Around the Diocese: January 2024
January 30, 2024
There's a lot of good news happening around the Diocese of Missouri! We've collected stories about a church offering shelter from the frigid winter weather, another congregation that's having a huge growth in membership, and a beautiful candlelit prayer service to ring in 2024.
Click on the headlines below to read the stories and see pictures:
Winter Outreach at St. Paul's in Carondelet
by the Rev. Rebecca Ragland
Jesus slept on a cot in our building.
As forecasters warned of plummeting temperatures in January, several of the members of St. Paul’s church in the Carondelet neighborhood of St. Louis looked at each other in joyful anticipation. Yes, the weather would be cold and unpleasant, but something else was on the way: Winter Outreach, a program run by volunteers and supported financially by the City of St. Louis, works with churches to house those in need of shelter.
When temperatures drop below 28 degrees, many folks who prefer to remain outdoors are forced inside. Barriers that keep people from seeking standard shelter include fear, mental illness and/or addiction, the fact that men and women can’t shelter together (even when they are married), and that you can’t bring your pet.
St. Paul’s has served as a 24/7 Winter Outreach for three years in a row. So far, each year we’ve hosted for about five nights. We provide more than just heat and shelter by sharing our couches and comfy seats and circling them around a television and DVD player.
I often say that no good deed goes unpunished and there is a cost for doing this. The prep includes removing decorative rugs and pew cushions, securing valuables, hospitality items, and candy dishes.
But we have not experienced significant losses from hosting. Last year, my prescription reading glasses (which I accidentally left on the high altar) disappeared. We also forgot to remove the box of communion wine from the basement and a jolly good time was had by somebody! Even then, we only lost two bottles – not the whole carton.
Having 30 people live in our church building, (many of whom smoke or use drugs, so they go outside a repeatedly) is dirty, messy, and expensive. That’s the “no good deed goes unpunished” part. But here’s the thing: our community gets the sweet joy of knowing that we are saving lives. We know that God’s love is manifested through us and that is what we’re here for!
When the shelter is disbanded, it takes time to get the place cleaned up. The Winter Outreach Volunteers do a great job of cleaning and removing the sleeping cots, garbage cans, plungers, blankets, and food. They also leave behind a lot of usable supplies. Once they are gone, our cleaning person comes in. We strip the covers off the comfy seats (thanks, IKEA!). Then we reinstall everything. Set-up and clean-up take two or three people about eight hours to complete. It’s a lot of work but so worth it!
Additional benefits to hosting are the space is cleaned of church detritus, we receive new supplies, our influence in the digital universe goes up exponentially, the congregation celebrates saving lives, and we gain new partnerships and connections. Last year, other churches helped us pay our utilities for the month. That shared sense of mission was a tangible teaching for our new members who saw an example of Diocesan partnership!
In 2022, the temperatures dipped below zero during Christmas Eve and Christmas. It was incredibly meaningful to see cots in our sanctuary during Christmas. Not one person protested. It’s like we collectively knew that Jesus had come to us, as an infant and in the body of the poor.
Even if your worshipping community is in a suburb or rural area, there may be people who need shelter during the cold snaps. Talk about what it might look like to open your doors to those in need. There may be a non-profit near you eager to dream with you. Year after year, word will get out that you are resource, and you’ll experience the blessing! As Jesus reminds us, whatever you do to the least of these my kin, you do for me (Matthew 25:40).
Growth at St. John & St. James in Sullivan
by Michelle Hampton
On Sunday, Jan. 14, our small congregation did something really BIG! The Bishop confirmed\received five parishioners into the church. To some congregations, this might seem like a typical Confirmation Sunday, but last year at this time, the average Sunday attendance was around three. The typical Sunday attendance now is around 10. That is over a 300% growth!
God seems to have big plans for our church. Three core members held the foundation of the church together with the former priest-in-charge for the last many years, seeing it through the shaky time of COVID-19 and the aftermath of losing members.
The Rev. Sally Weaver officially became the priest-in-charge in January 2023 and spearheaded big changes. Physical changes include painting the interior, installing new lights, adding more comfortable seating, and a posting a new outdoor sign. Our latest improvement is the installation of a new upstairs bathroom.
Word of mouth is spreading about the good message and the kind hearts found here. Being able to go out into the community and participate in community events has allowed the neighborhood to meet us and see that we are here. Getting our name out there was an important first step. Social media pages keep everyone updated and we hope to begin livestreaming shortly.
Our growing congregation is making visible steps to keep growing. We are participating in community events and interfaith councils, working with the local police department on a round table, and hosting future community events such as an outdoor movie night.
We hope this time next year to have the Bishop back to confirm even more parishioners. We are encouraged and excited about our growth! Keep us in your prayers.
New Year's Eve Taizé
If you have a story or pictures you'd like to share with the Diocese, please send your information to diocesan communications director Janis Greenbaum.