Parish News Roundup

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 on February 1, 2021

Prayer shawls share Christ’s love

In 2008, Maureen Chandler founded the prayer shawl ministry at St. George, Haliburton, modelled after a prayer shawl ministry in a church near Boston, Mass. She started with a small group of knitters who, with her encouragement, prayerfully knitted shawls. When urgently needed, a shawl could be provided in a few days, by passing from knitter to knitter as time was available.

Since then, the church has gifted more than 1,200 shawls, including 48 this past October to those in need, as well as to countries around the world including Serbia, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States. The knitters feel privileged to participate in this ministry, particularly during isolation due to COVID-19. Many feel it helps maintain their own health by giving them purpose each day.

The shawls are blessed by the parish priest and labelled with a cloth tag, “For your healing in Christ’s Love, St. George’s Church, Haliburton, Ontario.” The shawls are prayerfully chosen and then wrapped in cellophane representing the gift of prayers and God’s goodness. The accompanying card says, “Blessed with prayers for your healing in body, mind and spirit.”

Over time, 41 crafters have been involved in this ministry, many of whom were recipients of shawls.

St. George, Haliburton’s prayer shawl ministry has helped to knit the community together as the shawls become a visual reminder of God’s love and the prayers and the support of our community.

St. George, Haliburton

Church meal warm hearts

The idea was to provide a suppertime meal followed by a light worship service at St. Peter, Cobourg, primarily for those who were new to church. As time went by, the meal became the focus and a small group of 15-20 remained for the service. As the “Thursday Night Lite” (TNL) crowd went from being a group of individuals to being a community, it became apparent that there was a need in the area not only for a nutritious meal but companionship as well.

While some members of the parish were happy to participate in preparing and serving the meals, others initially expressed concerns about “those people” in the parish hall and a possible drain on the parish’s already strained finances. Quickly, in spite of some criticism, TNL started to pay for itself. People who came for a meal were happy to drop a toonie or more into the donation jar if they could, and donations came from others in support of the program. Occasionally, health groups would arrive prior to the meal to answer questions or direct people to affordable health care services.

During the pandemic, TNL continues as a take-out and delivery service to a growing group that receives over 100 hot meals per week. The people who can pick up their meals come early and chat outside with their neighbours. For some, this may be their only true interaction with members of their community during the week.

Once the pandemic is over, the program will continue, as it has now become part of the DNA of the parish. However, to improve the program, it will be necessary to canvas the participants to understand what brings them to the church. Is it the food? The companionship? Both? Or is it the need to be near people who care? Whatever the reason, St. Peter’s parishioners are happy to share with this new community and are ready to welcome its members back into our Great Hall once the pandemic has been quelled and we can gather again.

St. Peter, Cobourg

Church helps others in new ways

COVID-19 put a full stop to St. David Anglican Lutheran church, Orillia’s free Sunday morning breakfast that was shared with neighbours. With physical distancing and health requirements, it didn’t have the capacity to change the breakfast, so the congregation was not able to gather.

“Many families broke bread with us every week, and missing this one meal is a huge hit to their weekly budgets,” says the Rev. Lori Pilatzke, pastor and faith leader at St. David. “Not to mention the loss of being able to physically gather with our community. We pivoted to find ways we could provide support with our community partners.”

St. David’s now provides free masks to neighbours by hanging them on a Warming Cross located outside its building, at the corner of Regent and James Streets in Orillia. The church’s outreach committee prepares a simple lunch for guests at the Lighthouse, which serves homeless and vulnerable local residents. And the congregation’s Harmony Centre’s free one-to-one counselling sessions are back in-person as well as being held by Zoom and phone.

When the church received a surprise gift of a pandemic grant of $2,400 from Canadian Lutheran World Relief, members unanimously agreed to give $1,000 to the Sharing Place Food Bank. “Right now, the food bank is focused on feeding families and on school breakfasts,” said outreach committee member Sandy Donald. “We always seek ways to partner with others who share our love.”

The Sharing Place Food Bank’s School Fuel program is in 16 schools in Orillia and feeds more than 1,000 children every day.

St. David Anglican Lutheran Church, Orillia

Community pitches in for the needy

One not-so-little church, St. Michael and All Angels, on the corner of St. Clair and Wychwood Avenues in Toronto’s west end, faithfully ran a small foodbank called the Beeton Cupboard for more than 30 years. It was quiet, not very well known, but very useful to those who knew it was there.

Then COVID-19 hit and the Beeton Cupboard became a well-known place in the neighbourhood, seeing an increase of over 200 per cent of households that started to come for food security.

This little foodbank in a room of the church needed help. Who stepped up? An incredible community! Not once since COVID-19 became the governing factor has The Beeton Cupboard run empty. With the help of Second Harvest, the community was able to ensure that everyone got food any Wednesday – no questions asked – and yes, you would never, and will never, be turned away.

The Beeton Cupboard provides more than just food. It has given a coat to a man who was freezing, toys for the children who are having birthdays, a make-your-own-birthday-cake kit for a 15-year-old who doesn’t know her mom is out of work again.

Why do we do all this? Because our brothers and sisters deserve love and respect. We are family and when one of us is struggling, it’s one too many.

St. Michael and All Angels, Toronto


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