News & Messages

The Hospitality Center and St. Luke's, Racine deepen connections with their community

All of our churches have developed new and innovative ways of connecting with their parishes and with their communities. We'd like to explore and highlight how our parishes are living into their mission and ministry during this time of social distancing and our Safer at Home order.

On Friday, March 13, the Hospitality Center, along with the rest of Wisconsin, found itself making changes we never thought would be necessary. On that day 121 people visited the Hospitality Center for breakfast, lunch, conversation, fellowship, and to get out of the brisk spring weather. By Monday the 16th, we had shifted to a to "to-go" meal format, offering breakfast and lunch in take-out containers and plastic bags. As the world adjusted to the "Safer at Home" order and CDC guidelines about social distancing, hand washing, and sanitization, the Hospitality Center also made changes. We spray-painted Xs on our sidewalk seven feet apart, much like in a grocery store. We moved meal distribution to just inside our front doors, allowing only one guest in at a time for meals. We repurposed the meal hall into a food staging and preparation area, ensuring our volunteers would be able to stand six feet apart while packaging meals.  

But not everything changed. The heartbeat of the Hospitality Center has always been our volunteers. And while some volunteers have taken a hiatus in order to keep themselves and family members healthy, others have gone above and beyond. We have a committed team of seven regular volunteers plus a few weekly volunteers who have kept up the standard of hot meals served five days each week. While packaged differently now, every meal contains a hot protein serving, salad, fruit, dessert, and either milk or water. Thanks to tremendous donations from all over our community, we supplement each meal with granola bars and other pre-packaged snack items. By the end of March, our number of meals served eclipsed the previous month. Since then we have seen a steady flow of guests, serving an average of 110 people each day. We anticipate this number might increase as the economic impact of the virus hits home for those currently without work. 

Another thing that hasn't changed: Even in the era of social distancing, we have maintained contact with our regular guests and have met many new guests whose changed life circumstances have led them to seek us out. Each day we have the opportunity to check in and share up to date information given to us by the city, county, and local healthcare providers. We have given out a steady stream of handmade face masks along with instructions for proper use. Our mission today is equal parts hospitality and public health, spreading accurate information and health safety practices to a vulnerable population.  

In addition to the changes at the Hospitality Center, the clergy and people of St. Luke's have embraced a rite from the Book of Occasional Services, "A Celebration for a Home." For many members of the parish, particularly retirees and non-essential workers, our homes have become even more sacred than before. They are not only our place of refuge, but also our place of worship, and sometimes our place of confinement. The prayers in "A Celebration for a Home" provide liturgical language for blessing these spaces as well as casting out any evil that might be present. While maintaining social distancing, Fr. Seth has arranged pastoral visits in order to bring Christ and the Church more visibly into the lives of the congregation. We use opening and closing prayers from "A Celebration" and oftentimes pray a blessing over the "terrace or garden." During one special visit, the director of the Racine Public Library (a St. Luke's parishioner) and Fr. Seth circumnavigated the library, praying the blessing for "a guest room" in spots around the library known to be frequented at night by those experiencing homelessness.  Yes, the practice of pastoral visitation and house blessing is nothing new. And yet, for St. Luke's and Fr. Seth, it has awakened a connection between clergy and parish and deepened our sense of God's presence in our homes and in our world.  

~Fr. Seth Raymond
Executive Director of the Hospitality Center and rector of St. Luke's

Mission and Ministry Still Happens in the Diocese of Milwaukee

Two weeks ago the Commission on Mission and Development was having a conversation about our churches and wondering how people are not only staying connected with one another but also how they are continuing to live into their mission and ministry. We decided to contact all of our churches and find out. Here are a few examples from some of our conversations.

St. Paul’s in Watertown is a church with an average Sunday attendance in the upper 40s, and they have a huge heart for ministering to their local community. Mary’s Room provides baby needs such as diapers and wipes to those who financially need help. They also work with local churches to provide food for families in need through a backpack program.

So, how could they continue with these vital ministries in a pandemic and keep people safe? For Mary’s Room, they are providing supplies for a month with curbside pickup to keep the volunteers safe and also encouraging recipients to stay home for longer periods. In this time of COVID-19, an additional ministry was started by making masks to give away and sell. They have made over $2500 from sales and have given away many masks.

St. Paul’s organizes and participates in a cooperative ministry with other churches in their area. With the pandemic, the work of this ministry, providing food to families in need, suddenly became more complicated. How could the churches together supply food to families for not just one week but a few weeks at a time? They talked with the school district and, because the school district had a contract with the bus company, they still had a way to deliver the food to the families in need. Then they had to decide how to pack the backpacks while remaining safe. Typically, each church volunteers to provide one particular item for each backpack (for example, jars of peanut butter). They came up with an idea of moving the packing station to a church with an overhang so one person can lay out all the backpacks opened. A person from each church drives up and loads up the backpacks with their designated items. When they finish filling all the backpacks, they drive away and the next person comes to put their items in and on and on until the bags are filled. The last person zips and makes sure that the backpacks are ready for the bus driver to pick them up and deliver them to the families.

St. Paul’s shows us they will continue their mission and ministries. Not all ministries can continue, but they could adapt some and find a way to still serve people safely. I know they would be more than happy to help your church think creatively if you would like some creative ideas of how your ministry could be adapted to this new day.

In my conversation last week with Seth Dietrich, rector at Christ Church in Whitefish Bay, I heard their Outreach committee had decided to meet twice a month to discuss new ideas for ministry as well as reimagine their current ministries. Right now they continue by providing more money than food, and they assist with the to-go meals at All People’s Lutheran Church on the north side of Milwaukee. They also have a dedicated mask-making group which is making masks for Froedtert Hospital. A parishioner obtained a design from the hospital and then she purchases the materials needed. People who are making the masks pick up the packets of material from her home and when they’re finished making the masks, drop off in a designated container. She then takes then to the hospital and the process begins again.

Right now people who have sewing skills can provide their talents, and those who may not have those skills can provide money for supplies for All People’s to-go food program or material for masks. Providing several ways for people to help gives opportunities for the people of the parish community to participate as they are able.

Christ Church is also trying to provide connection and space to people in the congregation who may usually help or participate in the life of the church but just can’t begin to think of adding one more thing to their new routines. With many younger families in the congregations, the church leaders see them stretched with having no additional time for Zoom meetings or online church events. Just getting through the day-to-day things with kids’ schooling, working (often more hours), and getting daily supplies, which takes a lot more time than it does simply going to the store, is tougher. They need rest, support, and comfort of knowing the church is there. Christ Church is trying to keep people connected and not burdened. They’ve stressed to families to join as they can, and they openly acknowledge that these are difficult days. Online activities may not be for everyone, but with good communication, the parishioners know there’s always a place for them to join in as they are able.

The opportunity before the church right now is how to be the Church, how to adapt, and how to be available — not only our parishioners but those who may not have felt comfortable walking into a worship service on a Sunday morning. I’ve heard many of you talk about how people who usually don’t attend prayers services or discussions are now attending online, yet those who usually do are not.

St. Paul’s and Christ Church are two examples of how the Church is trying and is learning to do things in new ways. How is your parish connecting and inviting people into your parish? How we are sharing our resources and showing we are bigger than one community? We have our diocesan churches worshipping and sharing gifts and resources. We continue to nurture our partnerships with other denominations and nonprofits and we all benefit. Thank you for your creativity, connectivity, and of course, for your steadfastness to God’s call to be disciples of Jesus Christ — however that looks during this time.

Fall Grant Application Now Available

Fall Grants Application Available

The application for Fall Ministry Grants is now available. The Commission on Ministry and Development offers grants twice a year to parish projects that strengthen the congregation’s identity and purpose, deepens the congregation’s engagement with the local community, or fosters healthy and effective organizational dynamics within the parish. Applications for the fall grants are due by October 5, 2019
We’ve got a number of interesting programs going on around the diocese as a result of the support that parishes have received from recent Ministry Grants. Here are three interesting ministries that are starting all involving ministries with children and parents. We hope that they inspire you to try out something new in your own parishes! 

Working with Children with Disabilities at Christ Church, Whitefish Bay
Christ Church Episcopal, Whitefish Bay received a grant to create a more inclusive church environment for children living with disabilities. We were motivated to start this project by the current children we serve and by the children we have yet to reach. Christ Church leaders felt there was more they could do to welcome children with special needs and their families.

We have created a small team including our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, our Senior Warden, and a church member with a background in children’s psychiatry. The first steps were guided by two resources: Child by Child: Supporting Children with Learning Differences and Their Families by Susan Richardson and Rhythms of Grace: Worship and Faith Formation for Children and Families with Special Needs by Audrey Scanlan and Linda Snyder. The Volunteer Church by Leith Anderson and Jill Fox will guide us on ideas on how to mobilize the congregation around this initiative. We will continue to learn more about materials and best practices by research, training, and presentations the grant will help us secure this year. 

~Jean Heffernan
Children’s Ministry Coordinator

A New Sunday School at St. Luke’s, Racine
On All Saints’ Day and the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, St. Luke's welcomed three children (and one adult) into the Body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. Following these baptisms, I was approached by a member of the parish, Leah Nakamura, who made a startling declaration, "I'm not going to say the baptismal promises anymore!" "That's right! Until we at St. Luke's can honestly say that we who ‘witness these vows do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ,’ I'm not going to make the promise."  
There's no denying she had a solid point. St. Luke's hasn't had formalized Christian Education for young people for quite some time. We have very few active children in the parish, and this little spurt of baptisms has been a sign of renewed life in the parish. What happened next, however, was a true sign of God's grace and continual outpouring of provision. "I'm going to start a Children's Christian Education program," Leah continued. And less than two weeks later, I was given a detailed proposal with needed supplies, a plan for recruiting adults to assist, and her commitment to lead the program, lending her decades of experience in the church as a Christian educator.
Spurred on by Leah's enthusiasm and faithfulness, St. Luke's is hosting a Safeguarding God's Children training on September 7. We already have four adults committed to attend. We have six members of a newly formed Children's Christian Formation committee who are responsible for purchasing supplies, designing curriculum, and recruiting other participation. We plan to kick off our program in the fall, offering Children's formation during our 10 am service for any age child. One year ago, we had two potential children, and now we are thrilled to have eight potential children, all of them seven years and younger. To some it might seem too young to start; to St. Luke's however, it's simply making good on our baptismal promises.

~The Rev. Seth Raymond


Incredible Years Parenting Class at St. Paul’s, Watertown
St. Paul’s, Watertown will be offering parenting classes for thirteen sessions this fall.
I applied for the grant for two reasons: One is that I am the Shared Mission Group representative to Jefferson County Children’s Services, and, as such, I sit on the Citizens Review Panel to review their services for prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. As part of that, I am an independent reviewer of their foster care plans, and I see the cause and effect of children needing to be placed outside the home. The second reason is that of course, we run Mary’s Room, and I see a need for positive role modeling for parenting with many of the parents who visit. 
Jefferson County has excellent programming, and one of those programs they run is the Incredible Years Curriculum for parents. I asked if I could partner with them to provide this course in Watertown where it would be more accessible to the Watertown population rather than having to travel to Jefferson. 
They agreed that they would supply the teachers, and we would supply the space, pizza, gas cards and childcare for parents attending the class. It is scheduled for August, and we are in the registration phase now. I distributed the poster (attached) to the Shared Mission Group, and to hand out at Mary’s Room and Summer Sandwiches in the Park (another Shared Mission Group initiative we help with). 
I am hopeful we can recruit and have fun with this. I have my volunteers lined up and ready to go! 

~Alice Mirk

Again, grant applications are due by October 5, 2019. You've got some time to start dreaming of new endeavors!