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Fourth BCEF Call of 2023: Community of St. John Baptist

Fourth BCEF Call of 2023: Community of St. John Baptist

The Bishop’s Church Emergency Fund (BCEF) provides financial support for church buildings in the diocese needing repairs and renovation, usually with a special focus on emergency and unforeseen needs. Through the BCEF, you can support the critical needs identified by the Bishop.

The fourth BCEF call of 2024 is for Garden of Hope accessibility renovations at Community of St. John Baptist. You can donate online, or mail a check payable to Diocese of Newark with BCEF Call #4 in the memo line to: Diocese of Newark, Attn: BCEF, 31 Mulberry St., Newark, NJ 07102.

The Community of St. John Baptist (CSJB) is a religious order well-known to most Episcopalians in our diocese. Founded in England in 1852, since the early 1900s the order has had a U.S. presence in Mendham, a Morris County community known for its beautiful homes and historic downtown. The sisters founded an orphanage there in 1908, followed by a new convent in 1915.

The sisters center their lives in prayer and worship, having undertaken the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are also committed to using their gifts individually and corporately to minister to the needs of God’s world. The convent’s beautiful Guest Wing and Retreat House provide rest and spiritual refreshment to visitors from the surrounding dioceses as well as from more distant locations. CSJB hosts educational and interfaith programs at the Convent and most of the sisters are certified spiritual directors.

Individual members of the Community have a variety of ministries, including work in parishes and service on diocesan committees and guilds. These ministries often address issues related to homelessness and food security in the surrounding communities. Sister Linda Clare entered the order more than twenty years ago. With the help of CSJB associate Julie Crawford she coordinates an agricultural program called the Garden of Hope, the heart of which is a large produce garden located behind the Retreat House. “All our property is sacred space,” she says, “but the garden is a blessing to those who work there as well as those who benefit from the food that is harvested.”

Begun about fifteen years ago, the Garden of Hope receives help from three other churches and over a dozen nonprofits including two Boy Scout troops. Produce from the garden supports local and regional food pantries and senior housing residents as well as organizations providing shelter for the homeless. This season over 700 pounds of garden grown produce have been delivered.

Unfortunately, while the Community’s buildings are accessible to all, their outdoor spaces, including the Garden of Hope, are not. CSJB is seeking BCEF funding to renovate their outdoor areas to provide equitable access to all— including senior citizens and children. The funding would cover installation of paved pathways in the garden area, the replacement of an older patio, and the purchase of two new elevated garden beds. Upon completion, not only will the area better serve as sacred space for worship, but programs will be expanded to invite participation of residents from local nursing homes, senior housing centers, and a nearby school which serves disabled children.

Please affirm your support of this wonderful ministry by making a generous gift to expand the Garden of Hope to serve an even greater number of God’s children, young and old.

God's peace,

+Carlye J. Hughes

The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes
Bishop of Newark