By Brett Hetherington*
“Instead of each person watching out for their own good,
watch out for what is better for others.”
– Philippians 2:4 (CEB)
The words of the Apostle Paul, from his letters to the church at Philippi and to the Christians of Corinth, were motivation for congregation members of Chardon United Methodist Church (Western Reserve District) this Spring as they set about continuing a decades-long Easter tradition of sharing meals with families in their church and in their community. This year, with the shelter-in-place order in effect in the State of Ohio, Amie Walland and her crew of volunteers needed to think outside the box as they sought to help others by collecting items for the family Easter baskets that the church creates for a variety of recipients each year.
For nearly 30 years, Chardon UMC volunteers have annually collected food for families and seniors in the community who otherwise wouldn’t have a holiday meal. Volunteers gather at the church to assemble the meals, and then deliver them prior to the holiday so that the families can have the food in time to cook and serve on Easter. This is part of a larger outreach that the church has undertaken to provide meals at Christmas and Thanksgiving as well.
“Normally we have a big bulletin board in the church where people can sign up to donate food for our Easter baskets, but this year we couldn’t do that,” said Walland, a realtor who was recently inspired by a coworker who needed meals because of some medical issues.
“Someone else created a meal train using some online software. I thought I might be able to use that software for our meal ministry,” she said. After some experimentation, Walland was able to successfully implement a new way of gathering goods for this year’s Easter basket meals.
The online sign-up collected hams, potatoes, bread and butter, milk, eggs, jellybeans and other Easter candy, and assorted fruits and vegetables. A church member also made crosses from palm leaves to include in each basket.
“We try to get 10 families and 10 seniors each year from our community and from our church, and we work with Geauga County Jobs and Families to help identify some of those families in need that we can bless,” Walland shared.
She reported that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted the number of people volunteering but they have had to adjust the way that the baskets are filled.
“This year we set up stations to assemble the baskets to keep up with social distancing guidelines, complete with gloves and masks, and we had to leave the baskets on doorsteps to ensure contactless delivery,” Walland shared, adding her joy that everyone involved was excited and happy to help out.
Though the busyness of the day made it difficult for Walland to attribute names to specific comments, she reports that each of the volunteers shared similar sentiments that can be summed up with these words: “We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. It is only through Him that all this work can be done. With this difficult time in the world, those less fortunate are in an even more desperate situation.”
Not far from where volunteers of the Easter meal ministry were working, the Red Bag Sunday team was preparing to deliver the food it had recently collected. Held on the first Sunday of every month, Red Bag Sunday encourages participants to fill a red bag with non-perishable items and canned foods for those in need. The collected food is donated to the Geauga County food pantry.
Serving as the hands and feet of Christ in the midst of a global pandemic brings a great hope to many, and on this particular Sunday it brought the love of Christ to several families and seniors in Geauga County.
“He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can
comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer
the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.”
– 2 Corinthians 1:4 (CEB)
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with stories of how your congregation or faith community is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to your community in creative ways now, during this time of COVID-19 pandemic, and into the future.
*Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.