Christianity Through Engagement
Who knew that 2020 would see the first worldwide pandemic in more than 100 years? God knew.
Who knew that in a time such as this, the world would see in dramatic form, those that are already marginalized,disproportionally impacted by the pandemic? God knew.
Who knew that workers would be needed at a moment’s notice to minister to the “least of these”? God knew.
So, God in his infinite wisdom called on the workers of the PC USA and specifically St. Paul Presbyterian Church to organize and be ready to serve, under the umbrella of the Matthew 25 Committee.
St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Louisburg, NC, is a small church of approximately 33 active members, led by Commissioned Ruling Elder Dr. Felecia Hardy. We have served the community for 153 years. Though our congregation is small, we have always made service and education the focal points of our ministry. In addition to other endeavors, we run A Blessing Soup Kitchen which serves hot meals and distributes food on Mondays and Thursdays. A Blessing Soup Kitchen (Phyllis Perry, Director) regularly serves 60 people and in times of economic distress serves up to 100 people. In addition, St. Paul also established the first non-profit day care center in Franklin County in October 1976. St Paul Day Care Center is an award winning 5-star day care center that serves 45 children with 80% receiving subsidy. St. Paul is now chartering, the Franklin County Reentry Program, to assist recently incarcerated individuals with a smooth transition to becoming productive members of the community.
Louisburg, NC is a small town within rural Franklin county. St. Paul is surrounded by the “inner-city”. Our immediate service area includes economically challenged residents of color. Many of the homes include senior citizens who are lifelong city residents.
About the same time that we received our Matthew 25 welcome packet, the community, state, and country were hit with massive layoffs and reduction in work hours, sickness, and life mandates that would shatter our reality. As we all struggled to adapt to the new normal, we also grappled with how to support our families.Included in this new normal, church services were cancelled. The Matthew 25 Committee’s intention to develop a strategic plan of action on how to tackle our chosen pillar of Eradicating Systemic Poverty, was momentarily sidelined by a need to service a community barely able to meet basic needs. A community that had to sometimes make the difficult choice of buying food and medicine or paying the rent; going to work sick or losing a day’s pay. How to decipher between fact and fiction regarding all the information circulating about COVID-19 isalso adding to an already stressful situation.
We had to act immediately! The day care center (Patricia Privette, Director) secured its place of service by becoming a COVID-19 Emergency Child Care Provider. This designation would secure the positions of all current staff members and continue to provide safe and secure childcare services so that community members could continue essential jobs without childcare concerns, while serving as a model to other facilities. At the same time, A Blessing Soup Kitchen closed because of the pandemic and the fact that 90% of the volunteers were in high-risk groups.
So, for now, we cannot minister in the sanctuary because the church is closed. We can no longer serve the people in the fellowship hall because A Blessing Soup Kitchen is closed. It is clear, that God’s plan for us to “Eradicate Systemic Poverty” is simply to be like Jesus and meet the people where they are. Enter Blessings Resources Pavilion.
Blessings Resources Pavilion is temporarily using tents to provide our visitors a 24-hour self-service location to obtain life products and educational resources. Life products include non-perishable food items, produce, clothing, medicine, and hygiene, cleaning, and baby products. We hold additional events to distribute cold storage items such as meat, eggs, and frozen foods.
The tent went up with nothing under it but empty pallets, signs that state “Take what you need. Give what you can.” and prayers for the ability to deliver what God needed from us. Our first event was preparing 35 bag lunches for the homeless. Then members of the church contributed money and products to initially stock the pavilion. The community response was immediate and with gratitude. But we realized that St. Paulcould not do this alone. On our daily checkups of the pavilion,we noticed items that we did not put there, or people would givea donation while “shopping” at the pavilion. People in the community are giving what they can. We are also receiving help from other community and faith organizations from as far as 120 miles away. A few of God’s helpers include the Franklin CountyInterchurch Council made up of local churches, Tar River Baptist Association, Red Springs Mission Camp, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Omega Lambda Omega Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Oxford-Henderson Alumnae Chapter, members of Franklin County Narcotics Anonymous, Cal-Maine Foods, Louisburg, Heritage High School, Wake Forest, NC, NC Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission, and individual contributors.
So far, we have connected with about 500 Franklin County
families representing over 1000 citizens. We have provided information on the COVID-19 pandemic and how to stay safe as well as 75 face masks. We are also providing up-to-date information on the changes to local, state, and federal guidelines as they occur. We are consistently restocking the pavilion with non-perishable life products and produce. We haveheld full-service events where over 2000 lbs. of cold storage food items, including chicken, fish, eggs, yogurt, half and half, buttermilk, frozen soup, fruit and potatoes were dispersed in addition to other life products.
Most of all, we serve as an example of the true meaning of Matthew 25 and a source of spiritual guidance and inspiration. As we return to the new normal, St. Paul’s Matthew 25 Committee will continue our outreach of service and education to the underserved members of the community to Eradicate Systemic Poverty.