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Embodying Easter in a Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, laundromat


The church’s Holy Week laundry outreach makes ‘everything fresh and new’

June 13, 2024

The Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania has brough a ministry f laundry, presence and hope to people living in the community’s margins. (Photos courtesy of Caroline Vickery)

While most pastors devote Holy Week to poring over commentaries, planning worship and washing feet, the Rev. Caroline Vickery also washes clothes.

At the local laundromat.

That’s where she and a handful of members from the Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania  regularly bring a ministry of laundry, presence and hope to people living on the community’s margins.

Including — and especially during — Holy Week.

“People don’t realize the little indignities that come with dealing with poverty,” said Vickery. “It seems unfair as we enter the season when we’re talking about how Jesus welcomed the outcasts and was a friend of sinners that we wouldn’t be out in the community helping to restore people to being seen as valuable and whole.”

Vickery, who was called to serve the 52-member congregation in September 2021, said that the church’s Outreach Committee had been looking for a community program that could be handled by a small congregation when committee member and deacon, Sarah Stains, discovered a laundry ministry on Instagram.

Ministry by the Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro often includes giving out quarters for people who need them to wash and dry their clothes.

“What I like about this ministry is that it’s not labor-intensive,” said Vickery, who worked as a community organizer before graduating from McCormick Theological Seminary. “It’s something that’s doable for a church of our size. And, because I happened to be living in an apartment with no laundry facilities at the time, I started to use the nearby laundromat to get clean clothes and bedding and had to relearn how expensive clean laundry could be.”

And how important.

“We can go to a laundromat and give out quarters and bring coloring sheets and markers and give people a little bit of joy,” she said. “When you do the laundry by yourself, it’s a chore. Instead, there’s a happy energy that makes the laundry sparkle when people start talking to each other.”

After launching its new “Fresh Start: Loads of Love” initiative, the congregation later received a $500 grant from the Presbytery of Carlisle’s portion of the Peace & Global Witness Offering, which empowers congregations and individuals to become peacemakers in their communities and in the world.

Providing snacks is an important part of the ministry provided by members and friends of the Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

Vickery said that not only did the presbytery’s grant enable them to continue the church’s laundry outreach, but it also helped the congregation to see the ministry in a new light — as something valuable.

“Every two months we provide quarters, snacks and connection,” Vickery said. “We always go on the last Monday of the month since people on public assistance are running low on money at the end of the month. We have had the opportunity to help a homeless family squatting in a house with no electricity or running water and help a woman with cancer have clean bedding. Through our ministry at the laundromat, we also made contact with a woman living in violence, whom I was eventually able to drive to safety.”

Vickery said that as a Matthew 25 congregation, the church is growing in its understanding of what that means.

“We do know that Jesus makes it clear that how we treat the vulnerable is how we treat Jesus,” she said. “Because most of our members are college educated, literate and middle class, our laundry outreach has put them in touch with a world whose hardships they’re unaware of. It comes as a shock for people to realize how costly doing your laundry can be, and to know that people can’t use their SNAP benefits to buy detergent, cleaning supplies or personal hygiene items. Not being able to keep yourself clean robs people of their dignity. There’s something very restorative about knowing that people will be able to be their best selves.”

And isn’t that the heart of the Easter message?

“Holy Week gives us a chance to show that Jesus makes all things new,” said Vickery. “That’s why we call it ‘Fresh Start.’ It’s a chance to start over.”

To learn more about Special Offerings, click here.

Emily Enders Odom, Associate Director of  Mission Communications

Today’s Focus: Holy Week laundry outreach, Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Tamron Keith, Associate Director for Finance and Administration, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Stephen Keizer, Vice President Ministry Relations, Presbyterian Foundation 

Let us pray

We praise you, God, that you created us with the capacity to learn, to grow, and, most of all, to change our thinking. Open our eyes to see your world and your people in a new way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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