From the 2020 Ministry Narrative
This past year, one of the more gratifying and meaningful outreach activities for our community was our Advent tradition of bringing various themed donations to our nativity creche. As we began a new church year, we collected donations for local food banks, pet food, warm clothes, and stuffed animals meant to comfort children who find themselves in the emergency room at North Valley Hospital.
As has become our custom, we distributed the loose offering and designated checks from the services of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to those in need. This year The Abbie Shelter, RezQ Dogs, and the Hubble family were the recipients. We have had a longstanding relationship with The Abbie Shelter and more recently RezQ Dogs. Last year, RezQ relocated to a safe and dry building due to spring flooding that caused their physical plant considerable damage every year. We were thrilled to help with their HEARTS Campaign (Helping Every Animal Relocate to Safety). The Hubble Family was the third recipient of our Christmas offerings. Jordana Hubble is a 7 year-old student who was struck by a car while getting off the school bus. After the accident, Jordana was admitted into a coma program in Houston, which put a significant amount of financial stress on her family. Finally, we helped some housing-insecure families to have a merry Christmas through our Samaritan House caring tree. Parishioners took tags with gift ideas for adults, babies, young children, and a teenager to sponsor four families at Samaritan House. The response to our new outreach was overwhelming. Every single tag was taken and returned with thoughtful gifts for the needs of our extended families in Christ. Vera Smith, who organized the Caring Tree, spoke with the manager of Samaritan House after Christmas, and was told that there were many happy faces and tears of joy.
We continued to tie our liturgical year to our outreach giving with our Lenten practice of assisting local ministries in the community over those 40 days. This year, we committed to assisting two local organizations: The Abbie Shelter and the Flathead Warming Center.
The Abbie Shelter houses women and children who are the victims of domestic abuse and provides critical counseling to assist them in their healing. While social distancing is an important practice for preventing the spread of COVID-19, it has complicated matters for those who find themselves in abusive relationships, because survivors of domestic violence now find themselves in closer proximity to their abusers, with fewer opportunities to seek help.
The Flathead Warming Center is a low-barrier facility that provides safe shelter for homeless individuals and families during the coldest months of the year. Last year, they were housed in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church in Kalispell, though the Warming Center is currently searching for a bigger space to continue to meet this growing need. When social distancing protocols did not allow the Warming Center to house these individuals overnight, they were still able to provide meals, referrals, and basic needs items such as sleeping bags and tents.
We also continued a Lenten practice that has become a favorite of many parishioners, that of our daily Lenten coupon booklet, supporting ERD’s 1000 Days of Love. This year, the format changed from a coupon booklet to a calendar, but still afforded people a fun way to be able to count their blessings and give thanks for the abundant gifts God bestows on us daily.
We are in our seventh year of supporting those living in the canyon outside Glacier Park. In past years, we’ve been able to work with other faith communities to provide a ministry of hospitality to those living in Hungry Horse, Martin City, and Coram that need a helping hand. And even though we cannot gather for the Canyon Community Dinners at this time, we are directing these funds to the Martin City Food Bank so that our neighbors can continue to eat.
All Saints also has a strong presence in the wider Flathead Valley community. Through a line item in our budget and support of the Rector’s Discretionary Fund, we’ve been able to address needs for medical care, car repairs, gas and food money, utility payments, veterinary bills, rent, lodging for those stranded, train and bus tickets, and to help survivors obtain safe shelter from domestic abuse. The Discretionary Fund is a way that we can meet immediate, acute, and specific needs that larger and less nimble non-profits often cannot. During the 8 months between rectors, the Discretionary Fund was faithfully administered by Betsy and Steve Paugh, who were able to continue our practice of providing assistance for those with emergency needs. This work has become especially important in this time, as each one of our neighbors experiences this pandemic and its economic impact differently.
Within the Episcopal Church structure, our parish participates in the United Thank Offering (UTO), the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund (ERD), and other national/international programs, through our gifts and assessment to the Diocese of Montana.
In past years, we’ve supported Camp Marshall’s Grace Camp, a camp for children whose parents are serving sentences in the correctional system. Although Camp Marshall had to shutter its doors this summer, our dedicated group of quilters held both their Fall (2019) and Spring (2020) quilt retreats, where they lovingly designed, pieced, and quilted a dozen quilts that will be given to children when Grace Camp is able to reopen. In addition, we contributed resources towards Camp Marshall’s operating expenses, so that when they reopen, they’ll be equipped with talented staff and a repaired dock.
We also delight in the fact that several parishioners join others at the Springs Assisted Living facility in knitting toys, hats, scarves, as well as prayer shawls in a group lovingly known as the KnitWits.
While we were unable to host one of our annual events, the Chili Open, a golf tournament played in the snow to assist local animal welfare agencies, we were still able to help some pets in trouble. As the Blackfeet Reservation began a 14-Day shutdown, they put out a call for dog food. At our blessing of the animals, monetary donations and hundreds of pounds of dog food arrived on our doorstep. We hope to resume the Chili Open next year and continue to help some of God’s most vulnerable creatures.
As a community, we support a vast number of outreach agencies. Over the last twelve months, through the budget and special offerings we’ve supported:
· North Valley Food Bank
· Columbia Falls Food Bank
· Hungry Horse/Martin City Food Bank
· The Bishop’s Discretionary Fund
· The Humane Society of Northwest Montana
· Samaritan House
· The Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force
· Flathead Youth Home
· The Flathead Warming Center
· Spay Montana (serving the Blackfeet Reservation)
· Friends of the Flathead County Animal Shelter
· The Abbie Shelter
· The Hubble Family
· CROP Walk - Columbia Falls
· RezQ Dogs
· N. Valley Hospital Foundation Teddy Bear Fund
· The Tobacco Valley Animal Shelter
· Thompson River Animal Care Shelter
· The Canyon Community Dinners
In the national and international venue, we contribute to causes well beyond the Flathead Valley. While we have been renovating our own worship space, contributions from the discretionary fund allowed All Saints to put the roof on a new Episcopal Church in Los Robles, Honduras. In May, Bishop Bailey of the Navajoland Area Mission put out a call for help, as the Navajo Nation (reservation lands with a population of about 200,000) was experiencing the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the world. With money from the discretionary fund, we purchased artisanal soap made by SHIMA of Navajoland, a nonprofit affiliated with the Episcopal Church that provides employment and job training for Navajo farmers, healers, and youth in Fort Defiance, AZ. Fr. Charlie, his wife (who is also an Episcopal priest) Mtr. Mikayla, and volunteers from the parish then sold this soap at the Columbia Falls Farmer’s Market each Thursday to raise an additional $2,000 to support Bishop Bailey’s work of building cisterns on the Navajolands, where only 60% of the population has access to running water.
As students, teachers, and parents went back to school after months of distanced learning, we not only blessed the backpacks of the students in our pews, but gathered school supplies for kids who otherwise would not have them. We collected backpacks and supplies, as well as nearly $1,400 to purchase gift certificates for gym shoes and additional school supplies, all of which were distributed through the Columbia Falls Food Bank, the Flathead Youth Home, and Samaritan House.
Finally, because many in our community have no church home in this tumultuous time, we’ve made our staff and clergy available to those in need, providing pastoral support or someone to perform marriages and funerals in this time where it is difficult to grieve or celebrate as we are accustomed. Though it may seem counterintuitive, worship is inextricably tied to the outreach efforts of this community. As we receive the sacrament each Sunday at Eucharist, we remember that we give because of what we have been given.