In our parish profile at St. George’s, Maplewood, one of the desires identified by the parish was to expand the congregation’s impact beyond its immediate South Orange/Maplewood community. The Rev. Grant Mansfield, called as our new rector in early 2020, recognized that St. George’s historical commitment to social justice was an opportunity to expand the congregation’s outreach efforts.
Deacon Sun Spriggs took on this challenge and found a willing partner in The First Congregational Christian Church of Irvington, NJ (FCCC). This United Church of Christ (UCC) parish, led by Pastor Dolores A. Watson, is a fixture of the African-American and Caribbean community of Irvington.
Pastor Watson has attracted a collective of disciples who work tirelessly to deliver services to the community. They include the exuberant Alison Bryant who runs the Church Women United Food Pantry (CWU), offering weekly help to clients.
Alison has invited North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) to provide COVID vaccinations for people visiting the pantry. One of the largest community-based providers of HIV/AIDS care and treatment in New Jersey, NJCRI has also taken on the job of bringing COVID vaccines and info to the public, deploying teams to sites throughout Essex County.
On September 23, St. George’s collaborated with these partners through the efforts of a small group of volunteers who assisted with research questionnaires for vaccination recipients, and offered fruit and water to food pantry clients, as well as volunteers from our partner church and NJCRI. For NJCRI, this was their third site of the day.
L-r: Gloria Chisum, Manager, Irvington Senior Citizens Center; Ron Garner;
Alison Bryant, Director, Church Women United Food Pantry; the Rev. Grant Mansfield.
ALEEDA CRAWLEY PHOTO
After speaking with the NJCRI team, we hope to bring the vaccination van to St. George’s and offer all eligible persons in our community a convenient way to get their shot. The team would return to administer shots to those who require a second dose.
We also had a chance to speak with Pastor Watson, who has amazing goals to more fully support the community. In addition to the food pantry, they also run a program for high school students. Pastor Watson wants to add a women’s shelter and a community commercial kitchen, and to expand the afterschool program.
This opportunity to engage with each of these community groups was a mutually rewarding effort in St. George’s outreach to the wider community.