With a Grateful Heart – Parishes around the diocese are responding to community needs during the pandemic

 on May 4, 2020

A Word from Bishop Susan Bell

It has been moving to witness the people of our diocese creatively and faithfully finding ways to be the hands and feet of Christ in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — while still heeding the advice of the government officials and public health experts. 

In these extraordinary times, we have been living a singular truth: that the Church has never been a building. Our buildings are beautiful, it’s true. They have community importance for us. Our buildings are containers for ministry —and for the collective memories of our parishes. But if ever a time proved an important truth, it’s now. And it is this: the Church is a people bound by belief in God and by care and love for each other. Truly, we are proving Jesus’ words in St. John’s Gospel: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Each of you have found ways to reach out to one another that are rooted in that identity as disciples: in communicating through Facebook; in worshipping together online, and by upholding each other at set times of prayer; by caring for body as well as soul; by grocery shopping and filling prescriptions for each other; and by keeping loving company in our homes and by phone calls to friends and family afar.

I must also tell you that I have been truly inspired by the selfless and innovative efforts of our clergy and lay leaders, who along with essential service workers, healthcare workers, first responders, grocery clerks and delivery agents, have worked so hard to help us through the pandemic crisis. 

Thank-you, all of you, for building up the Body of Christ, each in your own way and according to the gifts that God has given you.

Grace Church (Waterdown)

Food with Grace Waterdown Food Bank, a ministry of Grace Anglican Church, continues to provide nutritious, adequate, and appropriate food to people in our community who are experiencing financial crises or struggling on low incomes. The people who use this food security ministry are our neighbours; they are our families; they are us. To protect everyone involved from the spread of Covid 19, Food with Grace has instituted some new protocols. Volunteers are now putting together bags of food which are being distributed to our neighbours by a single volunteer under a tent outside the church doors. We are making every effort to ensure physical distancing guidelines are being followed while maintaining social and spiritual connectedness. Some of our regular volunteers are not able to participate at this time but other parishioners and community members have joined the team. Food with Grace is grateful for the love and generosity of the volunteers and donors, and for the gratitude and kindness shown by the wonderful neighbours we serve.

The Rev. Sue-Ann Ward

St. John the Evangelist (Thorold)

As soon as our Sunday services were suspended, there was concern for community members who usually joined us for lunch following the service. Reimaging how to continue to offer this hospitality was our immediate response. Instead of offering a hot lunch, we moved to a take home lunch bag. These bags are packed with fresh sandwiches made at the church by two people carefully following social distancing guidelines. Fresh fruit, small bags of raw veggies, and baked goods are added. We have posted times for people to drop by and pick up their bags from the open church door. We are then able to greet people from a safe distance and check in on their wellbeing. We have seen a gradual increase as the weeks have passed as people are feel the economic crunch, as other programs are being suspended, and as people learn of our ministry. This ministry is important, and we are glad to find a way to safely reach out to support our community; to make a difference in this particularly challenging time. 

The Rev. Katherine Morgan

St. Paul’s (Caledonia)

One of the first programs cancelled in our area Meals on Wheels. This program serves some of our most vulnerable, so we quickly offered to help. With the Haldimand Norfolk Health Department, we have established a system of grocery shopping, preparing freezer meals, and dropping meals off; a ministry serving the needs of not only Caledonia but the whole Haldimand region. The church has been nimble in engaging the world in new ways. It is with such thankfulness that we have witnessed ministries both continuing and starting in our region, and people working as the disciples of Christ during these times. 

The Reverend Cheryl Barker

St. George’s (St. Catharines)

The Community Breakfast Program at St. George’s has transitioned from congregate dining to carry out service. The Operations Team, responsible for ensuring breakfast is served every morning as it has been for over 24 years, made the necessary changes to allow food preparation and service while maintaining 2-m of separation between volunteers and guests. We meet or exceed all the requirements of Niagara Region Public Health keeping paramount the safety of guests and volunteers. 

Some of our more vulnerable volunteers have stepped back from serving temporarily but with smaller teams and more efficient service, we are still well equipped to provide breakfast to about 50 guests every morning. What a joy and privilege to be the hands of Jesus in these difficult times. It is our prayer that we continue to show His love every morning to all comers, no questions asked.

Operations Team, Breakfast Program

St. James (Fergus)

Partnerships! That is how St. James has responded to the pandemic. Together we have transformed our community meals to “delivery only” to continue to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable. In partnership with Central Pentecostal and The Reverend Corey Parish, Assistant Pastor, along with the many Centre Wellington community volunteers, we continue to provide Monday and Wednesday lunches and Friday suppers. We also work with corporate and ecumenical partners to create a double blessing: hiring local restaurants to prepare meals on Tuesday and Thursday and have these meals delivered as well. Those who are food insecure and those who operate small businesses in our community benefit. Three different chefs have stepped forward to help us keep our food ministry alive. In between meals, St. James maintains soup and emergency supplies to deliver to those in need. At this point, it has also become clear that many of our vulnerable neighbours need assistance to stay home, so we are working with our Community Resource Centre and their Director, Ron McKinnon, to aid with seniors’ errands and shopping. We are finding ways to pay attention to and love our neighbours. As Simone Weil tells us, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” 

The Rev. Ann Turner

St. Paul’s (Glanford)

As a Lenten project, St. Paul’s Glanford chose to support St. Matthew’s House outreach to seniors through the HOPES (Housing Outreach Preventing Eviction for Seniors) program. We began putting together baskets of basic start-up supplies for seniors who had just obtained housing such as pots and pans, dishes, cutlery, towels, bedding, cleaning supplies. Children from our Messy Church program painted shoe boxes and filled them with toiletries. Several women made afghans and others made financial donations to purchase items. When we heard that St. Matthew’s House was feeling tremendous pressure because of the pandemic to help older adults who found themselves isolated at this time, we arranged immediate delivery. We are so grateful to be able to help this important work; as an elderly congregation, helping seniors in need is a wonderful fit for St. Paul’s. 

Mary Burnett

Holy Trinity (Chippawa)

Our food bank offers a large variety of non-perishable items and some fresher quality foods weekly to our regular patrons. When the pandemic began, we knew that to close the door on our friends would be to close the door on family. Through text messaging with our regulars, Holy Trinity has worked out a method of providing the service without any physical contact thereby eliminating risk to us all. Donations are provided by our generous parishioners and some community members. We at Holy Trinity continue to pray for the health and welfare of all during these unprecedented times and anticipate supporting our vulnerable neighbours for years to come.

Pam Fickes

St. Simon’s (Oakville)

St Simon’s local outreach focus is food security, but the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a change in our programming. As God’s helpers, many of us want to get out and help but we recognized that limiting our physical help and encouraging parishioners to make financial contributions is how we can best support our neighbours and keep our community safe for everyone. We encourage parishioners then, to provide financial donations to a choice of three different food banks for food purchases or to Food4Kids Halton who provide access to food to identified families in need. 

We also work with local partners to deliver packed groceries to the doors of those in need or to senior residences; and dropping off leftover soap from our outreach toiletry cupboard to our most vulnerable. One program partner, Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre, started a porch food bank where one of our program leaders assists with sorting food. Anyone in the community can donate groceries by depositing donated food in the bins on the porch. Those in need pick up food items on an honour system. 

Bronwen Bruch, Outreach Coordinator

St. Luke’s Burlington

Our Food for Life program continues to reach out weekly to friends in our community who are food challenged. As we navigate these uncharted waters, our program looks very different than in the past and perhaps this might become the “new normal” for some time to come. Our partners at Food for Life now deliver pre-bagged groceries to us on a Tuesday morning. Last week the thirty-five bags included fruit, vegetables, and a yogurt, while this week we were able to add bread and meat.  The volunteers and I set up our station in the foyer of the Parish Hall and one person at a time enters. They take their package from a table and leave while a volunteer outside monitors physical distancing with those who are waiting, allowing the next person to enter. The feedback from our friends has been very positive and we are all so grateful to continue to provide food to our neighbours.

The Rev. Deacon Sheila Plant

St. Christopher’s, Burlington

At Open Doors of St. Christopher’s, we closed all our community programming but kept the Food Bank open one day per week. As we began to navigate the new normal of physical distancing, we recognized there were those in our community who were especially vulnerable. We provided pre-boxed food hampers served outside, distancing markers, increased sanitizing efforts, and a small operational crew. As we served the community in these new ways, we observed that the majority of those being served fit the COVID-19 vulnerable categories. Open Doors and the Burlington Food Bank then decided to partner to deliver these food hampers to guests, further limiting the physical contact or traveling needed to access food.


As changes have occurred, we now share our resources with the Burlington Food Bank. Our role involves identifying our most vulnerable guests, getting them service ASAP, and recruiting volunteers, funding streams, and distribution and supply chains. We are also allowing the Open Doors Food Bank to be used as a storage and staging facility, creating communication pieces to support and inform as best we can, and in other ways that develop over the weeks.
To understand the impact we face, we previously served an average of 360 households per month. In March, in collaboration with Burlington Food Bank we served 450 households.  We anticipate this number to double in April and are unsure of what May will bring. In this short time, both Open Doors and Burlington Foodbank staff and volunteers have felt a sense of strength and preparedness because we have each other to rely on. It is crucial that we all look for ways to collaborate in our communities and share resources, now more than ever.

Christina Mulder, Director of Open Doors Programs and Partnerships

Is your parish supporting the community in new or re-imagined ways? We would love to continue sharing stories of parishes being the face of Jesus during the pandemic.

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