And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
(Matthew 14:19 NIV)
Even when Jesus was in the middle of a miracle, He used humans to help carry out His work. God continues to use our hands and feet today in ministry, feeding people spiritually and literally.
“Feed the Hungry” is one of five ministry “imperatives” that Bishop Ed Little prays for us to carry out. It’s part of his vision for what the Diocese of Northern Indiana “will bequeath to future generations of Christians.” The five imperatives provide our focus for this year’s monthly editions of By Word and Example.
For this month of August, we highlight this fourth imperative. As our “Word” lesson, we use Bishop Little’s own words from his 2013 diocesan address. These are words to pray over in our congregations, to consider in our Bible studies and any gathering where we intentionally seek how we should best respond to God’s abundance.
Our “Example” article for “Feed the Hungry” is the wonderful servant ministry of Trinity Logansport. God blessed the people of Trinity with a particularly abundant gift several years ago, and they are still joyfully responding today.
May you be blessed by the Word and Example offered here!
Participating in God's Vision
In his address to the Diocesan Convention in 2013, Bishop Ed Little offered an inspiring challenge to all of us. It was a vision for what the Diocese of Northern Indiana of today “will bequeath to future generations of Christians.” The vision incorporates “Five Imperatives of Ministry.” Each of these is a focus for this year’s monthly editions of By Word and Example.
For this month of August, we highlight the fourth imperative, “Feed the Hungry,” with Bishop Little’s own words – excerpts from his diocesan address:
Before I directly address this fourth imperative, I’m going to take us on a brief digression on the topic of mission. The Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer includes the following question and answer:
Q: What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Christians often struggle over the meaning of this definition. Is mission primarily about evangelism (helping people to enter a living relationship with Jesus Christ) or about responding to the desperate needs of the world around us (poverty, hunger, racism, issues of war and peace and economic justice)? The answer, of course, is Yes!
Mission is about evangelism – and it’s about caring for the poor. Mission is about our eternal destiny – and about participating in God’s vision for a just and peaceful world. Neither is complete without the other. And so the fourth imperative (“Feed the Hungry”) is intimately bound up with the third (“Proclaim Good News”). The third and fourth imperatives are two sides of the same missionary coin, and communities that focus on one to the exclusion of the other are headed for trouble.
When I say, “Feed the Hungry,” by the way, I’m using the phrase generically, to refer to a whole range of responses to the world and its needs.
… As an example of what I’m talking about, a word about the ministry which we hope to develop on the west side of South Bend: Mother Tina Velthuizen will retire as rector of Holy Trinity, South Bend, in early 2014, after 22 years of superb ministry.
Holy Trinity has a long and unusual history. The parish was founded in 1913 when 83 Hungarian families migrated from the Roman Catholic to the Episcopal Church. Bishop John Hazen White received them en masse, and for many years Holy Trinity served this poor and economically stressed community from central Europe. While a few descendants of the original Hungarian families still worship at Holy Trinity, the parish is now located in a poor and predominantly African American neighborhood with a childhood poverty rate (according to latest figures) of about 75%. The parish has already made a significant impact on the neighborhood – sponsoring, for example, neighborhood meetings that focus on the issues of violence, and providing the home for a community garden.
Now, as we prepare for the transition early next year,* we are asking the question: What one or two ministries can we take on in the immediate, five-block area around Holy Trinity? Whatever “Feed the Hungry” means for Holy Trinity and our presence on the west side of South Bend, the focus is local. As a wise former priest of this diocese once said, “We can’t do everything. We can’t fix the city. But we can do one or two things well.”
And that’s the challenge that all of us face. What one or two things can we do well?
What one or two things
can we do well?
… So this fourth imperative reminds us that Jesus asks us to minister to the whole person. We can’t proclaim the Gospel unless we take seriously the painful realities that people face every day; and we can’t deal with those realities unless we offer the One whose life, death, and resurrection is our only source of hope.
Mission rests on two texts: Matthew 25 – “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me”; and Matthew 28 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” May we be faithful to both callings!
*New ministry opportunities are being pursued this year by the people of Holy Trinity, South Bend, with Rev. Terri Bays, Priest in Charge.
Questions for reflection in a church gathering:
1. Tell me about a time when our congregation was at its best in representing Christ. What made that possible?
2. What do you personally feel called to contribute as a representative of Christ and His church?
3. If Jesus came to our community today, what would He think is the most important thing our parish should be doing in His name?
Serving Christ in Logansport
When one learns about the tremendous outreach ministries of Trinity Episcopal Church in Logansport, a natural question might be, “How do they afford it?” As it turns out, many years ago, the church invested a large estate gift at the Cass County Community Foundation, and determined that half of the annual proceeds of the fund would go to Outreach ministry and half to building maintenance. But if you conclude that THAT is how Trinity Logansport “affords” its apostolic outreach ministry, you are not realizing the full power of being a joyful giver.
Father Clark Miller, Rector of Trinity Logansport, explains: “When we started looking outside our walls, we started to grow. When you start giving things, things come back to you. The people of Trinity give willingly of their money and time. People don’t say, ‘let the endowment take care of it’ – they jump in to help.”
Trinity’s largest Outreach ministry is its annual school backpack project, which has grown to an amazing 1,200 backpacks a year! Children and their families line up around the block on the day the backpacks are available at Trinity. Kids choose the backpack they want from grade-appropriate selections. This day has evolved into a back-to-school event – even free haircuts are provided.
While Trinity’s endowment certainly helps, members of the congregation personally purchase backpacks and supplies all year long. People may be reimbursed from the Fund, but most don't ask for this.
Outreach funds also buy hats and mittens that are given away in the neighborhood. A food pantry is operated every two weeks and Trinity partners with other churches to host a Saturday lunch for those who need a good meal.
Trinity is intentional about getting people involved in Outreach and the life of the parish. For example, one older woman who can’t come to the church to help make ham loaves (a long-time fundraising project for the general fund), stays at home and crunches cartons and cartons of crackers used in the recipe. Her contribution is celebrated along with everyone else’s.
While personal contributions expand Trinity’s ability to serve, the church also tithes 10% of its annual pledge dollars to Outreach ministries.
“We talk about tithing a lot,” says Father Miller. “Perhaps this subject comes easier because people see the results and rewards of Trinity’s corporate ‘giving away’ and how much Trinity receives back – how gifts are multiplied, and people feel great about the impact. We have felt on more than one occasion that God has provided for us because we have taken this path.”
Trinity’s experience is an example of living the Diocesan Imperative of “Feed the Hungry.” It is also an example of the spiritual and resource rewards of joyful giving in God’s name.