A number of people in the congregation wonder why we are considering an outreach project in Liberia instead of doing something in the Detroit area. Another good question! No doubt there is plenty of work that could be done in the metro Detroit area. The answer is simple – no one has proposed an idea to the Undesignated Gifts Fund for a project in Detroit or this area. The Undesignated Gifts Fund is governed by a Vestry constructed policy put in place in 2008. This policy states that monies received from a parishioners estate and allocated to the Undesignated Gifts Fund can only be accessed through a proposal for the use of funds. The proposal can be submitted by any parishioner using the proposal form and guidelines. Proposal forms are in your bulletin this morning and in the parish office. The guidelines state that project needs to help us live into our Mission and fit two criteria – the proposal needs to be an outreach project or a new project never considered by the parish. The project in Liberia fits these criteria. It is currently being considered by the Vestry, pending more information on how to actually develop it into a project we can work on. Now that our delegation has returned from Liberia they will submit to the vestry ideas for developing the school project. The Vestry will then determine if this is a project we can take on.
Now in terms of doing something local – if you have an idea for something, please fill out and submit a proposal to the Undesignated Gifts Fund Committee – Paul Vandervert, Julia Garris, and Todd Kappauf.
But also remember that we are currently working on an important ministry that addresses poverty in Dearborn, the Blessings in a Backpack ministry. This ministry provides a backpack of food each weekend of the school year to supplement meals for hungry families in the Dearborn public school system. Last week many of us attended a fund raiser at Park Place, a local catering facility, who donated the food and their banquet room to raise money for the Blessings in a Backpack ministry. Four local churches organized and participate in this program. We take turns collecting food, doing fund raisers, and packing backpacks. On Thursday night our YAC group – the high school youth group packed backpacks. They are organizing a contest between the four churches to see who can collect the most jars of peanut butter. So, watch for more information from them.
Another area of need we could address, if someone is interested in exploring this, is a food pantry. Every week Jan, the Parish Administrator, and I give out Kroger gift cards to people who are hungry. These are just ten dollar gift cards, only enough for some bare essentials. Many days she and I also take people to the kitchen on the first floor and let people help themselves to the food we collect. Now this food is intended to go to Crossroads, an organization in Detroit that assists people with food, clothing, and job searches. We have helped Crossroads for years. Nonetheless, when faced with a hungry family in need it is impossible to send them away when we have food a few feet away. So off to the kitchen we go. We give them a grocery bag and allow them to take what they need.
It seems to me that this is an area we could explore developing. Maybe we should have a food pantry here? We have the space to store non-perishable foods and we could offer a better variety if we did this intentionally. So, I encourage you to think about this and if anyone feels inclined to pursue developing it, speak to me about it, and we’ll see if it’s possible.
Our scripture reading today from Nehemiah and Luke point us to consider how we are addressing the needs of people around us. The reading in Nehemiah comes after the Israelite people, who have been in exile in Babylon for hundreds of years, have been freed. They have returned to their homeland and are hearing again the reading of the laws of Moses – reminding them how to be a people of God – how to love God, love self, and love others. The reading reminds them that being a people of God includes caring for others but also celebrating life. They are to enjoy this gift of life with good food and drink. They are to share the abundance with others so no one goes unfed, uncared for.
The Gospel of Luke tells us this same thing – that bringing forth God’s justice means we live with compassion for others, helping the poor in mind, body, and spirit, to be fed with food, love, and companionship. Living the life of a faithful Christian is never done in solitude attending to only our own individual needs, but always in community, where we are mindful of the needs of those around us.
Today we have our annual parish meeting. We will reflect on the ways we have gathered as a community over the last year. We will look at our finances and how we are trying to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. And we look at how we have lived together as the Body of Christ and how we have been mindful of the needs of others. But also we will celebrate and give thanks for each and every one of us, for the gift we are to one another, to this church, and to the world – as we strive to be Good News in the world today.