For the season of Lent this year the Outreach Committee at St. George’s, Maplewood organized and promoted a new project, which provided parish members with a concrete way to reflect upon and practice God’s love in this world.
For a number of years, St. George’s has supported the efforts of three local food pantries, at Holy Trinity, West Orange and the Roman Catholic churches St. Joseph’s, Maplewood and Our Lady of Sorrows, South Orange. The Outreach Committee has made annual grants to the three food pantries, from the Outreach Grants Program funded by pledge revenues, and promotes a food collection on the second Sunday of every month, with designated food items collected and delivered to each of the three pantries on a rotating basis.
Since Lent is a time for self-reflection that often includes prayer, meditation and almsgiving, Outreach Committee member Dan Mitchell conceived and organized a campaign called “Pack the Sack.” Recyclable bags in Lenten purple were provided to participating families, with an attached flyer that provided both instructions and meditations to guide the process. For each of the six weeks of Lent, specific, nutritious foods were identified for purchase, along with a scripture verse from the Gospel for that week and a specific prayer for those in need. Parishioners were invited to take a bag, refer to the guidance and the prayers, and load the specified items into the bag, for donation to the food pantries.
For example, for Week 5, the scripture verse was from John: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be.” The prayer offered was: “Lord God, I pray for our elected officials that they be moved to make ending hunger in a priority and basic human right. Grant them clear minds and generous hearts to sustain and improve those programs that provide help and opportunity to so many people. In the name of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. Amen.” The food to be packed in the sack that week was pasta and tomato sauce.
St. Georgians were asked to return the filled sacks on Palm Sunday. On that day, 48 full bags of food – equivalent to what's typically collected over four months – were received and blessed at the altar. The three food pantries received the bags during Holy Week to distribute to the families they serve. And St. George’s parishioners nourished their souls as they nourished their neighbors.