St. Margaret's Emmaus
October 18, 2005
In the last seven days, I have been exposed to many of the fine outreach activities in our area. In the process, I have also learned much about the needs of the most vulnerable people among us: the homeless, the hungry, the mentally ill and children at risk.
The needs of these individuals and families should send us all to prayer.
Both our individual and community prayers must ask God to be with them and to send us the ways to be with them offering love, prayer, understanding and support.
Wednesday October 12th
, at the invitation of Dave and Kathy L., who serve as volunteers for Daybreak in Allentown, I attended a luncheon at Asbury United Methodist Church for the Aspires Mentoring Program
as part of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches "Together We Can"
challenge. The featured speaker was The Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia. In retirement, he founded the Amachi Mentoring Program
. He had everyone on their feet pledging to help support Aspires. This program keeps young people in school and helps them find a direction for their lives. This is just one of the LCCC s programs.
Thursday Oct 13th
, Linda R. asked about the Sharing Tree and I realized we have not prayed for or supported the ministry of New Bethany in months.
Friday and Saturday, Oct 14- 15th
, at Diocesan Convention, the Diocesan Episcopal Women and AWE Ministries asked all parishes to join in "Cruising to Equity". This year long schedule of advocacy and prayer begins with the national observance of Children's Sabbath (for us October 23rd). The in-gathering of childrens underwear was the first salvo. Next we are asked to collect toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene products.
Sunday, Oct 16th
, I preached and celebrated at Christ Church, Reading as they celebrated Children's Sabbath. The prayers moved me. The "joyful noise" made by the children made me laugh. The statistics found in the bulletin about the poverty of children made me heartsick.
Here's just one: Over 9 million children in the USA lack health insurance. And today, I learned that federal government is cutting back on Medicaid funding in order to send $50 billion in foreign aid to fight avian flu. One of the first benefits cuts considered was mental health care for foster children. Foster children do not vote. We do.
Monday, Oct 17th,
I had three meetings outside of the parish.
First, the Emmaus Ecumenical Ministerium met with Joyce Marian from the Borough Council and the Vice Principal of Emmaus High School. Marian let us know that the Borough may have matching funds if the churches could find a way to contribute to the LV Coalition for Affordable Housing. (Aside: did you know that by federal definition you are not homeless if a friend lets you sleep on their living room floor rather than sending you to a park bench?)
The representatives from the East Penn School District told us about the "Angel Network" now in place in all schools in the district except 2 elementary schools, which they hope will be on board soon. This program gives at-risk students: school supplies (calculators, book bags, and pens), clothing (gym shorts, bathing suits, warm jackets, and prom gowns), scholarships for field trips, hygiene supplies (toothbrushes, deodorant, and sanitary napkins) and baskets of cheer when a student experiences trauma or death of a family member. The district sent letters to over 200 households asking if they wanted to receive a Thanksgiving basket. They need people to help deliver baskets. The mailing list represents all the households whose children and teens are enrolled for free or reduced lunch assistance and the homes of ESL students. Two facts to ponder: The principal at Jefferson School counted that students from that elementary school came from 20 different countries. US Government statistics show that 2 million children go to bed hungry each night in this country.
At noon, I ate lunch at the LCCC Soup Kitchen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church at 8th and Walnut in Allentown. After we enjoyed our tuna salad, macaroni salad, a roll and ice tea, Charles B., Coordinator and Chief Cook, told us how more happens at the Soup Kitchen than just the feeding of the hungry. Linkage, Pathways, Pharmaceutical Assistance and Homelessness Prevention programs can be accessed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays when the Soup Kitchen is open and 80 to 120 people eat. LCCC has about 400 volunteers and is looking for more!
We saw a short DVD of the LCCC programs and I recognized several people including the LCCC Executive Director The Rev. Dr. Christine Nelson. She and Ira Faro, Development Director, spoke about the LCCC "Together We Can" campaign. The LCCC hopes to raise a significant amount of money for new and increased programs, for building maintainence and improvement, and for an endowment for the future health of LCCC.
The first step of this campaign is to have the 140 member churches show their support by pledging toward it. Member churches are asked to consider pledging about twice their annual pledge. For us, this would be $700 over 3 years if our pledge of $350 remained as a flat figure in our budget for 2006. After the member churches have shown support, the LCCC and its board which includes Dave L. will go to foundations and major contributors to hoping to raise 2 million dollars. Talk about seed money! Our $700 adding and then multiplying into millions!!!
Through its nine programs, the LCCC serves over 14,000 clients each year. While these individuals come from all over Lehigh County, you can picture it this way - the population of Allentown is about 100,000. If those clients all came from Allentown, 14% of the city would be being served.
That evening, Evelyn C., her daughter and I attended the meeting with eight other area churches and a representative of the Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity at Faith Presbyterian Church. It looks like an Emmaus build is very possible. A steering committee has been formed. Individual churches are asked to consider what they might pledge over the next three years toward $50,000 which would build a new twin home or refurbish an older home.
St. Margaret's has a history as "builders". In the 1990s two of our teens went with Holy Spirit youth to Maine to refurbish Appalachian homes. They then worked locally on Restoration House in Bethlehem. In 2000, we sent $3,100 to Episcopal Relief and Development to build a home in Honduras. In March of 2001, eleven volunteers traveled to work with the people of San Pedro Sula to build at the "Faith, Hope and Joy" project.
Our Vestry and Parish did not make a collective pledge toward the Episcopal Build last year. Individuals gave generously and a small group from St. Margaret's fed the entire crew for one meal during the Blitz Week.
Tuesday, Oct. 18th
, I ate lunch with 399 of my closest friends at the Candlelight Inn in Bethlehem Township. We were there for New Bethany's annual "Souper Day". For $20, I got soup, salad, a roll and coffee. AND the renewal of my personal feelings of pride and affection for this ministry which was born from Bishop Mark's vision of hospitality almost 20 years ago. The Rev. William Kunzie, Executive Director New Bethany Ministries, asked to be remembered to the people of St. Margaret's and hoped to be invited to visit soon. He was last here on Sunday, November 10, 2002 when our church school children gave him the underwear they had purchased for the children of New Bethany from the proceeds of their bake and bean soup sale. Annually, we have helped the residents of New Bethany - children and mothers have a more cheerful Christmas holiday by sending along gifts from our Sharing Tree.
As you can see, these have been thought provoking, rich experiences for me.
Tuesdsay night, on the Feast of St. Luke
, the Vestry, Wardens and I had an extended conversation and developed a 3 year outreach plan.
1. Committment to Prayer and Vigil and Education.
2. Participation in the Diocesan "Cruising to Equity" program.
This Sunday, our children will make a "Joyful Noise" that will be dedicated to the East Penn School District "Angel Network".
3. Participation in an Emmaus Build for Habitat for Humanity of Lehigh Valley. Leadership voted committment of $500, $700, $900 for a total of $2100. There are people ready to volunteer to build. And to feed the work crews! Sara C
. and Evelyn C
. are our parish contacts and will serve on the steering committee of the nine churches.
4. Support for New Bethany: Maggie W. and Meta C. will coordinate with SMNS and New Bethany to get a wish list, set up the Sharing Tree and make sure packages got delivered.
5. Support for Lehigh County Conference of Churches: Leadership voted to increase St. M's pledge from $350 to $400 and to commit to $800 toward "Together We Can".
6. Reestablish Outreach Committee: All of the individuals interested in these outreach activities will meet to build excitement, coordinate efforts and reform our Outreach Committee with Evelyn C. as Vestry liaison (not necessarily as chairperson) after church on Sunday, November 6 which is All Saints' Sunday.
May God bless us all.