St. Matthias Article: A Community With Heart.

One of the special characteristics of Micah is that it partners whole faith communities with one school. The food pantry ministry at St. Matthias perfectly exemplifies strength that comes from this kind of partnership. For the past two years, St. Matthias Episcopal Church has been supporting families from their school partners. In 2013 alone, they served 222 families from Carver throughout the whole year.

It is said that food makes the heart grow fonder, but St. Matthias Episcopal church has found that foodBlessingsGarden can also make the community grow stronger. Two year ago, St. Matthias Episcopal church stepped out on faith when they extended their food pantry ministry to include their Micah partner school, Clark Springs. “Because we were connected to Clark Springs through Micah, we thought it was the perfect way to go: to extend that ministry into providing food for them.” Linda Hudgins, the food pantry volunteer coordinator, explained. “We were supporting four families and we were working really well with our social worker, Ms. Quarrels over there.” And after the emotional closing of Clark Springs, it was the relationship with Ms. Quarrels that led them to providing food for Carver Elementary while they were still in a Micah partnership with John B. Cary.

Since they first began serving Clark Springs through their food pantry, they’ve seen just how powerful a community working to support the larger community can be. Gentleman from the grounds and buildings office found and transformed the hospitality room into a place where they could hold more supplies, they committed to supporting two school simultaneously (even after the emotional closing of Clark Springs) and people in the community have found ways to use their own gifts to support this ministry. “Several gentlemen made our shelves for us and the middle managers really make the ministry happen smoothly. We also have a person who is a gardener, and developed this blessings garden.” The garden allows them to give fresh produce along with the canned goods.

A landmark moment came when St. Matthias decided that it would raise the bar even more. “Thanksgiving of 2012 we decided to do meals for Clark Springs, 50 families. We asked the congregation to bring the non-perishable food to put in the bags and then we had this parade all the way to Clark Springs to deliver these 50 bags to the gym where we also had 50 frozen turkeys.” Linda recalled. “This year, we [had] two schools, and we [were] thinking: We’ve stepped up our game. And then someone challenged me to do 50 bags for Carver and 50 bags for Chaulkley, all I could say is ‘We’ll try’ ”. Not only did they tackle the challenge, but they exceeded it. They raised 55 thanksgiving dinners for Chaulkley and 60 dinners for families at Carver, their Micah partner school. An amazing feat for a church of only about 300 active members.

Bags of donationsBeyond these extraordinary acts of kindness, the church consistently supports families at their Micah partnership always with a heart of faith. “You walk in there, like today, and you wonder if you can do this.” shares Linda. After just one day’s shipment, the shelves would need an urgent restocking.  “But,” Linda adds, “every Sunday morning people are marching in with their bags of groceries, place them in the Blessings Basket and it goes back to the pantry. We have been self-sustaining with what they bring and what they get from the food bank.” This was not something that seemed plausible for the small community of St. Matthias. “I was one of the naysayers.” confessed Donna, the manager for the food pantry, “People get bored. But, in fact, the longer we go the more people want to be involved with it.”

Since stepping out in faith and answering the call, they have found the experience to be an enriching one. “I think through all of this, we have been guided. Knowing that this was something that we have stepped up and taken the challenge to do. And it was a God-given responsibility. I don’t know where we’ll go in this next year. I think we are capable of doing more, but I think it’s something that we’ll just have to wait for the light to turn on.” Linda says sincerely. Donna adds, “And the nice thing about it is that you get to know people in your own church. You get to know people in a different way. It’s opened up a whole community of not just Midlothian but including so many people from so many ethnic groups. And it’s broken down barriers.” A statement which testifies to the beauty and power of service in a community.

Thank you St. Matthias Episcopal for showing us the positive power that comes when you join genuine faith with genuine community. If you are interested in being a part of Micah, click here to find out how you can get connected.

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