May 8, 2020

In Good Faith: Filling Bare Cupboards

In my May In Good Faith column, I write about the balance between virtual and hands-on ministry during a time of pandemic.

Filling Bare Cupboards

I read an article this week in a British church publication with a pretty damning headline:
YouTube sermons will not feed the hungry.” The young Vicar’s point was that while churches are spending a lot of time figuring out how to live-stream their services, that can’t be all they’re focused on. People are suffering during this time, and we have a moral obligation to meet their physical as well as spiritual needs.

She’s right, of course — although her context is different from the suburban one in which I serve. She ministers to a small, impoverished, mostly elderly parish in London, many of whose members are unable or unwilling to watch online services. She reminded her readers that, “Staying at home is wonderful — when you have a home, with electricity, and food, and a job, and access to the internet, and are computer literate.” And that streaming worship, while important, assumes “that everybody is in a safe and comfortable home setting, and, therefore, the only need to be met is a spiritual one.”

Now, I’d argue that physical needs are spiritual needs. But one of the great needs to emerge out of this pandemic, here on the South Shore and all over the world, is the issue of food scarcity. People are going hungry. People who have never had to use food pantries before are lining up for groceries. Hoarding is driving up the prices of food staples and the ones who can least afford the increases, because of rampant unemployment, are unduly suffering. 

Church leaders can’t simply fiddle with the Wi-Fi while ignoring the increasingly loud cries for help. To address this in our own community, I spent time this week working with our Outreach Ministry to turn our church into a community food drop-off center. We now have bins outside our doors where people can drop off groceries and volunteers are lined up to make regular trips to the three local pantries we support. 

You can log onto our website at for more information. You’ll also find the list of needed items and we ask that you limit your purchasing to the following for now: condiments, cooking oil, cereals, canned meals, pasta, sauce, peanut butter, jelly, boxes of macaroni and cheese, crackers, soups/soup mixes, tuna, instant mashed potatoes, rices/side dishes, Bisquick, flour, Spam, canned hams, oatmeal, toilet paper, Clorox wipes, soap, laundry/dish detergents.

If you’re unable to physically drop off items, but still want to help, you’re invited to donate financially to these pantries — the information is on our website. Either way — dropping off food or making a donation — this is holy work and I encourage your participation.

Faith has always been lived out on the continuum between contemplation and action. We pray, but we also serve. We worship, but we also live out our faith in the world. I like to think of worship as a slingshot that propels us out into the world to do good. We need both sides of the spiritual coin now more than ever. 

And, of course, the streaming of online services and the feeding of the hungry cannot and should not be mutually exclusive. As we are invited to both love God and love neighbor, we can’t help but be comforted even while offering comfort to others. Thank you, if you’re able, for helping to ease the burden of those in our midst who are experiencing unprecedented hardship right now. That’s ultimately what faith is all about.

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