By the Rev. Eric Long
Last night at our vestry meeting, we did all the normal things vestries do: we discussed new and lingering issues with our facilities; reviewed the financial statements for the month, while trying to use your gifts in the most judicious ways possible; discussed strategies to meet the broad needs of our people across all generational lines; and celebrated new endeavors on which God is calling us to embark. Believe it or not, our meetings are always uplifting, mostly because our leaders know that we are not simply having a business meeting, but prayerfully making decisions about how to be the church that Jesus says we are to be.
Last night offered something more. Ann Marie Wood made a report to the vestry about one of our nine Outreach ministries, Temporary Relief for Unexpected Emergencies, or T.R.U.E., as it is generally called. T.R.U.E. helps our neighbors in the Roanoke Valley who find themselves in extreme circumstances pay for housing costs so that their basic need for shelter is preserved. Many of you know all about this work because you have volunteered to help on Tuesday mornings. All of us, however, should be aware of just how significant an impact our parish is making on our community. While other area charitable organizations have reduced the assistance they offer, St. John’s has increased its commitment to provide basic dignity to all people in Jesus’ name. This year, St. John’s will provide almost $62,000 worth of assistance through T.R.U.E. alone. In 2016, we have already helped well over 900 families and individuals, an overwhelming proportion of whom have children in their homes. In doing so, we are literally fighting homelessness before it occurs.
When Ann Marie gave us her report, I welled with pride for our church and you as her people. If you consider that on a good Sunday, 500 people are in attendance in worship at St. John’s, and yet we are annually helping over twice that number of families and individuals keep their houses, who could not rejoice in such faithfulness? What’s more, it is clear to me that behind every decision our vestry makes about budgets and facilities, those people are at the forefront of our leaders’ hearts and minds.
St. John’s is a model of Christian generosity. In absolute sincerity, I know of no other church our size which comes close to doing good at the level this parish does. It is beyond any church I have ever served, or ever been associated with. As I mentioned above, T.R.U.E. is but one of nine Outreach ministries of St. John’s which also include everything from an after school tutoring program (CYP), to assistance to families transitioning out of homelessness (Family Promise), medical missions in Ghana (Kimoyo), blood drives for the Red Cross, once in a lifetime gifts to change the course of a family’s future (Crossroads), and home repairs for needy families in Appalachia (Grace Rebuilding). If you’re counting, my list is not exhaustive because we also partner with area agencies to give hope in Jesus’ name. In fact, I write this article having just walked an extra block to my office because there was nowhere to park at church: St. John’s is hosting the Total Action for Progress (TAP) luncheon today, just another one of our many outreach efforts.
I look forward to many such long walks from my car into this church, not only because I need the exercise, but because the world needs St. John’s to be St. John’s. If you’ve wondered what happens around this place when we aren’t at worship, this is it. If you’ve wondered what our vestries do, it is making sure this continues.
St. John’s, this is who we are and each of us should have a heart that sings with joy, knowing that when Jesus asks us what we have done for those in extreme need, we will join hands and say, “Together, Lord, we did quite a lot.”
St. John’s Gives. Celebrate all the ways.
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector