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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Notes: How God makes ministry-6.13.24

One way to understand what God is calling us to do is to stop and pay attention to the gifts and needs that are presenting themselves. Looking back on this past year, two gifts are particularly apparent to me: feeding people and tending to their spiritual and physical wellbeing.

When it comes to the ways that God is equipping us to feed the hungry, follow the blessings. Our food cupboard has been part of parish life for many years. Currently shepherded by Audrey Kipphut and Rick Dekalb, it was recently gifted with a tremendous amount of non-perishable food from a recent grocery collection by the US Postal Service. Then the bishop blessed the food cupboard with a check for $5,000 after his Pentecost visit. They’ve recently made space for a limited amount of vegetables from local food banks to be distributed, starting at the end of the month.

At the same time, our kitchen coordinators, Suzanne Teleha and Deborah Way have introduced Souper Sundays, where parishioners can pick up healthy home cooked frozen meals for a free-will offering, which has been particularly helpful for members who don’t cook or have difficulty putting together healthy meals.

Matt Torpey, who also has a gift for feeding people, has been leading us in sandwich making for St. Mark’s Church in Frankford, providing our youth with service hours and our whole congregation with opportunities to join the assembly line. We are discerning how we might expand this relationship with St Mark’s in the coming year.

When it comes to food, the love of making, the offering of resources and the presence of need have all come together to reveal the power of God’s call to feed those around us. And it also is evidence of God’s promise to feed us when we are hungry – for food or companionship or meaning.

Consider those lilies.

I see something similar developing in our new pastoral care team, which was formed to help identify parishioners’ needs for pastoral, emotional and physical care, and to offer programming and support in those areas. The team includes Linda Toia, who has a profound gift for pastoral listening; Sue Gordon who started and heads our card ministry and Lunch Club; Dr. Deborah Way, a retired physician in palliative care; Kate Boyce, who arranges our blood drives and vaccination clinics; and Rosalinda Ibañez Memba, who is coordinator of our Eucharistic Visitors.

Also in the group is our new parish nurse, Kristina Marchuk, a nurse who works at Abington Hospital. At its meeting this week, the Vestry appointed Kristina to this volunteer position, which she has held in other parishes. As our parish nurse, Kristina will be our first-aider at worship and parish events, as well as help us develop programs in wellness and health education. Look to next week’s newsletter to learn more about the wonderful ministry she will be offering.

This is another instance of the skill and passion for care of the whole person reaching whole people. The needs in our parish include rides to doctor’s visits, a listening ear to help untangle confusing medical advice, information and access to vaccinations, a trained responder when an emergency occurs, access to prayer and sacrament when isolated at home, someone to talk to or confide in when emotional or spiritual burdens become hard to bear.

These two areas of care and response reflect our parish charism of community care. But they are also wonderful examples of how God makes ministry – bringing call and gift and need together in loving relationship.

It’s a good model for anyone who is discerning what God might be calling them to be part of. It prompts us to ask:

  • How does the thing that you love to do, or feel prompted to explore, connect with what others are doing around you? Is there a pattern? Are others doing similar or adjacent work?

  • What kinds of needs are arising around you? Are they prompting or resonating with your gifts, and other gifts emerging nearby? Are your gifts helping you to see needs that are just waiting to be addressed?

The late theologian and writer Frederick Buechner's wonderful definition of vocation bears repeating here: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

This is no less true in a parish where the call is often to complex places, the gifts are collective, the needs and hungers many. God sees the connection points often long before we do. It’s a wonder to witness that handiwork when we get the chance.


Rev. Barb

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