Fort Burd United Presbyterian Church
Fort Burd United Presbyterian Church in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, was a school food distribution site for children who were out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the area students get free breakfast and lunch during the school year. We served 3,851 kids and transported and distributed 10,695 meals over a period of 43 days! Praise be to God!
First Presbyterian Church
Teams of congregants from First Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Montana, were scheduled to fill buckets with cleaning supplies when COVID-19 struck. The buckets were destined for apartments that house domestic violence victims, mostly women and their children. The shelter was a project of the Soroptimist Club some years ago. When an apartment is unoccupied, a major cleaning ensues; thus the need for cleaning supplies! Not wishing to let the virus disrupt our endeavors, the Mission Committee made a decision to purchase the supplies from our available resources. This is the second time the congregation has donated the buckets. We expect to continue helping the shelter in this manner.
The ecumenical community in Hamilton has fed the homeless and lonely during certain weekday evenings for a few years, and now, since COVID-19, our numbers have doubled, due to loss of income. Our church is responsible for one evening’s distribution monthly.
First Presbyterian Church
In the summer of 2019, the Mission/Evangelism Committee of First Presbyterian Church in Waverly, Ohio, suggested to the session that this congregation commit to becoming a Matthew 25 church. The session agreed. But progress has been slow. However, even in this COVID-19 pandemic, we are beginning to move. Posters were put up, reports were given of what other churches are doing and discussions began.
For Lent, the daily devotional booklet of Matthew 25 resources was available for the members. At the first of the annual Lenten soup suppers, time was taken to explain the vision of Matthew 25 to the attendees, and materials for use were shown and explained.
The next Sunday, the adult class took a closer look at those and presented examples from the PC(USA) website of what other churches are doing as they commit to this program. The new interim pastor was informed, and the committee enlisted his support. The groups had looked at the three focus ideas and were hopeful that although the congregation is small and mostly elderly, it was possible to put some effort into at least two of the three.
Then along came the stay-at-home orders and we were told to practice social distancing, etc. Quickly we started worshiping six days a week on Zoom, and several of our committees and the session started Zoom meetings and conference calls. The Mission/Evangelism group, with a new moderator, decided to meet every week. It seemed that there was a need to encourage the vitality of the church before going further with this idea. Each member of the committee has been researching the many groups and organizations in our county that are there to help people who need it.
As a result, a lot has been learned and that will be reported in various ways to the congregation this summer to help them understand the need and the resources available and to get excited about either filling a need not addressed or to cooperate with those already established.
A few actions have been accomplished. We wrote letters to our legislators in Ohio urging them to vote for the issues that Bread for the World was encouraging. We cooperated with another church in preparing lunches for children who are not in school to get daily meals. For Palm Sunday, we had ordered Eco-Palms to help with earth care as well as fair trade for those who grow them. The palms were delivered to the homes before Sunday. A member serves on a local Council of Churches and we are contributing to that group to create a new space for the local food pantry and homeless shelter.
We were considering showing the film “Flint” at the church and inviting the community and the local water department, but that may come later. These activities might be speaking to systemic poverty issues. But we are just beginning. More will follow. This is a first report. We plan to do more.
St. Paul Presbyterian Church
Louisburg, North Carolina
St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Louisburg, North Carolina, is led by Dr. Felecia Hardy with a ministry focusing on service and education. As we struggle to adapt to the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also grapple with how to support our families. St. Paul has assisted by erecting the Blessings Resources Pavilion, which provides visitors a 24-hour self-service location to obtain items such as nonperishable food, produce, clothing, hygiene products and educational resources. We hold additional full-service events to distribute cold storage items such as meat, eggs and dairy. Our partners include Franklin County Interchurch Council, Tar River Baptist Association, Red Springs Mission Camp, Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Inc., and Baptists on Mission. We have connected with over 200 families. We consistently restock the pavilion and have distributed over 2,000 pounds of cold storage food. Our goal is to be an example of the true meaning of Matthew 25 and be a source of spiritual guidance.
University Community Presbyterian Church
University Community Presbyterian Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, became a Matthew 25 church in January of this year. It was an easy decision because we were already doing much of the work already. We are a fully racially integrated church with a strong community outreach ministry. The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop our Spirit; we simply adapted. We turned our empty building into a staging area where families came in to build hygiene kits for the local food bank to distribute within the community. Our church sewed adult- and child-size masks for each kit. We packed unique kits for women, men and children. Each kit consisted of items such as soap, shampoo, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers, wipes, feminine hygiene products and most importantly a prayer from us and God’s love. We are excited to be a part of the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 initiative deep in the heart of Alaska.
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Fort Myers, Florida
During early 2020, both the Mission Committee and session of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Florida, voted to nominate our congregation as a Matthew 25 church based on all three Matthew 25 distinctives. With regards to building congregational vitality, Covenant can be described as an active, inclusive and missional church, nurturing our congregation while engaging in partnerships and outreach in Fort Myers, Southwest Florida and beyond. We are engaged in a Looking Forward process to help us better discern who we are as a congregation, as well as what we aspire to be and who we hope to be in the context of the Southwest Florida community. We are also working to dismantle structural racism, particularly through our involvement in Lee Interfaith for Empowerment Inc., which operates under the DART network. Partnering with local congregations reflecting racial diversity, we strive to negotiate the needs of our community with a commitment to do justice for all. We are working to eradicate systemic poverty in numerous ways, including involvement in nutritional and justice concerns for our local farmworker community, leading local efforts related to Operation Inasmuch and through the support of the food security work of PC(USA) mission co-workers in Madagascar.
First Presbyterian Church
Our local shelter for domestic violence victims offers several apartments to women and children who have a need and connect with the agency. When apartments are vacated, there is a need for cleaning supplies to offer the new residents upon move-in. Our church members supply buckets filled with a standard list of products (mop, broom, cleansers, etc.), and these are filled from time to time by member teams upon receipt of a new request from the agency office.
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Albuquerque, New Mexico
At St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as part of our work on “dismantling structural racism,” we have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, and we now begin our Sunday morning worship service with the following words:
“As we enter into worship, we give thanks for God’s Creation. We remember that the earth is sacred, that we are gathered on holy ground, land that has been the home of Pueblo (indigenous) peoples for centuries, long before European settlers came to this place. We ask God’s blessing upon this land, upon all who have walked upon it in the past and all who continue to walk upon it today. Let us prepare our hearts to worship God.”
We are also working to deepen our relationship with our Presbyterian sisters and brothers at Laguna Pueblo by inviting a few members of St. Andrew to worship with Laguna United Presbyterian Church once a month.
Balmoral Presbyterian Church
“I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36). Dona Sparger, an elder at Balmoral Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, took that Scripture to heart seven years ago. Working with the national volunteer program Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS), Dona persevered in getting the administration of the federal prison in Memphis to allow visits from the program, and in 2014 Dona asked other members of Balmoral to join her in this ministry. Since that time, seven members of the church have volunteered — each meeting one-on-one monthly with inmates who request the service. The prisoners sometimes have no family or friends living near enough to visit or are estranged from their families — some have never received an outside visit. Dona and her Balmoral team visit with no agendas, talking about whatever is on the prisoner’s mind. One inmate recently asked PVS to relay a card to his Balmoral visitor in which he wrote: “Thanks for being a friend when I’m having my ups and downs.”
First Presbyterian Church
Burlington, North Carolina
The stories of people in desperate need of furniture in Alamance County, North Carolina, are varied — and include homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, fire, physical or mental illness and extreme poverty.
The stories of the volunteers in the First Presbyterian Church of Burlington Furniture Ministry are also varied: from retirees with talents for organization, woodworking and personal relations to young people who like the rewards of spending one Saturday morning a month delivering furniture to those in need.
The beginnings of the Furniture Ministry date to 2003 and the dream of one committed church member. That first year, the ministry had three volunteers and served 15 families. In 2019, the ministry had dozens of volunteers and served 177 families, comprising 289 children.
The mission of the ministry is “to provide good, useful furniture to those in need, treating each client graciously, with Christian hospitality.” The top priority is to get children off the floor and into warm, comfortable beds.
Central Presbyterian Church
Over the past few months, a group of knitters called Charity Knitters have gathered at our church each week to knit. Some knitters belong to our church and others come because they love to knit and love being part of a group that shares their common passion.
I was overwhelmed with joy and thanks when I found these scarves tied to trees right outside our downtown church doors. The knitters group attached a wonderful message to each scarf expressing the gift that is waiting in front of the one reading the message. Their message is packed full of care and welcome for our neighbors. Their message will perhaps spark others to extend random acts of kindness.
The Charity Knitters are finding new ways that God can make use of the gifting God has given. This random act of kindness, which I’m sure the Spirit prompted, has energized the group and is helping those who are experiencing a cold shoulder in life or who need just a little goodness and warmth to go with them. God is so good!
Balmoral Presbyterian Church
In 2011, an African American congregation, Circle of Faith Christian Church, approached our church with the need for space. We welcomed them, and our building is now home to us both. We come together for Sunday studies, youth group, fellowship and service and have grown emotionally, intellectually and spiritually as a result. One Sunday study on “The Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism” transformed into an ongoing small group meeting monthly to try to reconcile race relations and understand systemic racism. Growing out of our studies is Balmoral’s support (financial and volunteer) of grassroots renewal of one of Memphis’ oldest and most historic African-American neighborhoods, Orange Mound. Joint Sunday studies for this year include the book “Black and White, Disrupting Racism One Friendship at a Time.”
Union Presbyterian Church
Union Presbyterian Church recently returned from a weekend-long all-church retreat. Twenty-seven members, ages 3 through 70, gathered at Stronghold Camp & Retreat Center and began our discussions on this year’s mission focus. We left the weekend excited about new friends we had made, committed to forming a partnership with the camp, and enthusiastic about planning a Matthew 25 worship on Nov. 17 to get feedback from the rest of the congregation about how to continue to live out our commitment.
Ridley Park Presbyterian Church
Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
After hearing the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett speak at a recent presbytery meeting this summer, Ridley Park Presbyterian Church was inspired to accept the invitation from the Presbyterian Mission Agency to become a Matthew 25 congregation. As a first step in eradicating systemic poverty, we partnered with Habitat for Humanity for a “Build Day” on our church lawn. Over 30 volunteers showed up on Sept. 21 to swing hammers and help hoist into place the framing for a two-story row house. The walls were taken down on the following Wednesday and loaded on a flatbed for transport to the Oxford Green Habitat project in the Sharswood neighborhood of Philadelphia. We are not yet sure what our next mission project will be, but there is discussion about doing repair work in the nearby city of Chester.
First Presbyterian Church of Kankakee
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our repaired and restored 18-foot-by-10-foot stained glass window that depicts Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The event, sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, brought 110 people into our church. Tours were offered of the church, and people learned its history and information about its 17 stained glass windows. People were fascinated by our rich history. The church was formed in 1863, and the first portion of the current building was erected in 1879. That’s 140 years of ministry in one location.
Our membership has dwindled, but thanks to a large endowment we were given a chance to gain more members.
We will conduct other community events in the future.
There are two other organizations that lease space from us. The local school district leases two classrooms for a transition program for developmentally disabled students ages 18–21, and a Hispanic church, Juan 3:16, also leases space. All three organizations played a role in the event.
Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Front Royal, Virginia
Thanks to a grant from the Shenandoah Presbytery, the Front Royal Presbyterian Church CANCELLED Vacation Bible School and replaced it with a summer learning camp titled Superhero Summer. It is targeted towards low-income elementary school children in the Front Royal community. The poverty level in the community is at a staggering 17%, with a significant amount of those children and youth. At camp, they have individualized time spent in reading and math tutoring, STEM programs that focus on sustainability and alternative fuel, recreation and a community leaders program that introduces kids to area leaders. They are fed breakfast, a snack, and lunch and are given food to take home for dinner.
The program is in its second year and has been embraced by two churches — Front Royal Presbyterian and Calvary Episcopal. We are crossing not only cultural and economic hurdles but denominational hurdles as well as we continue to live into our Matthew 25 vision
Grace Presbyterian Church
Martins Ferry, Ohio
Mr. John Davies, member of GRACE Presbyterian Church and Rev. William Webster, pastor of the church standing in front of our newest ministry and building. ‘Re-Threads Clothing Store’ offers gently used clothing for free. We receive clothing, wash and dry them, fold them and give them away to any in need. Along with clothing personal hygiene material are given away as well. The ‘store’ is operated by a corp of church volunteers.In the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery, GRACE Presbyterian Church is a Matthew 25 congregation which operates over 30 various ministries beyond its walls. Their church, three years ago, planted a new church in rural Pakistan. It has grown from 11 members to 950 in that short period of time. One of the ministries is to provide new Bibles to all baptized members. Today that has exceeded 900 people. Some of their local mission programs range from an emergency warming center in the winter to a cooling center in the summer. The ministry Totes & Teddies provides bags of clothing and toys for children who are displaced from their homes by the police and Family Services. Bonnets for Babies provides knitted hats for newborn babies in our region. Knitted Knockers is a ministry which provides soft, comfortable knitted prosthetics for breast cancer survivors who experienced a mastectomy. Their Free Legal Clinic is a partnership with the Belmont County Bar Association.