fellowship, the newspaper and coffee, a friendly smile and a dash of hope.

The Gathering Place is a drop-in day center in Brunswick, Maine.  They’re open from 9 to 3 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  They offer a warm and friendly place to spend time in relaxation or conversation in a stress-free environment.

It is an ecumenical ministry that came about when a number of Brunswick faith communities identified a need to provide a safe and friendly space for the homeless or near-homeless during the day.  Since opening their doors in February 2011, there have been over 12,000 visits.

The Rev. Chick Carroll, who helps run The Gathering Place, says that they’re growing at a steady pace.  With 30-40 visitors per day in the summer, and 60-70 visitors per day in the winter.  Rev. Carroll recognizes that this is a sad truth, but he is happy that they can be a place of sanctuary that welcomes all who enter their doors.

Rev. Carroll said the most wonderful surprise in this ministry has been the relationships that have developed between guests and volunteers.    Many volunteers initially began to serve because they wanted to help the poor in their community.  As they’ve built relationships with the guests, they’ve realized the poor are their brothers and sisters in Christ.    Another benefit of the experience to both volunteer and guest, is seeing churches work jointly and joyfully together.

The Gathering Place is located at 84B Union Street at the Seventh-day Adventist Clothing Center, near the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.  If you know someone who might benefit from stopping by, please invite them.

Want to help? They welcome volunteers who can listen and that are willing to grow.  Just give them a call to find out more.

Want to contribute?  Just give them a call to find out more.

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The Rise in Homelessness

This week we entered the liturgical season of Advent.  A time of waiting watchfully for the coming of Christ.  A time of living our lives intentionally for Christ while we wait, watchfully.

It is also the darkest month of the year.  It is quickly becoming cold.  And Mainers are beginning to realize that there will not be nearly enough funds to keep Mainers warm this winter, nor many programs to keep people in their homes, which will lead to a rise in homelessness.

And sadly, at the small church I serve in rural Maine, we are already seeing that rise.  We are getting more calls for food, fuel, and shelter.  We are blessed to have wonderful homeless shelters north, west, and south of us.  Each of these shelters has a profound ministry, but they are also full.

We recently had a family of six, plus two pets, call our parish, seeking help with shelter.  They’d done all the right things, getting on the waiting lists in the shelters north, west, and south of us.  They had applied for jobs, they were caring for their children.  They were doing everything right, but on a particularly cold, fall night, they were about to face sleeping in their vehicle.

They were stuck, and so are we right now in Maine.  The need is greater than we can handle.  But winter is fast approaching, and with the cut to fuel funding, what is a family to do?  What is a church to do to support that family?  What is a community to do?

It seems to me that at least two things need to happen.  First, we need more shelter.  We need to increase our support, both with our time and our talent, to our local shelter or drop in center.  We can’t have our neighbors freezing this winter, or being forced out of the shelter they do have because they can’t afford fuel.  It’s just not acceptable.

Second, we need to address the systemic issues of homelessness in our country.  Here in Maine, one of the systemic issues is that  living here is so expensive, whether you rent or own. Fuel is expensive, and many low-income Mainers live in older homes that require more fuel to heat due to their age and/or lack of efficiency.  In a handout given at a United Way of Midcoast Maine meeting, it cost over a $1,000 more for low-income Mainers to heat their homes.  If people of all economic status’ can barely manage the fuel bill, how can any low-income Mainer pay the bill when it costs more than it might if they lived in a house that was energy-efficient.

We desperately need fuel aid here in Maine–and not less of it– more of it.  We need to encourage our politicians to do something about fuel aid to those that need it, to keep them off the streets and in their homes.

One of my favorite campaigns is Advent Conspiracy.  In this campaign, Advent Conspiracy challenges Christians to remember what Advent is really about.  They encourage us to not get caught up in consumerism and to set aside giving meaningless gifts.  Instead we can spend time together.  And to use the money we save towards something good.  They use the example of creating worldwide clean water.

Those of us here in Maine, if we too join the Advent Conspiracy, might be able to do something about slowing down the rise in homeless that will surely happen this winter in Maine.  Some of the money we save might go to our local homeless shelter or drop in center.  We can also volunteer and build relationships with those at our local homeless shelter or drop in center.

We can support initiatives like that of Maine author Stephen King and his wife, who offered to match up to $70,000 dollars of the $140,000 dollars his radio station have been trying to raise for fuel aid in Maine.

You can also collaborate with organizations like KeepMeWarm and Efficiency Maine .

You can also write to our representatives and ask that they take some initiative to do something about the lack of fuel aid and the rise in homelessness.  Write or call Olympia Snowe,   Susan Collins, Chellie Pingree, and Mike Michaud.

This is the season of Advent, and if we are truly waiting watchfully for Christ–than it matters how we live right now.  It matters that we live into Christ’s calling in Matthew 25: 35-36: “…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

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Changing the Politics of Hunger

This Sunday, October 16th is World Food Day.  This is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-round action to alleviate hunger.

How can you, your school, workplace, organization, or faith community partake in World Food Day or be intentional about changing the politics of hunger before Thanksgiving?

Here are a few possibilities:

1.)    Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger

 This site is an international classroom for exploring the problems of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity.  Their hope is to equip and encourage teachers and young people to actively participate in creating a world free from hunger.  They offer lessons for teachers to use on hunger and malnutrition, resources and activities for young people, as well as an interactive forum for exchanging information and experiences around the world.  Using this site educators are equipped to empower young people to take action in ending hunger.

 2.)    Bread for the World Sunday

 Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging its nation’s leaders to end poverty at home and abroad by changing public policy.  They are in relationship with Bread for the World Institute which seeks to provide policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it.  They are encouraging faith communities to take action by having faith, write to congress to make your voice heard in our government, engage your church by having a Bread for the World Sunday or a discussion on hunger, and organize your local community to take action to end hunger.

 3.)    Sign the Petition to End Hunger

 Join the 1billionhungry campaign by signing their petition.  The movement states that “We who support this petition find it unacceptable that close to one billion people are chronically hungry. Through the United Nations, we call upon governments to make the elimination of hunger their top priority until that goal is reached.”

This next week, I am committed to praying the Bread for the World prayer for Congress and will then write a letter to Congress to address the growing hunger concerns that I see in my own small town.

O God, whose will is good and gracious, and whose law is truth: we ask you to guide and bless our senators and representatives in Congress. Give them courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all people—especially those who struggle to feed themselves and their families.  In the midst of deliberations about fiscal stewardship, help them remember our national responsibility to those who have the least. Help Congress enact laws that will please you and create the sort of community that you intend, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For more information on hunger, visit our page on Hunger.

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An update and a request to HELP

The leaves are changing colors, and we are spending our days preparing for the next cold Maine winter. Yet before we completely close the book on this summer, I would like to offer a brief update on both Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner, Maine and Everyday Basics Essential’s Pantry at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, Maine.

Earlier this summer we learned that Long Meadow Farm was offering an opportunity to stretch WIC or SNAP dollars by allowing six families to use them to purchase shares in the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Farmers Denis Thoet and Michele Roy reported last month that the program had gone well this summer.

Denis wrote: ” Yes, we do have six SNAP shares/members, and the program is going well. Payments are made monthly or bimonthly through the season, as people can afford them. We hope that we will be able to continue the program next year, and are exploring the idea on a non-grant supported SNAP membership.”

Earlier this summer we also wrote about Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry offering the gift of love and dignity through everyday basics.   The Rev. Rebecca Grant is the coordinator of the program, and she recently wrote that the need for everyday necessities is at an all time high.

In 2010 there were 1,673 people who visited and received essential items.  As of October 1st the pantry has already served 1,690 people.   This past Saturday alone the pantry had 143 visitors, which was an all time high.  While Everyday Basics acknowledges that it is wonderful that the pantry is able to serve that many people, it is also a challenge and their supplies have been depleted.

This outreach ministry in the Kennebec Valley region serves people from a widespread area including Farmington,Waterville, Whitefield, Winthrop, Manchester, Augusta, Gardiner, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Chelsea and many other areas.  There is no residency requirement to receive any essential items from the pantry.  The one requirement is that the individual be present to receive the items.

In a letter issued to the community today, Senior Warden Joseph Riddick wrote on behalf of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church asking You to Help. 

You can help.  Everyday Basics accept donations of toilet paper, bar soap, powdered laundry detergent, diapers (sizes 4, 5, 6), diaper wipes, and feminine hygiene products at St. Mark’s Church.  The church office is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8-12.   On Saturday, October 15th we will be at the church starting at 8 am accepting donations for Everyday Basics. 

You can help.  Everyday Basics accepts financial donations for the program.  Checks, cash, gift cards are all used for the dedicated purpose for which they are given.   Checks should be written to: Everyday Basics – St. Mark’s Church.  They can be mailed to: St. Mark’s Church, 9 Summer St, Augusta, ME 04330.

You can help.  Everyday Basics invites your church, community group or business to adopt a product and supply it to Everyday Basics on an ongoing basis.

You can help your neighbors.  Everyday Basics is thankful for the strong support they have had in the past and appreciate your continued support as they continue to help those in need in the Kennebec Valley.

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Sacred on the Street

This past summer a group of students from Bangor Theological Seminary (BTS) participated in a new course offering that allowed students to minister to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine.  The course, “Sacred on the Street”, aimed to provided “…an opportunity for students to experience a non-traditional ministry,  to enrich their understanding of the daily struggles of the poor and to grow in compassion for the homeless.”

The course was taught by the Rev. Mair Honan, an ordained United Church of Christ minister.  Rev. Honan is the pastor at Grace Street Ministry.  Grace is “…an outreach ministry offering a consistent, compassionate, pastoral presence to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine– to relieve suffering, to address the spiritual needs in this ever shifting community and to decrease the prejudice between the housed and the homeless through preaching, education and experience.”

Grace Street Ministry seeks to support the homeless and marginalized in this community through presence, prayer, and advocacy.  This might mean sharing a cup of coffee with a person, or helping them to find a used bicycle or pair of boots.

Grace Street Ministry is dear to many students at BTS.  The Rev. Chick Carroll,’11 had the opportunity to walk with Rev. Honan in a similar course offering a few years back.  JusticeandMercyME recently had the chance to talk with Rev. Carroll about his time walking with Rev. Honan.

When asked what makes Grace Street Ministry unique, Rev. Carroll offered, “What makes it unique to me is its frankly religious nature. As the Rev Mair Honan says, “my name is Mair, my business is prayer.” There’s no pretense this is a social service initiative. Mair is explicit in offering a way to be with Christ.”

Rev. Carroll found the biggest “aha” moment was to meet others who could have been in his shoes, “To realize in a very profound way that I could be in their place if things had gone just a little bit differently–for me and for them.”

Do you pass through downtown Portland (or someplace beyond), unsure of how to help our brothers and sisters holding up: “Homeless: Please Help” signs?  While Grace Street Ministry does not seek to solve the greater social problems that have caused homelessness, they do offer wisdom on how to be present to that population through their acts of mercy.

If you would like to help, consider supporting Grace Street Ministry with a financial donation, by becoming a partner, or supplying an item from the “How You Can Help List”.  $5 dollar gift cards to Dunkin Donuts and Subway are always welcome.  Those simple gift cards offer a homeless person the opportunity to go get a little something to drink or eat, use a restroom, and have a warm (or cool, in these summer months) place to sit.

If you are interested in possibly walking with Rev. Honan as part of a BTS course or to simply support this ministry than please be in touch with BTS or Grace Street Ministry about future possibilities.

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Offering the gift of love and dignity through Everyday Basics

Everyday Basics

Everyday there are low-income individuals and families struggling to scrape together enough money to pay for the essential’s that the Food Supplement Program (formerly Food Stamps) does not cover.  Items such as toilet paper, laundry soap, cleaning supplies, mouthwash, toothpaste, deodorant, and disposable diapers are not eligible for purchase with food stamps.

In 2009, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta opened Everyday Basics Essential’s Pantry to help families bridge the gap between what Food Stamps will cover and what individuals and families actually need.  Their mission is “…to provide for the basic needs that are vital to the creation and preservation of human dignity, self-esteem, and well-being of people. We will accomplish this through raising peoples’ awareness of the plight of others, becoming a resource for freely distributing necessities essential to daily life and by building a broad community of inclusiveness.”

The Everyday Basics program is housed at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and supported by parishioners, an Episcopal Diocese of Maine Outreach Ministry grant, and a strong commitment from three other local faith communities:  St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and Unitarian Universalist Community Church both in Augusta and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hallowell.  The program is coordinated by Pat Bamforth and the Rev. Rebecca Grant.  They work together with volunteers to provide everyday essentials to those in need.  They are open on the 1st and 3rd Saturday afternoons of each month in conjunction with Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank and the Angel Food Public Suppers at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

JusticeandMercyME recently had the opportunity to speak with the Rev. Rebecca Grant about Everyday Basics.   When asked how this ministry addresses issues of justice and mercy, Grant responded:  “This ministry is about creation and preservation of human dignity.  Imagine not being able to afford toilet paper, diapers for an infant, or the laundry detergent to wash your family’s clothing.  Poverty is one of the greatest enemies of human dignity and while Everyday Basics cannot end the world’s poverty or even that in the Kennebec region, it can make a difference in the lives of those who seek us out.  No one person is greater than the other- volunteer or guest- we care and we are equals.  Conveying that message through action more than words begins the germination of relationships, inclusiveness, and clear message that God cares for each and every one of his precious children- they are loved and they deserve dignity which is what we strive to provide even more than the essential items we distribute.”

“We operate with limited resources, housed by the Parish of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and generously supported by three local faith communities and a diocesan grant.  The fact that we have yet to run out of items for distribution is the manifestation of God’s grace in our lives.  Through this ministry, the volunteers, and its supporters, we are living into Jesus two great commandments as a way of being present to the people of the Kennebec region.”

Today Everyday Basics  received a Spirit of America Foundation Award at a ceremony at the Blaine House.  The Spirit of America Foundation is a non-profit foundation established in 1990 to honor volunteerism.  Each year, Spirit of America Awards are presented in the name of more than 25 Maine municipalities to individuals, organizations and projects for commendable community service.   The Rev. Rebecca Grant accepted the award on behalf of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, its ministry partners and volunteers.

If you would like to offer a financial gift, donate goods, or volunteer at the pantry please contact the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at (207) 622-2424.

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Long Meadow Farm offers opportunity to stretch WIC or SNAP dollars

Fresh Organic Produce from Long Meadow Farm

The snow is melting and spring is right around the corner.  For many people this means it is time to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) summer share at a local farm.  CSA’s offer a unique opportunity for individuals to pledge to support a local farm, and share the risks and benefits of food production with the farmers.  CSA’s typically consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit, and occasionally dairy and meat products.

Long Meadow Farm located in West Gardiner, Maine will be offering a unique opportunity for families who are participating in WIC or SNAP (food stamps) to become shareholders in their CSA this season.  Long Meadow Farm has received a grant that will pay $150 of the $350 cost of a CSA share, with the rest paid through the family’s WIC or SNAP funds.  This grant has allowed for Long Meadow Farm to enlist up to six families for the 2011 season.  There are still one or two available slots.

A share in Long Meadow Farm’s CSA will provide 20 weeks of fresh organic vegetables from June-October, 2011.  A small share generally provides enough vegetables for a family of two adults and two children for the 20-week period.  CSA members will receive a weekly newsletter with recipes showing how to prepare their vegetables. The farm also schedules two-three potlucks per year for members to come to the farm and get to know each other. They encourage members to come to the farm at their convenience to pick flowers and herbs at no added expense to them.

If you or someone you know would be interested in using WIC or SNAP dollars to participate in this new opportunity, please contact Long Meadow Farm.   They also have participated in the WIC Program for the last four years and are able to accept SNAP purchases through the Gardiner Farmers’ Market.

Long Meadow Farm received this grant from Wholesome Wave Foundation. Wholesome Wave also gave similar grants to Small Wonder Organics located in Bowdowinham, Maine and Hatchet Cove Farm located in Warren, Maine.  In addition to grants such as these, Wholesome Wave offers a Double Value Coupon Program which double’s the value of SNAP benefits when used at participating farmer’s market’s nationwide.  Maine has several farmer’s markets’ that are participating in this program.  Are you looking for a new way to get involved with the battle to end hunger?  Contact Wholesome Wave for a variety of volunteer opportunities.

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